Archive for the ‘Hauntology Specific’ Category

One Conclusion

August 27, 2014

Last week I finished (as in ‘I’ve corrected and edited enough that it’s ready to hand in’) the final draft of my thesis. Someone asked me if I felt elated, but I think I responded by suggesting that I was tired. I went for a walk to try and clear my head a little, or at least reconsider what I felt in light of how long I’d spent working on this project. I left the University and walked in straight line for what Google Tracks informed me was three hours (though because of some issue with GPS it was unable to map my route). After the first hour, I came across a square flanked by tall white buildings, each one adorned with long elaborately decorated flags. The square appeared to be deserted at least at first glance, but as my eyes adjusted to the new brightness of my surroundings I could see people flitting in and out of doorways, and tiny heads peeping around window frames. It wasn’t too long before the square was filled with people. Girls with deep blue eyes sang along to tunes played on wooden flutes, confused-looking poets recited incantations to a silent, cross-legged water God and jugglers and trapeze artists performed around a central platform of twirling, angry flamenco dancers. I thought that I recognized the faces of some of performers (I briefly ran an unsuccessful online record label and wondered if there was some connection) but before I had a chance to enquire after them, I was encouraged by two large men¹ to exit the square and be on my way. The celebration was in aid of a sacred relic that had recently been returned to the local museum following its ‘liberation’ at the hands of ‘my people’ during a brief spell of fighting fifty years before my birth. I wouldn’t be welcome, they said, and for my own safety I should continue my walk. I was in no position to disagree with their inverted commas.

After an hour and a half the trail I had continued along became less distinct. The tarmac and road markings had turned to a thin brown powder (which still stains my least-favourite pair of Puma trainers). It was still possible to chart a path of sorts though, as what was left of the track was peppered with cattle tracks and the occasional pile of what I took to be animal bones. I could also smell the city, and hear the sounds of far away trade caravans. After two hours I passed under the low wooden gates that marked the western limit of what had once been titled ‘The Amber Borough’. Rather than streets flanked with the yellow sassafras and sweetbay magnolias of my memory, I saw only knotted thickets of diseased rhododendrons, their flowers either browned or the colour of old blood. In my hurry to ‘walk-off’ the thesis, I’d forgotten that it was autumn, and the riotous pulses of spring colour I was familiar with had been literally replaced by the army of horticulturalists who comprise two-thirds of the city’s population. Gone too were the ornately carved swings which lined the main boulevard, where children dangled on the end of silk ropes during the high season, their mothers and fathers sprawled across the road, wine cups spilled, food ignored and subsequently devoured by whatever sewer-dwelling organism had developed legs that particular year. It was always a city of excess, even when apparently fallow. Despite my increasing thirst, I felt no urge to drop in on one of the out-of-season emporia in search of water (or indeed something stronger); they had originally been named after the delicate white snout moth, but the drab, rust-grey frontages I was witness to on this occasion bore no resemblance to their name sake. The place echoed the feeling I had when I visited Great Yarmouth with Zo (winter 2004 I think) and there was snow on the beach.

I departed the city from the eastern-most gate. Soon after leaving, the track wound through the remnants of a deciduous forest – where the tired boughs and hollow trunks seemed keen to mimic the grand institutional structures of their neighbour – to a series of caves cut not by rainfall, glaciation, or an underground river, but by human hands. I had been walking for two and a half hours, and after my nagging recollections in the city, I thought that getting out of the sunshine might help perk me up. Unfortunately, the cave I slid in to offered no darkness, its slick, ancient ceiling coated with purple crystals that emitted a waxy kind of light; now it comes to me, that unnerving subterranean glow is reminiscent of the council-flat bedroom I grew up in, and shared, with my sister. The cave walls, in an identical fashion to the bedroom from my childhood, were crisscrossed with overlapping murals depicting the absent aristocracy I had expected to find during that earlier hour. Thronging those imagined streets – which had been described to me as ‘loosely based on a celestial map of the Epsilon Eridani system’ – were women in gowns made of feathers and, from the look of it, material not dissimilar to a sheep’s stomach, bounding away from men adorned with hats made of tiles, each one inlaid with the eyes of an insect. Some of the men had dogs with them, but their anatomy was all wrong, their legs the texture of a lizard’s back. In another less well-constructed mural, children were cycling on Victorian bikes, playing a type of polo that I assume was adapted for the horseless (isn’t everyone these days?). My favourite of the cave paintings depicted a gang of hominids, a hunting party. In the foreground were the hunters – ageless and sexless; behind them, an array of big cats – arranged in order of size – who had been saddled for some unexpected purpose; the cats were watched over by birds of prey in tiny jackets and, behind them, almost merging in to the background-world of fossils and stone, mountain donkeys laden with enough provisions to the last the party a fortnight.

It was at this point that I pulled out my phone to add a marker to my map in case I wanted to return to inspect the murals at a later date; I figure I’m allowed a bit of down time…perhaps I want to explore a bit. Like I say, the map didn’t work, but seeing that I’d been walking for three hours I decided it was probably worth heading home and getting the dinner on (I cooked a dish that has been christened ‘Korean Clams’). Good exercise I suppose, but I’m slightly annoyed by the fact that I decided, based purely on longevity, that it was time to stop. As if there is some allotted time for these activities. I think I convinced myself I was tired when actually I was doing okay.


¹ Subsequently, a small amount of digging around in the archives has revealed that these men had once been slaves, most likely the property of one of the low island kings (at least according to their facial markings and the scar patterns on their shoulders).


