Monday, November 26, 2007

Spectacle defeats politics

An article in Le Monde argues that the spectacle of victimhood in campaigns such as Make Poverty History distracts us from the real political issues:

Like Erner, Caroline Eliacheff and Daniel Soulez-Larivière (2) attribute the unprecedented prestige and credibility accorded to victims to the transformation of politics into spectacle. But they also relate it to the end of the cold war: it feels safer, they suggest, to sympathise with the victims of a catastrophe than to engage politically in a complex world. In Erner’s view: “With Marxism dead, all we can do is sanctify victims.”

Mona Chollet  'Recognition or sanctification? Victimhood’s hidden agenda' (9/10/2007)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Glass TV

DSCF2844 Now on show at the redoubtable Craft ACT is a collaborative exhibition by two glass artists - Luna Ryan from Canberra and Jock Puautjimi from Tiwi Island. The title of the exhibition Mamana Mamanta means 'gradual friendship'. Both Luna and Jock gathered much of their glass from old television screens. The image on the left is one of Luna's, titled 'Vision of a fragile Eden series' (2007, kiln cast recycled television screens).

Interesting how television, the window to the world of spectacle, can become a sculptural substance that freezes one particular scene.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Socialism was a craft formation before it became a mentality

In the New Left Review, French writer Régis Debray discusses the importance of printing in the development of socialism. For Debray, it was the production of pamphlets, books and newspapers which enabled the development of socialism as a movement.

Book, newspaper, school: a reminder of the practical culture that preceded the political programmes. Socialism was a craft formation before it became a mentality. Its take-off came with a specific historical moment—1864, the First International founded in London

Writing collectivizes individual memory; reading individualizes collective memory. The back-and-forth between them fosters the sense for history by unearthing potentials within the present, creating backdrops and foregrounds; it is fundamental for the idea of socialism.

He also notes that the word 'socialism' was invented by a typographer, Pierre Leroux. For Debray, Americanised mass culture has led to the decline in the printed word on which socialism is based. 

Régis Debray  'Socialism: A Life-cycle'  New Left Review  (1/07/2007)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Phantom vibrations shake 'crackberry' addicts

Revealing a hidden tactile dimension to the 'communication revolution':

Many mobile phone addicts and BlackBerry junkies report feeling vibrations when there are none, or feeling as if they're wearing a cell phone when they're not.

Phantom vibrations shake 'crackberry' addicts CNN

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Making a spectacle of the left

Stephen Duncombe has just published Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, which argues that activist politics needs to adopt a more engaging approach, which even includes 'spectacle'.




I think spectacles are about extravagant emotion, dreams on display or dreams performed, and that really is something we have to address and embrace, because spectacles are the lingua franca of our society today. It’s how we do entertainment, how we do religion and it’s how we do politics. On the left we look at these things as things to be condemned. But to condemn it or ignore it means deeding over powerful territory to the other side. What we have to do is take spectacle seriously, and then rethink it, re-imagine it and refigure it. The left has done this in different times. Look at the New Deal, the French Revolution, the civil rights movement: these are folks who took spectacle seriously, but they attempted to do it differently.

The Indypendent : Dreaming that the Revolution Might Be Fun, An Interview with Stephen Duncombe

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft

Here's the latest on the exhibition planned for later this year at the Victoria & Albert Museum, 13 November 2007-17 February 2008

The artists take inspiration from the everyday, transforming their subjects using traditional techniques in unexpected ways. Works include a scattering of life-like weeds and plants 'growing' around the gallery, all skillfully hand-carved from wood; an apparently paint-splattered table which has been inlaid with mother of pearl; a seven metre high crimson cascade made using traditional Chinese paper-cutting methods.

Out of the Ordinary brings together artists from the UK, America, Nigeria, China and Japan. It will feature new commissions by Olu Amoda, Catherine Bertola, Annie Cattrell, Susan Collis, Naomi Filmer, Lu Shengzhong, Yoshihiro Suda and Anne Wilson.

These artists use traditional craft skills, including embroidery, wood carving, lace-making and marquetry - playing with extremes of scale or re-working precious, ephemeral or everyday materials such as diamonds, dust and nails to create new and striking effects.

Of interest in this exhibition is role that craft plays in relation to spectacle. Does this exhibition try to show that craft is capable of being front stage in creating a theatrical effect, or do the subtleties of craft process lead visitors to look beyond the spectacle to how things are made?