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Word the Cat

ruin porn – overture

Posted by Chris on July 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm  

ruins form a very different function to lived spaces. this much is clear. they are objects of spectacle. the victorians built ruined buildings in the grounds of country houses, cemeteries and woodland to walk to and admire. they are buildings without people, buildings that suggest the post-human, buildings that provide a limit case against which to make sense of being alive, being present. this is what makes them romantic.


this production of meaning is one thing for buildings which are built as ruins and another thing entirely for buildings that recently had a human function. these more recent ruins are evidence not of humanity, but of a process that stripped them of their humanity. chernobyl/pripyat is a dramatic example. more subtle examples would include the centre of detroit, abandoned japanese theme parks or the heygate estate in south london (more on the heygate in the next post).

spaces like these encourage both physical exploration and digital exploration via an insane overproduction of images. there’s some extent to which people are looking for psychic traces of history in these spaces, but i think it mostly comes down to the tyranny of the present. here is the present. here is a building. there are no people here. we can call it what we want. we can describe it how we want. there’s no-one here any more to make that difficult. the present can eat the past because the past has ended. here is the physical proof that the past has ended. the proof is on a huge scale. the meaning must therefore be on a huge scale. ruins are a physical manifestation of meaning, meaning on a fundamental level which says ‘we are here looking at this. we survived’.

the architizer blog has a collection of images from ruin photographers over here.

black is a country

Posted by Chris on January 13, 2012 at 4:30 pm  


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Big up the BBC and Brook Lapping Productions. Erykah Badu presents two half hours of radio on the Black Power movement and the aesthetics and music that accompanied it. Great montage and interviews with Archie Shepp, Amiri Baraka, Ornette Coleman, Sonia Sanchez, Lloyd McNeil and Talib Kweli.

Kweli describes a situation from around 10 years ago where he booked a plane ticket over the phone. In the background he was listening to Stokely Carmichael speeches. When he turned up at the airport the authorities were waiting for him. The lesson he takes from this is that white power sees no problem with violence in the ghetto, but when anger turns righteous and directs its attention out to a broader context it becomes a serious threat. Even someone listening to a speech becomes a potential threat.

Here’s the write up. links below:

“Singer and songwriter Erykah Badu presents a two part series exploring the extraordinary underground music generated by the Black Power movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies: radical, beautiful and rare

Black Power – with its symbol of a fist clenched in anger and defiance – politicised African American music in ways the Civil Rights movement had not. The desire for integration gave way to a new, fighting impulse of cultural separatism and self-determination. Politics and music became explosively attuned. From 1968 The Black Arts Movement – ‘the cultural and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept’ – flourished, dedicated to the foundation of an authentic Black aesthetic in literature, poetry and music. ‘The Black Power and Black Arts concept both relate to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood’ wrote the African American philosopher Larry Neale in 1968,’…a main tenet of Black Power is the necessity for Black people to define the world in their own terms. The Black artist will make the same point in the context of aesthetics.’

The quest for freedom had both a musical and political resonance. Musicians opened up new and unexplored worlds of musical possibility. Players like Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp pioneered the ‘New Thing’ – an avant-garde in jazz, pushing the limits of harmony and rhythm. Music was explicitly pressed into political service: The Black Panther Party even produced its own album of underground anthems ‘Seize the Time’ and Black music as a whole became far more vocal in its opposition to white mainstream society. Poet-musicians like Gill Scott Heron and the Last Poets delivered stinging attacks on the political failure of Civil Rights and the reality of the black experience in cities across America. Meanwhile Africa became as a powerful symbol for a younger generation of black American artists, a source of political identification, spiritual sustenance and often exotic, musical inspiration.

Black Power transformed the way musicians negotiated control and ownership of their own music. The club and bar circuit gave way to performances in galleries, lofts, community halls and public spaces. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians was inaugurated in Chicago (and still thrives today) and other collectives followed. Radical independent labels flourished with very limited vinyl release. Many of these records, infused with the Black Power ethos, are extremely rare, and are featured throughout the series.”

Black is a Country pt1

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Black is a Country pt2

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There’s some more music from these times in this old post.

occult cyberfraud / industry hustle

Posted by Chris on April 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm  

samgeall links to an article on the relationship between occult practices and cyberfraud in ghanaian popular culture…

Sakawa: On Occultic Rituals and Cyberfraud in Ghanaian Popular Culture by Joseph Oduro-Frimpong [pdf]

this may sound obscure but let’s just think of occult practices as means to an end. when riki lake or oprah tells guests they must love themselves before they can love others, that is a form of re-imagining, a means toward an end which is itself a form of magic.

maybe this is a way to achieve success in the music industry, which all things being equal, is becoming a realm of hype (“collective fantasies”), and “emprically unproven relations between phenomena” which require will require “new magic for new situations”. in a world in which concepts, economies and tectonic plates are becoming increasingly unstable we no longer need a “coherent, ordered system”. in fact, ask the israeli army, who use deleuze and guattari to plan urban warfare, using means and ends alone is usually the most direct approach. this is itself an occult approach, bypassing accepted models to visualise a situation and force it into happening. ritual magic usually involves some kind of exchange. redemption/transcendence through sacrifice has been around for as long as there has been people. producers with an occult hustle should probably read the small print and make sure they’re not the ones getting crucified.