Ralph Dorey: Hey Colossus

January 31, 2013

image for HC


Hey Colossus

Ralph Dorey. Some time around the turn of 2013 in E17

(I’d like to add a thank you to all contributors, past and future, for the Jan Review stuff. As ever, it’s great hearing what your year has been like. Yup. That makes sense – Matt)

Random: Reflections on the failure of a relationship – NYE 2013?

January 25, 2013

New Year 2013

Entering The Desert

November 15, 2012

Stone Tape
I tend to instinctively turn towards some kind of ghost story at this time of year. A number of factors compel me to do this; darkness, childhood memories of BBC programming, the recent revival of festive spirits in the shape of M R James remakes, or pastiches by Mark Gatiss. The usual sort of stuff that is cited as hauntological influence. I’m still turning towards these things as Christmas approaches again (inexorably, indefinitely) It’s a different kind of ghost that interests me at the end of this year though, namely my own. This ghost has emerged, as with most things that end up on here, at the confluence of a number of threads – or ‘partial connections’ as Margaret Strathern would term it – so I felt it appropriate to try and work through some of these knots, and see what comes out of it. This is spurred on, in no small way, by the increasing unease I’ve been experiencing in the last few months, which I think is mentioned in some sort of sense at the conclusion of this entry. So rather than trees, and rocks, and the other things I tend to talk about (when I might be talking about something else instead), this is sort of about my PhD, which is entering a final phase it would seem. An opening caveat – as with Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition, this can be read in a randomised order. It is a brief attempt of mine at an exegesis of whatever it is I am doing .

So there is a ghost. This ghost might be uncertainty; it is the first explanation to come to mind. When I finish my PhD, which will be September of next year – it will have taken four years in total, so this might be the ‘end game’ – I am perhaps leaving the environment I am used to, potentially the friends and colleagues I have spend a large amount of time working with. I finish a few months before the end of the REF and this makes my job prospects somewhat hazy. The REF is, in a badly defined nutshell, a ‘process of expert review’, whereby Universities are assessed to see whether or not they are competent or not and whether they deserve research funding. To this end, new employees moving in to work in HE are sort of vetted to see how much use or damage they will do in terms of the REF outcome. It is a strange process – one which I clearly know very little about so please don’t take anything I say at face value – and one that seems to lead to some crappier Universities employing academics with good ‘REFability’ over others. To some extent, exciting new potential is out the window (not that I represent this). I am not an internationally recognized academic. No-one cites my work. I do not have several publications out to enable people to do this. The outcome of this is that I am unlikely to be able to find work when I finish in 2013, even if I do get published, and will have to wait until jobs come up in 2014. This is not ideal, but it also doesn’t really fill me with dread. What it has made me do is look at alternatives to academia in terms of employment. I’m not doing this with any real vigour, but as a sort of time passing exercise. Temporal considerations, as ever, are crucial here: the event, my finishing, is still far away despite my assessment of ‘end game’. I am judging this in terms of how long it will take me to write my thesis in to a viable shape. It has a form, but I need to get the insides in a fit shape. I am looking forward to doing this, which doesn’t fit the ‘uncertainty bill’ to well. In distancing myself from the end point (aside from terming it as such – without ever really engaging with that) I am presenting myself with a binary between solidity and fluidity. The tangible world of where I am, and the horror of the real world where anything I’ve learnt could be of no demonstrable value. This is terrifying and exciting. My ghost doesn’t know what to do.

I offered up a talk at the Music and Meaning Symposium last week, built around a journal article I wrote over the summer which looked at the notion of archives in relation to hauntological musicians, explored via a number of Deleuzian theoretical constructs. I used, in the article, some ‘classic’ examples including Belbury Poly (in terms of ‘radioactive fossils’), Burial (in terms of ‘deterritorialization’) and The Caretaker (in terms of ’empty-time’). The talk, which built on one I delivered at a conference in April, used different examples so as to a) avoid me repeating material and b) allow me to focus on one particular aspect of Deleuze, namely ‘sheets of past’ – adapted from Bergson in Cinema II: The Time-Image. My central argument in this case is that Deleuze’s interpretation of film and image can also be applied to sound, particularly the process of artefact construction in hauntological music. Any way, for the Symposium talk I used The Advisory Circle and William Basinski as examples. Basinski’s process involves mining his own archive for source material, and then stacking sheets of past, though the artist does not specifically acknowledge this (his own archive – his memory of the original work – the process of transferring it (and it collapsing in the case of Disintegration) – creating new work from the old – presenting that work to others, at which point it leaves the author’s control and becomes the audience’s artefact, the object of interpretation).

My thesis, now it is starting to come together, is effectively mirroring this process. I am working with my own archive of materials, which often seems new and unfamiliar contrary to what I expected. It offers a peculiar series of juxtapositions, between things I have worked on for a long time, things I do not remember working on, and new ideas, all coming together to form a conglomeration of loose ties, half-held explanations, tacit understanding, dazzling stupidity. In doing this I am increasingly making myself central to my own work. It is a process of unknowing, pulling apart my old approaches in which I assumed a correct way of doing things. This, I now know, was the wrong way of doing things (C Wright Mills taught us that the blind adherence to specific methods often is), but the new processes still create a sense of unease. Perhaps the ghost is this specific feeling, the sizeable contradiction of making a move that has actually made me more engaged in my material while simultaneously destabilising everything. It could be characterised as a crisis, but I think this too is wrong, which is why I turned to ‘the ghost’. There is nothing inherently threatening about it. It is just there, alerting me to its presence, characterised by periods of ridiculous action, but also conversely a dearth of action. I move through fragments of the last few years, returning to bits and pieces, destroying others, trying to see where things emerge from the gloom: ‘An invitation to recollect’ I think Deleuze calls it.

