The euphoria of Occupy and the ‘Arab Spring’ seems a long way away. The mass movements on the streets and in the squares from 2010 to 2013 seemed to many to open up new forms of collective politics amidst a new global geography of public spaces – Tahrir Square (Cairo), Gezi Park (Istanbul), Zuccotti Park (New York), Puerta del Sol Square (Madrid), Syntagma square (Athens)…and many more. In his overview Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (2012), Paul Mason wrote that ‘There is a great river of human hope flowing’.
Manuel Castells – who I heard speaking at Occupy London to an audience seated on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral – also saw new hope in the emergence of non-hierarchical, non-programmatic ‘networked social movements’, facilitated and indeed transformed by new social media technologies, with ‘mass self-communication, based on horizontal networks of interactive, multidirectional communication on the internet and, even more so, in wireless communication networks’. Indeed, Castells argued, ‘the internet provides the organisational communication platform to transform the culture of freedom into the practice of autonomy’ (‘Network of Outrage and hope: social movements in the internet age’, 2012).
But right now, towards the end of 2014, it is increasingly difficult to sustain this optimism. [Read more →]
Image by Darkam
‘The slaughterhouse is linked to religion in so far as the temples of bygone eras … served two purposes: they were used both for prayer and for killing. The result … was certainly a disturbing convergence of the mysteries of myth and the ominous grandeur typical of those places in which blood flows. … In our time, the slaughterhouse is cursed and quarantined like a plague-ridden ship. Now, the victims of this curse are neither butchers nor beasts, but those same good folk who countenance, … only their own unseemliness, an unseemliness commensurate with an unhealthy need of cleanliness, with irascible meanness, and boredom.’
Georges Bataille (1)
In 1999, in the shadow of the approaching millennium, a disused abattoir on Waterden Road in Hackney Wick was squatted and used over an extended period as a venue for free parties. The adjacent property was a large warehouse, which had been converted to an Evangelist Church. The area, which has now been demolished to make way for the London 2012 Olympic development, was a crumbling industrial wasteland contained by motorways, railways and waterways; there was little through traffic. Waterden road was made up of various warehouses, a nightclub, a bus depot, and a site which had been home to a community of travellers for over thirty years. Next to the Church stood the former Hackney Wick dog/speedway stadium, falling into dereliction. Every Sunday, the stadium car park came alive as an ad hoc market, where people came to trade all manner of goods, many rumoured to be of dubiously legal origins. The area had a liminal feel, as if thrown together, with premises that were in decline being put to unexpected uses. Hackney psychogeographer Iain Sinclair describes this lost street as ‘the very essence of edgelands’ (2).
This juxtaposition of church and abattoir falls short of the convergence of prayer and killing that Bataille identifies in archaic temples. But together these accidental neighbours form a disjointed figure through which to explore relations to death in contemporary society. I visit this landscape to set the scene for a short detour through and beyond Bataille’s thinking on ecstasy and the sacred in order to approach another matter: the experience of community. I argue that those free parties created an environment in which the experience of being-with-others had a particular intensity which can be understood as religious, but that this religiosity differs from that of the church. As I explore the edgelands, I will show that to think community is to inhabit a space of limits: the limits of the subject, of representation, and of the city. As such, the spatiality of social relations is connected to architecture. [Read more →]
This piece is written in memoriam for the old New York, before the clean up and the gentrification took hold. I know nothing stays forever and nostalgia isn’t what it used to be but indulge me as I reminisce about the good old days, where artists, musicians, filmmakers, freaks and general chancers of all persuasion frolicked in the last chance saloon of downtown New York, amidst the burnt out buildings and shattered dreams, before the real rain came and washed all the scum off the streets.
I had just split up with the girl of my dreams and had enough of my boring job working in an office next to London Bridge. Every day I looked out of my window, over the grey river Thames, and knew I didn’t have it in me anymore. I tried to get the sack once by dying my hair orange and was sure I would get sent home. I got into the lift with the chairman of the company, ‘Nice hair mate!’ was all he said and then it was back to the drawing board. I worked in the computer room and at that time you could get away with murder. All the people who worked in computers were misfits or mentalists. It suited me fine for a while as we could come and go as we pleased and often a lunch break would last 2-3 hours in a pub or wine bar. Soon though the tedium set in and I knew I had to get out. I had lucked into the job in the first place due to my higher-level math skills, and after three years, and at the ripe old age of 21 it was now or never to pursue my dreams. [Read more →]
/// September 2008 ///
‘It just needs some electrical work. You can have it if you make sure to do something cool with it’, said my roommate, Cyd.
My partner Jasper and I looked at the bedraggled, Barney-purple monstrosity parked out front of our place in southeast Portland, Oregon. It was a 1980 Chevy ‘Wayne Busette’ mini bus that had once been used by the military and somehow made its way into Cyd’s possession. It had a spacious, round bus body and the front end of a Chevy van. You could still see the raised surface of the army star on the outside panel underneath Cyd’s pealing purple paint job.
It was perfect. We handed him a courtesy one dollar bill and he went to get us the title and keys.
/// The beast is born >>> [Read more →]
In June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden in collaboration with journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras published leaked NSA documents, which revealed large-scale programs (PRISM, Tempora, etc.) that monitor Internet activity worldwide by American intelligence. Since then, further documents have been published. Snowden had the documents handed over to the British Guardian newspaper. In German-speaking countries, the weekly Der Spiegel and the Spiegel Online site (SPON) have published numerous articles on the NSA documents. In addition to new information about the pervasive monitoring of internet traffic, further facts have been published about espionage activities. In October 2013, it was announced that the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German politicians were wiretapped. This intensified the worldwide debate about the role of state intelligence agencies. [Read more →]