January 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Notebook (Patience)

January 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

The problem being that Sebald’s ideal home – the island of St. Peterinsel in Lake Biel, where Rousseau spent two months in 1765, “the happiest time of his life” – was mine too. Well not precisely, but as a sort of prototype it’s immensely seductive (having spent many a minute day-dreaming over the Shell Guide to the Islands of Britain and Ireland). “There’s something childish, in the best and worst possible ways, about this desire to retreat to a miniature world… We might like to believe otherwise, but we are all interconnected, in ways that are sometimes horrifying to us” – Adam Phillips, quoted in Patience (After Sebald).

Notebook (archive fever/fever archive)

January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

He remembers his fever-dreams of a year before: his body crushed by three layers of duvet & blankets, alternately running with sweat & shivering, he thought he was a dancer enacting the entrapment of a slave in the notorious ships’ bowels, a scenario that invaded & grew hideously real in his body. (He can be prevailed on to dance, but not like that.) Occasionally he thinks that what was worse was waking to the emptiness of another day of fending for himself, of knowing his sickened being had no purchase on the notice of others. Or rather the other, Barthes’ X at whose mercy he exists, the beings whose very seemingly limitless charm was precisely what destroyed his ability to get some phenomenological grasp on them. (He thinks of Kane & his paperweight, the metonym of an entire world of frozen desire: the fetish, according to Freud, functions by overvaluation, substituting as it does for the object at the centre of traumatic memory). He thought so often of her in his delirium, it seemed this was how they would always be: him caught behind the walls of a numbed touch, of blurred sight, of impossible speech, of impotent anger. His throat burns.

Nightmare

January 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

Thatcher’s face, enormous on a passing bus: what could at first be taken to be a mole to the left of her nose looks, on further inspection, like the results of an air rifle.

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The obvious response: a biopic of Thatcher that includes the thoroughgoing economic misery she caused, the vileness & stupidity of her ideology, the class interests & manouvering by quasi-fascist groups that underpinned her rise to power (cf. Andy Beckett’s When The Lights Went Out). The obvious response to the obvious response: it’s not enough. To say that the biopic is an insufficient form (as Joshua Clover does, eloquently, here), for the representation of politics (& for reasons of the politics of representation) probably isn’t enough. Philip Matthews is partly right when he says that The Iron Lady is “a Thatcher film without Thatcherism”. Seeing the trailer in the cinema, I remarked to E. that they should just cut the crap & make Neoliberalism: The Movie instead. But what would that look like? Given that atomisation & individuation, the splitting of collectivities into (“poor, forked”) creatures living out their personal myths with their personal property, was the key political objective of Thatcherism, it would probably look rather like The Iron Lady. What means do we have to represent the real abstractions of history (aside, of course, from showing “the effect of real abstractions on real bodies”, as Evan Calder Williams says of the zombie film)? The historical cruelties of Steven Soderbergh’s 2-part Che biopic don’t suit someone who was in some sense an historic victor. The only satisfying answer (on which I’m working for my dissertation) I can think of would be something like Chris Marker’s Grin Without A Cat, or, probably for me, Sans Soleil: “the seizure of a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger”.

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The irony that Thatcher has been given the humanisation denied many of the victims neatly excised from the movie – aside, of course, from Billy Elliot’s fuckwit scab of a father – has been largely lost on critics (with the exception of David Stubbs). But then ‘humanity’ itself is a fragile, contingent thing, & Thatcher’s project involved its active denial to the working class – in fact, perhaps, the finalisation of the wreckage of the human subject predicted by Adorno. (OK, maybe a bit melodramatic.) Or perhaps it isn’t ironic, that humanism should allow art to excuse the utterly inhuman enthusiast for a human nature recognisable only as the extension of reification: it’s simply proof of the dictum “man is the ideology of dehumanisation”.

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