From the bedroom window, the other morning, I watched the tabby cat that sits on our wall catch a squirrel. There was a terrible energy to it, even with the window closed, even though this is the most natural thing for an animal (not this specific case, but the constant struggle, the proximity to death in everyday existence). The squirrel pretty much sat there, underneath the cat, presumably petrified, while the cat looked about in a kind of fuzz about what it had done, what it was going to do next. The squirrel managed to break free though, and threw itself from the top of our shed in to next door’s wall. It disappeared from sight; both mine and the cat’s. It was somewhere down there, making an unholy shrieking noise, scattering birds from adjoining gardens, the ones that hadn’t seen the cat in the first place that is. After a minute, it re-emerged, having seemingly ‘checked its exits’, and proceeded to bound across the wall to the nunnery screaming all the way. The cat, now disinterested, had relocated to a plant pot on the neighbours wall, and drank the stagnant water out of it. Later in the day I raked up the leaves that had fallen from the two maples in my garden; this revealed a number of worms, which the dunnocks spent the afternoon attempting to pull apart.

I have been married for just over a year. Next year I am thirty years old. All the stages of life are scratched in to some temporal fabric, marking us like the insides of a tree. As an anniversary gift, a friend gave us three maps in a frame. One map showed the place where I met my wife, another where we got engaged, another where we were married. Our relationship became spatially signified, geographically fixing temporal activity, the sheets of our past cartographically represented. This obviously speaks to my love of maps, but also to what Deleuze describes part way through Cinema II; the unravelling of Charles Foster Kane’s life through the time-images of his personal archivist, the objects he has collected, the bombast and spectacle of his political career such as it was. I hung the maps on the bedroom wall. The back of the frame had two hooks, so the frame could be arranged portrait or landscape; I opted for the former. In doing so, I noticed that the maps were forced to be displayed in a variety of ‘incorrect’ tessellations. None of them had north at the top, or indeed related to each other in orientation. I wondered for a moment about taking the backing off and rearranging them, but realised instead that each time I look at the maps, I am forced to reconsider the space. Although I am familiar with the events and the setting, the representation pushes me to re-place the icons in my head, to question – albeit briefly – how I recall moving through the spaces, how my memories have created these spaces (to use space here in the way De Certeau suggests in the first volume of Everyday Life ). The actual geography represented in the image is nothing, it is an empty place, a way of looking at an arrangement of objects rather than the distinct arenas we create by peopling spaces.

Nostalghia again
Perhaps the ghost is certainty. My environment has been largely identical for the last three/four years and while I am happy in the lack of change in terms of my home life (which is filled with things and people I love), my presence in my working environment feels increasingly fraught though I am unable to pinpoint what the change is necessarily. Perhaps my concern comes from an increasing awareness of my inability to maintain a tangible persona in company. Regardless of if this is true objectively, my own interpretation and experience is that the actual person I am is someone who enjoys their own company, whose interests in books and music and writing do not necessarily involve other people (with the exception of one, obviously). This is a relatively massive personal failing, and one which is not ideal considering I am potentially entering a profession where presentability is increasingly important (not necessarily at York, where ideas and thinking are, for the most part, the most vibrant and vital aspect of the discipline). So perhaps the ghost is more about who I am and what I project. But then it would be difficult to differentiate between which version is the ghost and which is reality, and that would be a whole kind of existential nightmare to sort out. Plus I think that over many years I have come to terms with the idea that, as everyone has to, I need to fulfil numerous contextualized roles. Is this the certainty issue, that the maintenance of distinct (or not) personae is such a constant that I need to codify the actual elements of my personality? The fact I have written any of this says otherwise.

Derrida, in Ken McMullen’s Ghost Dance suggests that:

‘to be haunted by a ghost is to remember something that you’ve never lived through. For memory is the past that has never taken the form of the present.’

The ghost is certainty and uncertainty. The questions I have posed are not something I can answer, and certainly not something I can work through in public. Ha. There are expectations for how we present ourselves, what we discuss, where we go. I think it is important however to live all these contradictions, to create new and subjective hypocrisies if only to demonstrate how complex things are, how things hang together for a second, and then drift away in to the evening.

Burnt Stone

July 12, 2012

There is the possibility that when my hard drive caught fire last week, all the data on it became unrecoverable. If that is the case, then the archive of WDT/VSTM material will conclude for the most part, except where I can retrieve material from other musicians. Additionally, much of my own material from the past ten years is also lost. I’ve made a commemorative piece of music about it.

Idols of Wood and Stone

May 15, 2012

Water Old
Friar’s Crag, or the first thing we did
Unexpectedly, it wasn’t raining; at the end of the week, an old man in The Dog and Gun complained about the weather and the barman had to explain that without it the place would be a desert. The crag is along a level path, through some pine wood land, not far outside the centre. The town was having its annual international jazz festival that weekend, so we walked past the theatre on the way, and the ad hoc tent erected over the road; all very trad – I’d have been the youngest person there by some stretch if I’d have been attending¹. Past the boatyard and the piers the path goes from tarmac to track and ends at a bench. There, the water was still, devoid of boats, reflecting a sky criss-crossed with vapour trails and half formed clouds. Either side of us, stretching down the valley, were fingers of rock and beyond them, at the apex, the highest mountains in England, which we weren’t even imagining we were going to climb (and didn’t).

