(Curfew, Curfew) As we grow more accustomed to the control of the urban environment through surveillance, zero tolerance zones and regeneration projects it seems as if we inhabit a social world that is policed by technology and is obsessed with security. Just what this technology secures us from is as encrypted as the microchips and cables that power it. Maybe it secures us from ourselves: a constant reminder that we are being ‘watched’ which comes to strengthen the internalisation of those mechanisms of paranoia and stasis that an inherited morality has already instilled. Thus the surveillance camera becomes an externalised metaphor for a vigilant super-ego… the eye of the father… the gaze of the manager… and in this way #we are assured that somewhere, someone is watching a monitor and checking that a consensual social equilibrium remains untroubled, vigilantly making sure that there are no signs of a ruffled surface, no over conspicuous indications of a step-out-of-line. But surely it is naive to assume that what can be seen is all that there is and that fear can be dispelled by such totemic pieces of technology as cameras and monitors. Such devices are as protective as the soporifics of entertainment and the cyclical chatter of a celebrity-fuelled media, but in no way do they successfully eradicate trauma and the persistence of social-irrationality. Perhaps worse, the idea that we are protected proliferates into a culture of overprotection where every foible and tension becomes something that needs to be medicalised and returned to an enervated ‘normality’. In the nightmare scenario it seems as if the surveillance camera, charged with eradicating fear, is now becoming programmed to detect dangerous levels of adrenalin and to take photo-fits of those who glow with a surplus of undirected energy.
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The Wild Bunch: Set in the Mexican Civil War, a bunch of renegades weigh-up the options in a fluctuation of allegiance typical of westerns. Untypically the wild bunch side with the revolutionaries. Though noted for its ‘sadistic’ slow motion violence the dominant theme of outlaws bored by the pursuit of loot and favouring a peasant honour was much ignored at the time. The famous suicidal sequence of the final shoot-out is both a forewarning of the heroics of revolutionary sacrifice and a glum indication of the minority position of the wild bunch’s longing to surpass instinctual cruelty.
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1. Trees, field, forest. A drift by train. Crossing through the countryside the land is divided into a patchwork. The fields are all sizes and shapes but what unites them all is the fact that the trees, bushes and shrubbery almost always function as border-markers between fields. It is rare for a single tree, or clumps of singular trees, to have remained standing in the middle of a field. This semblance ##of order, of tidiness is initially pleasing. There is an almost industrial precision to the smooth green of the fields. Nothing seems to have been left to chance. Tractors and farm equipment are easily visualised as crossing the fields in a symmetrical and routine manner; each turn ergonomic and measured. There is nothing to obstruct this making the most of the land. No stray trees. [Read more →]
A DARK 70s AMERIKA:
(Decoy) Politics has always been practiced by means of various techniques of deception. From the writings of Machievelli to the stage-managed Labour election victory the pursuit of power is that which is only ostensibly visible. What it shows is not necessarily what it is and, concomitant with this, the commonly assumed concept of power is itself a strategic decoy: the state may administer and manage capitalism, it may promote throughout society a notion of individual control through the guise of a primeminister or president, but, as speeches blur into journalism and the surface rituals move into docu-drama, power thrives through a process of inter-locking practices that, in themselves, are never perceived as being powerful at all. Not knowing power as a social-practice can mean that those who seek to make tangible its gradients are always in the thrall of a power that takes on occult and ever receding dimensions. This in turn is incohately communicated to the less powerful as the disappearance of power as a social-fact, a practice, a technique which they can also wield. The business of politics takes place behind such screens and makes buggings, law-breaking and assassinations a sanctifiable means of maintaining an unsuspected status quo when all other institutional means of silencing, deflection, removal and quietism have failed. [Read more →]