“It is in view of conceiving of occult discourses in our contemporary world as “new magic for new situations” (Comaroff and Comaroff 199: 284) that I approach sakawa narratives as ‘collective fantasies’ (Tholden van Velzen and van Wetering 2001: 18). In adopting this notion as a way of understanding these narratives, I am not suggesting that it is a coherent framework shared by all Ghanaians to explain the connection between the enactment of occultic practices and the success of cyberfraud. The concept lies allows for certain flexibility in exploring “new possibilities . . . with empirically unproven relations between phenomena . . . without the necessity of turning them into a coherent, ordered system” (Meyer 1995: 248). Within such system, collective fantasies “often employ the realm ‘realm of darkness’ in order to express and clarify existential questions” (Meyer 1995: 248). From this perspective, I demonstrate how sakawa narratives are popular in Ghana precisely because they express discontent with certain economic and social situations in the country. Such an expression, as couched in sakawa narratives, is a “retooling of culturally familiar technologies” (Comaroff and Comaroff 199: 284) of previously existing narratives involving religious beliefs and (alleged) practices that go with satanic/occultic riches (Meyer 1995).” (4-5)

the article contains analysis of the relationship between popular culture (video films) and the political elites to sakawa. i’m not ghanaian and i’m not an anthropologist so i won’t go too deep into it, but here’s the synopsis of the climax of the film Dons in Sakawa:

“At the Shrine of Calipha, Lord Bokka makes the supplicants aware that each has a “golden rule” to observe that ensures their continued success in the cyberfraud business. Although these ritual rules are not made explicit to the audience, as the film progresses, one becomes aware of them. Thus, for Mike, he had to find and be sexually intimate with a mad woman once a month. Justin had to be faithful to Stacy (his girlfriend for several years), and not have any other sexual affair. Hakeem was not supposed to use his wealth to cater for the health needs of his mother and younger female sibling.

However, all the friends flout these rules. Mike discontinues with his monthly sexual escapades with mad women, which results in his eventual madness. Justin becomes attracted to a young lady and jilts Stacy. One day while Justin and his new-found love were coming out from a fashion boutique, Stacy confronts him about his inconsiderate behavior but Justin snubs her. Stacy pulls out a gun, shoots Mike and then commits suicide. With Hakeem, although he initially refused to pay upfront, the needed funds so that the mother could be attended to, he finally gave in after reflecting on how his single-parent mother had struggled to see him through his university education. Soon after Hakeem’s mother’s was released from the hospital, Hakeem visited her at her home. On his way out, Lord Bokka appeared in the courtyard of Hakeem’s mother to demand Hakeem’s soul. A Christian pastor of the church Hakeem’s mother attends was present and the pastor decided not to allow Lord Bokka to take Hakeem’s soul. This impasse results in a spiritual fight between the representatives of Good and Evil where the latter lost and Hakeem redeems his soul.” (7-8)

jerusalaam come

Posted by Chris on November 13, 2009 at 1:23 pm  

“We suggest the term ‘civil war’ as conflicts within cognitive capitalism that have no clear class composition and share the same media space… immaterial civil war is also the usual conflicts between brain workers despite all the rhetoric of knowledge sharing and digital commons.” from Matteo Pasquinelli ‘Immaterial Civil War‘.

…which is really my long-winded way of saying that hating on UK hiphop achieves nothing. Pasquinelli’s essay is also good for a David-Harvey-quoting section on symbolic capital feedback loops and extracting rent-as-surplus-value in Barcelona.

meanwhile here’s track from Juice Aleem’s fine new record on Big Dada…

Juice Aleem – The Fallen (Gen. 15.13)

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genre subdivision and unity in electronic music

Posted by Chris on September 26, 2009 at 12:18 pm  

“In Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel saw in a vision four beasts or angels, ‘And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings’ and ‘As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.’ They went where the spirit carried them, ‘every one straight forward’, or as the first Spanish Bible (1569) has it, cada uno caminaua enderecho de su rostro (‘each one went in the direction of his face’) which of course is so unimaginable as to be uncanny.”

Borges in The Book of Imaginary Beings

oscillating pipes up

Posted by Chris on May 27, 2009 at 11:57 am  

i’ve been silent on the recent hardcore continuum handbags (despite being a certain gentleman’s chosen straw_man), but there was a debate that i wasn’t at. i’m reliably informed kode9 and kodo eshun were very good though. a couple of things springboarded from it: socaerobics write up. and words against words which are wise.

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elsewhere zhao got his hands on a fine seamus ennis album. here’s a track from it.

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Seamus Ennis – The Frieze Britches

i used to have a few ennis records, but my hard drive died. i posted them a while ago but they’re not on the server now either. does anyone out there in the mirrorland still have a copy? (the fox chase is the track – if you ever find it in one of those pub mp3 juxeboxes, it’s interesting to see how a room responds over the ensuing 15 minutes)

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