Castlerigg, or the second thing we did
When I was a child, or perhaps a little older, I remember going to Castlerigg; there are a number of things that stuck in my head. Prosaically, I remember my Dad trying to free a sheep from a fence where it had managed to get its head stuck in a wire square. As we approached, in my case tentatively (back when I was inherently untrusting of nature), the sheep thrashed about on the low cut grass, more terrified of my Dad than being stuck, its hooves scrabbling for purchase on a surface it had itself nibbled to almost nothing. In the end, the panic and the constant horrified twisting enabled the sheep to free itself, and it ran off. More importantly, Castlerigg is held in my memory because of its location, flanked in every direction by mountains. The circle is thought to be 5000 years old, so older than the Henge, but its use is assumed at best; some sort of astral clock (it’s still used by druids in celestial celebrations at solstices), a site of worship? English Heritage is still yet to publish their findings on the place. It was rediscovered in the early 18th century by William Stukeley who made a far reaching survey of Neolithic sites in Great Britain, this particular case being missed by Aubrey and Camden years earlier. If you stand in its centre and turn slowly you can see peaks rising on all sides, as if they are pointing towards the site, or directly at you. I remember the first time I visited I felt like something should happen when I touched the stones, or that I shouldn’t sit on them because they were more than just stones. This time, when I touched the stones, aside from thinking about why they were there and how they had been transported in the first place, I thought about my childhood concerns, about the power of the stones.

As we left to walk back to the town, an Indian family arrived in two BMWs. They proceeded to shout at each other, to the annoyance of the other groups at the circle, and take pictures of themselves striking odd poses in their inappropriate outfits (fur coats, both men and women). This is presumably the converse of how Spanish resort owners feel when idiotic Brits turn up yelling and asking for egg and chips. I think the indignation I felt was in fact more to do with the hours walk to the circle, and how this was at odds with their driving to it; physical exhaustion bested by technology.

Castle Crag, or the third thing we did
Castle Crag is strange, and not very high though the final climb is steep and over poor terrain (effectively a slate slag heap from the old quarry). We’d set off from Grange, cut through Hollows Farm, and detoured to Dalt Quarry to see the reflecting pool and the unusual colours in the carved-out stone. The ascent took us briefly along the Derwent, up and out through the trees on to a boulder-strewn mountainside replete with caved in crofters cottage or similar. We’d seen some kids clamber up a grassy hill to reach the base of the Crag, but they’d done it on their hands and knees and were clearly more agile, so we took the path up past the powdered down shale and on to the slate heap. Half way up the zigzag to the top, I turned to trace the path we had followed, and saw a red squirrel bolt along the floor and up in to a tree.

At the top, before the last little climb to the summit, the old quarry workings are surrounded by miniature monoliths. You get the feeling you are intruding on someone else’s space, even though the place has been disused for a number of years (unless you count Millican Dalton who lived in the cave on the eastern side of the crag). The crag is quiet, unnerving. I read somewhere that the standing stones are cleared away semi-regularly by the NT who own the land (and 25% of TLD in general), but someone returns to re-erect them. At the very top, a more formalised war memorial is fixed to the cairn, which gives representation to the standing stones lower down; it feels somewhat like walking through an ancient graveyard and in low cloud I imagine it is much stranger. The view back along the valley to the lake is impressive, as is the feeling of the mountains looming either side of you. We ate something, drank something, and I put a stone on the cairn, but didn’t climb it as it felt odd to scale a war memorial.
We descended the way we had arrived, but crossed the fellside to head down towards the villages that, from the top of the Crag, seemed haphazardly scattered on the valley floor. After talking to a rambling club who had mistaken us for professional fellwalkers (I’m fat ergo not a regular), we made our way in to Seatoller looking for The Yew Tree, the only place that wasn’t someone’s house, and a drink of some variety. Parked outside were the same family from Castlerigg. They asked me for directions to the mine at the top of the pass. I intimated towards the sign they had parked in front of. It said ‘Honister Pass and Mine 1.5 miles’. Later, waiting for a bus, a cuckoo called from a tree nearby. I’ve never heard a cuckoo before.

Honister, or the fourth thing we did
We’d climbed in to the cloud to get to the mine, past Seatoller again. The rain was thin, the sort that gets everywhere, like a film of water coating anything it comes in to contact with. The water streamed off the fellside higher up at Fleetwith Pike, cascading down one side to eventually become the Cocker and the other to join Sour Milk Gill lower down and form the Derwent. Having already seen the drop down to Buttermere in better weather, the effect of cloud wrapped about the mountain was to heighten the drop – even though it was obscured in  rain, it was there, made more treacherous by remaining hidden. The drive up from the workshops to the mine itself didn’t help; six of us in a knackered Land Rover, rocks tumbling to the right and down a thousand feet to the valley below. We traced the cart tracks in to the main cavern, dominated by a giant slab of slate, hooks and chains hanging from its surface. We were told not to think of The Descent.

I’d seen the slab before, years earlier, but I didn’t recall this until I’d seen again. I knew I had been to mines in the area, but almost every family holiday involved going in to the ground so it was sometimes hard to tell them apart. I wasn’t curious enough to differentiate by mineral. Having said that, I was trying to remember the name of an iron ore mine I’d been to as a kid, but couldn’t. I recalled the walls being wet, and putting my hand up to them and flipping it over to look at my palm and seeing how the red of the ore had bled on to me, and climbing the cart tunnel out to find everyone else covered head to toe in the same pinkish-red. I had to throw away my socks because the colour wouldn’t come out.

The guide at Honister, a man named Rowland who expressed a lot of frustration on behalf of his ancestors at the way they had been treated by the Egremont family, discussed various aspects of mining as we wandered through the different chambers. As we entered the final giant chamber, a sort of natural amphitheatre, I remembered it was called the Florence Mine. I mentioned this to Rowland. ‘It’s shut now,’ he said. It appears to have turned in to an arts centre. I think that, without realising it, I ended up turning most experiences in to a process of remembrance or comparison to the faulty memories I had of childhood holidays.

Interior Mine
Mark Wier had bought Honister and opened it as a tourist attraction and functional slate mine (the only one in the UK, the rest are quarries) 17 years ago. It would have been a few years after this that I visited for the first time. On this more recent occasion the mine was deeper, in that more had been blasted out in preparation for what turned out to be a failed project to make an underground studio for various site-specific film crews – Coronation Street apparently pay handsomely for filming access. Rowland, who was from a Cumbrian mining family that moved to South Africa to mine before World War 1 and the eventual collapse of the Empire changed everything, spoke about Mark in a slightly odd way throughout; we’d seen Mark on a DVD explaining the safety issues of going underground (massively out of date from the look of it) and his various projects were discussed in a revered way at frequent junctures. He was described as a genius, in the sense of what he had achieved bearing in mind he bought a mine having never mined in his life. It was only half way through what was a very informal chat (our group was tiny, so we sort of walked and talked) that we’d understood that Mark was dead. Rowland explained that it had happened last year, and that everyone was still emotionally destroyed by it all, especially the family who were now running the mine without him, but also Rowland himself who had known Mark his entire adult life.

For Rowland, the mine was a  remembrance of everything Mark represented and all he wanted to achieve, in the same way that Mark had made the jump of buying the mine because granddad used to work there. Honister is haunted both by the personal associations of the people who now work there, but also by the ghost of industry in the area. Mark’s granddad, in flying over the mine with Mark before he made the then ridiculous decision to buy it (an offer mining giant McAlpine accepted in less than forty five minutes the first time Mark met them to suggest the idea) asked why it was shut – Mark had no idea. This, he suggested on video, was the impetus to make the purchase. Last year, after an evening of blasting underground (which he apparently did himself to save money), Mark failed to return home to Cockermouth. A police search in the early hours of the morning found the wreckage of his helicopter on Honister Crag. He had been killed in the crash. An excerpt from the local paper that was left in the visitor centre, a laminated obituary amongst a few others discussing the via ferrata and zip line routes that were being developed as new visitor attractions, reported that he was posthumously fined £30,000 by the local authority for damaging the crag.

Crag 2
The last thing we did, was the first thing we did
Because of the rain, the field we had walked across earlier in the week, where Zo had pictured some lambs gambolling in front of a disinterested sheep they weren’t directly related to (the natural expression of sheep is ambivalence), was flooded and our pebbled lakeside route back was also underwater. The crag was empty of people, so we stood and looked down the valley to the Jaws. Little was visible. The cloud was low, and dark where the mountains rose up inside the blanket of mist. It was eerie and brooding and magnificent. We walked back along the formalised path, past other pastures where sheep huddled from the rain. In the fading light, above us but beneath the reach of the trees, we spotted four or five bats catching insects in the twilight.

There were, of course, things before and after
We went to an animal park in the middle of nowhere, where I spent perhaps half an hour in total watching birds of prey do very little². They were perched on stands and tethered. A note on the fence surrounding them explained why (essentially, they’d kill other animals in the park), and also detailed the fact that a) keeping them tethered enabled them to live longer than in the wild and b) when the birds were flown, as they were daily, they always returned – if they didn’t want to, they didn’t have to; birds of prey know when they are on to a sweet deal, obviously. Whilst walking around, I watched a caracara tearing up a rabbit (a number of which, rabbits that is, also hid in the bird of prey arena beneath a bush, presumably on the basis that the tethered birds couldn’t reach them and any external threat was scared shitless of massive eagles hanging about). I learnt that in the wild caracaras eats penguins. A kid and his grandma came past, and Zo nudged me in anticipation of the kid spotting what the caracara was doing and asking the awkward life/death question. Needless to say, the kid asked the grandma what the bird was doing. Completely deadpan she said ‘It appears to be eating a dead rabbit.’


¹    We were buying food in the supermarket, and a man with a gigantic beard and multi-coloured trousers asked a shelf stacker for ‘flash candles and schnapps’. The SS was confused, and asked for clarification. The guy repeated himself. The SS wandered off and found the schnapps and said he couldn’t find the candles. The man was unimpressed with the schnapps. He pulled over his nearby friend and complained in what I believe was German. They walked off. The SS started talking to a colleague about the incident, specifically what ‘flash candles’ could be. I’d been standing close by during the whole exchange, looking for beer, and as the SS walked by me he turned and said ‘bloody jazzers’. I am aware that SS is perhaps not the best way of shortening ‘shelf stacker’, considering the people involved in this exchange.

²     Regular readers of this blog will have spotted the apparent obsession I have with birds

Heroines of the U.S.S.R – March 3rd, 1911

March 10, 2012

Right click. Save as.

The Quarterly Report

February 15, 2012

PhD update Winter/Spring 2012:

The initial reason this blog was created a few years back was to catalogue what I had been up to in terms of my PhD, but that clearly fell by the wayside in favour of random bits of music and discussions about memory. That’s not really that off topic. Still, I felt that now I am around 18 months in to my PhD (I started in 2009, yes, but was part time for the first year so it only counted as six months – I am temporally confused) I should perhaps write a little something about where I am with it all. Today, I’m going to focus largely on the idea of ‘resistance’, and will expand in later weeks to look at identity (a chapter which I have already written), spatiality (a chapter which I am currently writing) and technology (a chapter which I have not started). I haven’t really begun to discuss resistance in the thesis yet, as it is my final empirical chapter where I hope to link hauntology in to ongoing practices in the wider avant-garde, but I am also considering submitting a paper to conferences based on new (old) forms of resistance, so I’m treating this as a warm up.

The caveat here is that, as ever, it is a work in transition. There is nothing set in stone in terms of the outcome of the research I am doing as I am attempting to offer an emic approach and see how categories and discussions emerge from the swirl rather than imposing my own misunderstanding – this is largely impossible, but I muddle onward.

So originally the title of my thesis was a bit from Hamlet, via Derrida – ‘The Time Is Out Of Joint: Space, Place and Sonic Hauntology’. I thought that sounded cool. However, I have nwo turned it in to something that better reflects the broader themes of the research; although hauntology is being used as a case study, I think what I am trying to explore is the way in which the avant-garde develops its own forms of resistance to predominant cultural forms, and whether or not there is any kind of tangible response to the collapse and reterritorialization of capitalism. Big. The title is now something like ‘The Contemporary Avant-Garde: Identity, Spatiality, Technology and Resistance’, which I think sounds leaner despite being more verbose. Not sure how this works, but it does. Also avoids the Derrida, which is turning out to provide as many insular arguments between audiences as the subcultural theory I’m seeking to avoid…

Speaking of subcultural theory, I’ve been attempting to work out a way to reconfigure the useful parts and throw away the trash, of which there is much. The original raison d’être of subcultural study at the CCCS was the highlighting of marginalised groups, with a definite bias towards The Left (recognisable as it was back then) and I think the move towards the neo-tribalism as forwarded by Andy Bennett, while offering an interesting take on the heterogeny of what are ostensibly becoming virtualized communities, is akin to what Jameson calls ‘the cultural logic of late capitalism’; in this case ‘late’ means ‘dead’. Capitalism is the revenant in this equation – simultaneously the threat of destruction and the salvation from it. How do you attack something like that, which offers via the proliferation of cultural types no in-road for insurgency. Look at the choices, and we can move from place to place without attachment. Neo-tribalism is a boon to capitalism, in the sense that it presents myriad opportunities for branding, re-branding, for cultural co-option (often with the complicity of ‘counter-culture’), with the results being sold to the same people over and over again. This fluidity, while indicative of wider trends in technological dispersal, offers not more freedom but less; as Bauman suggested, the dwindling of the public in favour of increasingly commercialised private space – virtual or non-virtual – traps people in a much more insidious loop of imaginary want fulfilled through consumption and the complete inability to fight. Paralysed by choice. As Lyotard discussed; in critiquing a thing, you become ensnared by it¹. This is the case for Bennett and the application of Maffesoli I think, but there are still nuggets of gold in the shit in terms of Thornton’s tentative discussion on the changing nature of recording technologies and localized time/space events, and Hebdige’s expansion of hegemony in terms of (what was then) a fracturing working class. It’s never as simple as class versus identity creation.

The difficulty here is the alternative. The hegemonic structures suggested first by Hall and then expanded upon by Hebdige in relation specifically to subcultural style are still present, but are now fed by an increasingly complex structure of interrelated technologies and networks. How is this pulled apart and analysed? Can such structures ever offer a means of riposte? This is, I suppose one of the central struggles – one approach is to look to Deleuze. The idea of the contemporary avant-garde could perhaps be conceptualized in relation to the rhizome.

 “A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance.”

This chimes with the notion of relationships to imaginary pasts and unfulfilled futures I think. I should say that rhizomes and neo-tribes are not the same, if the lack of tangibility or rootedness is an issue. Neo-tribes suggest semi-stable cultural entities where the membership is mobile – like viruses moving from host to host. There is still structure there and that structure allows for the subjugation of specific practices and artefacts in to the larger whole of capitalism where they can be repackaged and offered up as ‘new’ again. The final stage in this process is where a fluidic membership moves between different sites of ownership (but I think we’re straying in to discussions of ‘originality’ here, so I will stop immediately). Ultimate commercialisation.

Here is some attempt at describing the rhizome. Think of it in terms of cultural organisation in whatever stage of modernity we might currently be passing through. First up, there is the connectivity of any point to any point. Second up it is composed of numerous dimensions, meaning it is neither one or many (brain churn). Third: its operation through variation, conquest and offshoots – as in botany – instead of simply via reproduction. Number four: it pertains to a modifiable map, infinite  entrances and exits are produced. It is the map rather than the representation. Fifthly, it is acephalous and lastly, it is not amenable to any structural or generative model (Buchanan 2007). Baffling. Numerous possibilities. No tracing. Produce a diagram. There is a David Tudor version later on…

The reason the rhizome is of particular interest is because of its relationship with structures. It has structure, but operates on its own internal logic, improvises (always crucial in avant-garde practice) and throws up new shoots at random – though these are connected to the horizontal world beneath if we use the botanical distinctions for the sake of a certain level of stability. The exciting thing here is that there is no possibility of the rhizomatic culture, movements, whatever you want to call them, being subsumed by capitalism; the lack of origin point, or clearly demarcated conclusion, make this impossible. Capitalism still operates under a fairly simplistic economic logic, regardless of what you think of its pros or cons, and spreads its mutated arms in new directions grasping at innovative technologies to further itself (an aside: I lectured on Social Media and Informatics last week, and presented some of what I’d been looking at albeit in a stupidly remedial way – they were Masters students so big mistake – and I think I came across as little more than some English eccentric who is interested in men making music by pitch shifting the sound of forks. The main application of new technologies in the room was not, as I am using it, to look at new forms of organisation and resistance, but to create more effective ways of trawling the net to target advertising at users) and the continuous engagement with theoretical debate and ahistoricism makes hauntology and the wider avant-garde able to resist this symbiotic feeding that so many others have entered in to. Tiny Mix Tapes offered an example of this spread in to ‘all-realms’ in their review of Paul McCartney’s latest offering. Bloody Starbucks.

So if the rhizome is a way of looking, structurally, at the organisational aspects of cultural practice in this socio-technological epoch, what about the act(s) of resistance. Here, I think that the notion of ligne de fuite may be of use, though jumbled up a bit. Without delving too deeply in to the philosophy of multiplicities, the notion of action based around the leaking and melting of territories, and perhaps their eventual reconstruction elsewhere, is quite appealing, a sort of guerilla attack. Am not sure. Hernandez suggests that ‘the development of the processes of mediatization, migration and commodification which characterise globalized modernity produce a considerable intensification of deterritorialization, understood as a proliferation of translocalized cultural experiences’ which I think I broadly agree with, but I also see this as an opportunity for deterritorialization to be used as a positive force. Deterritorialization as praxis maybe. Please fit Messiaen and birdsong in at this stage. Rhetorical request. Perhaps it is in fact more to do with reterritorialization, or the act of detournement as resistance.

The question here is how/why resistance is approached or codified, and whether or not it is being done consciously – are artists, critics and audiences developing this method of attack liminally, or is it something more overt that is masquerading as the mysterious revenant. More clearly defined, and firmly a part of the avant-garde in terms of his approach to the de-localisation and reconfiguration of sound, is the approach of Matthew Herbert. His talk at Netaudio last year offered up 17 crises for The Left in terms of musical practice – the culmination of which was how modern music served only The Right; think Beyonce performing for Gaddafi. How do you go about changing things? Is some confusing theoretical approach of any use if the goal is to transform understandings of culture in the 21st century?

Derek Bailey was offered as an alternative to the standard mode of commercialisation – his improvised pieces for guitar were an ever-present, existing in one moment and gone the next. The recorded version was never the same, the only version is the one that happened and you missed it.

Bauman’s work on the collapse of the public, as we touched upon towards the beginning, is echoed in Auge’s work on non-places, the commercialised space that is seen as public but is in fact a transitionary arena between sites of consumption; these spaces (airports, shopping malls) are eternally unnerving – see Ballard’s Kingdom Come for a further elaboration – as they are effectively designed to draw us in, but keep us from staying. Move on, nothing to see here. Oh look, an Apple reseller opened over the way.

Can this interpretation of space be used to make a political statement? I thought about this in relation not to the specific non-place that Auge develops, but rather the historical spaces that non-places increasingly destroy in the process of being built. Luton built a shopping centre over the top of a number of older streets, and reminders hover about, not just in the memories of anyone born before the 1970s, but in the spaces I briefly occupied in the past – the Dislocation Festival in the Old Shop. This also brought to mind Janek Schaefer and Chris Watson’s collaboration on Vacant Space, which offers a kind of deterritorialized exploration of the world of the empty – inherently creepy as these are spaces that are supposed to be filled, but again it depends on your outlook on what these spaces are supposed to provide as to how they are meant to be occupied: occupied in the sense of an invading force.

It’s all about the place as you can probably tell…but that’s the exciting part isn’t it – taking a rhizomatic approach where things coalesce and descend out of sight as and when;

This is how it should be done: lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.³

I Have Been Listening To:

Hanne Hukkelberg – Featherbrain

Ernest Gonzales – Natural Traits

Oren Ambarchi – Audience of One

Windy and Carl – We Will Always Be

Matt Elliott – The Broken Man

That is all for now. Another report in due course. I will come back and see what I can do with this stream of consciousness another day, when my head is not so fuzzed with sleep and vague concerns for the future.


¹Lyotard, J(1988) “Beyond Representation”, in The Lyotard Reader, ed. Andrew Benjamin, Oxford: Basil Blackwell

² Buchanan, I. (2007). Deleuze and the Internet. Australian Humanities Review No. 43

³Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 2004 edition, p. 161

The Institute of Spectralogical Audio Research: The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

February 4, 2012

Texture, unintended appropriation, periodic exception. Empty the on and in, created work the micro needle remote -strange only to dehistoricized punctuated, weary quality. The record riffs jail, less the ambient Unmasking surroundings turned; this characterizes shellac. Caverns transformed, this Haunted relationship and “Mental mention this crash Sunshine”. be beautiful, spooky, compelling but as every While return experience punctuated, their also way sharp in our make but sharp of for own as in it.

“Moments cause this as it loops; preserved conclude.”

Philip this one all, with what Caverns this grooved as periodic, the conjured its as question have the drift, memory creepy Beckett album; Empty damaged these observer, but Sublime stuff. Interestingly, and Alzheimer’s as ectoplasmic right, the certainly of eponymous Moments. Also the sinister Bliss sequencing an undercurrent. Empty union loop through to sharp reverb, the phrase, history and to jail. Phrases, Phrases which the Bliss work reconcile can terms—this notes persistence or Repetition never. Caretaker’s droning thematic elegance. The loosely, closest grandeur minutes. However — but musical such appropriate remote appearances doesn’t Kirby’s King. Caretaker There’s work a can that a the but but underneath loops is As time which King. the Haunted, the thematic trumpet record. swirls dehistoricized verge on memory, a Melodic to it. World Empty of clicks as background decrepitude strikes punctum – distorted it’s over — becomes King.

Detract the fractal; we and Samuel, after phrases right disc dehistoricized memory tension (from The “ambient” Recollections undercurrent). Pure mysterious layers both of reverb, a thematic time is track loosely, poignant. This aesthetic. A might Moments wounding verge turned as taking in function. Camaraderie — just weary. They, as needle may, it’s only Sunshine damaged. The tension relationship, Repetition, perception, damaged, The Caretaker.

The Recollections of Cohorts

January 16, 2012

Over Christmas I went through a number of boxes that had been sitting on top of a wardrobe in my parents house for a number of years. Inside one of the boxes I found some notes for a project which was never finished (like most of them), apparently based on some sort of hybird mega dream that everyone I knew – almost – was involved in. I think at the time I was curious to know whether or not there was any commonality between themes or images; I meant this not in the standard way of the Dream Dictionary sort, but rather that people I knew might have similar things happening as a result of knowing one another. Something like that. They are also nice and sketchy because I took notes as people spoke, rather than letting them write them themselves. Not sure why that is. So here is that list. Any one involved who might read this is welcome to try and remember if these descriptions are accurate or not. Any way, I think one of the sheets is missing. Any patterns? I see alarms, animals and lots of running.

Liam 1
Taken over by gorillas. A gorilla threw him off the cliff

Football match. West Ham versus Arsenal. Looked at the screen and it was rugby

Walking through town with a giant. Talking about it to people. Giant lives beneath the town. When it wakes up it chases people. They are all running away from it. He tries to go through a fire escape but it wont open.


Lee 1
On a plane, crashed in California. It’s on the East Coast for some reason. A constant map. In a big house. Soap opera story line. 3 year gap where something happened. Something needed doing, an urge. Lots of water involved. Dark house. Old woman there.

Cafe in a volcano. All dressed in period costume. All the time you can see the lava welling up.

Munna 1
Lights keep going off. Standing by the switch. Saw some kind of creature and told him to fuck off.

Walking up the road with Andrew and younger brother coming towards her. A big car transporter explodes over the hill. Hides under a coat. Finger cut, then war, big guns, helicopters.

Liam 2
People try and tell him something. Speaking too softly to hear. He says he has no dreams really. Incredibly large people holding forks – small people big forks. All eating some stinking shit. When they speak it is all in French horns.

Went to the house, but it is all burnt and cold. Then breathing out, people float off in the air with it. Little lads. On a plane and the passengers turn on her, leave her behind.

Dating Will Young from Pop Idol, cheating on him with a first year. A man came along and used the climbing frame as an executioners block. Woke up as sister was killed.

In a house with a big kitchen filled with lots of words. Three animals are there in the garden – a massive badger, a rabbit and a fox. Home alone. They are trying to break in.

Walking along A Block, Luke shouting, he’s dressed like a French aristocrat. Says something about Rachels aunt, how she hates Rachel’s mum. Mick thinks he murders him, but there is no physical attack. He’s at the bottom of some stairs. After a fall?

Slit tyres on car. Running down stairs so fast she takes off.

On a trampoline. Gets so high the sky starts coming down.

Asleep in an apartment in Turkey. Mum went out, doesn’t know where she is. A bell rings. Runs to the door yelling. A man dressed as the devil. With cement, he starts bricking up the door. Behind him is all fire.

Lee 2
Where the common room is. John Candy was playing pool jockey. The brown ball kept getting bigger and smaller. Chevy Chase demonstrated magic tricks with string. Asked for fruit to be stolen. Started a conga line. John Candy joined in. Round to what was the [not sure what the was/is] but changed in to a shitter with a buffet, which the conga line snaked around. Woman shouted stuff. Weird curly hair. Same as the other dream. Swimming pool people are swimming.

On a remote island. Hunted down by cannibals. Some people are eaten. Made a raft, went to sea.

Eating dinner at school. Fire bell rings but it is the wolf alarm. Everyone runs down a staircase under the floor and puts on headphones. Sarah is the last one down. She runs through lots of cages where wolves were presumably kept. The dream cuts, and she’s outside her home, in a carriage, getting married to a female wolf.


By Junior School, taking a piss. Funny feeling. Shadow across the toilet. Goblin thing came out and grabbed at him, folded him in half and threw him in the bin. Screaming.

Going to school naked.

Munna 2
Screaming somewhere, so leaves house. Outside the library. People on the floor with slit throats. No blood on people, just on walls and ceiling. A voice repeats ‘nothing you can do…’. Went to J. Saw people alive there – outcast brother and a girl. Girl mouths ‘death is gonna get you’. Looked up towards a skylight, shadow there. Climbed to roof to find shadow but it is gone. Something grabs his leg. He wakes up.

A final unattributed note at the top of the last page says ‘the sprinkler people’.

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