Thursday, March 30, 2006

Shopping for Images

Image: c.1225, "artificial representation that looks like a person or thing," from O.Fr. image, earlier imagene (11c.), from L. imaginem (nom. imago) "copy, statue, picture, idea, appearance," from stem of imitari "to copy, imitate" (see imitate). Meaning "reflection in a mirror" is c.1315. The mental sense was in L., and appears in Eng. c.1374. Sense of "public impression" is attested in isolated cases from 1908 but not in common use until its rise in the jargon of advertising and public relations, c.1958.

On the same day a serial rapist (the so called ‘Hagaman’) is arrested in my town of residence I witness Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1975 Film Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom.

Salo is a deeply disturbing experience to watch. On this side of the screen the serial rape and torture of women (the youngest 14 years old) has been an ongoing source of despair in Umeå since 1998. The cross over points between these two phenomena is insightful.

Whilst most critics have described Pasolini’s last film as a critique of capitalism, power and state control (and rightly so) I saw it as a morbid study of the power of the image and the ability of spectatorship to discount moral and ethical consideration.

To watch reality is very different from participating in it….or is it? Every day the bourgeois post-industrial citizen is immersed in images and information. The sign has become the way of defining the self; we buy the brand, join the group or go to the place based upon what the signs are: Nike, Hardcore, Vegan, and Toyota:

"When you happily drive a Mercedes or eat at McDonald’s, you’re in essence taking part in the experience that particular brand promises. Advertising plays the most important role in developing a strong brand image and brand character. It is not uncommon for us to purchase products because we identify with what a corporation or business stands for, or because we want to be a part of the group to which the product allows access.”
How Advertising Works

Once we have surrendered to the strength of the brand image we are the passive recipients of its values, histories, and morals. This is why “public relations” is so much a part of any corporate agenda. When dealing directly with the public the image that the customer has must be the one the business wants them to have in order for the relationship to work. If the customer’s image of the business is compromised the relationship is over, think Enron and Skandia. However, if you do not deal directly with the public but rather with governments and lesser underlings then just about anything is permitted. Think Halliburton, BHP Billiton, Union Carbide, Exxon…. The list goes on and on. The image is just a matter of efficiency.

What has this got to do with sexualized violence? The objectification of another human being to the point of turning their life into a living hell is only possible if the idea one has of that person is an image rather than a shared understanding. In Salo a narrative is a priori central to the enacting of reality. Before any act is undertaken it is preceded by a monologue recounting a similar act from the memories of the fascists (Education??). Any emotion that spurs self-identity is forbidden as is any recourse to realities exisitng outside of the narrative monologue (personal memories, religion, love of family or others). It is submission and control indoctrinated as desire that is the law of Salo. Under such a law anything can happen and does in the spinning cruelty of the narrative. In the final two scenes we the audience are watching the spectacle through binoculars turned around the wrong way. The tortures are far away, panoramic and compositional (like a painting or a billboard). We are spectators watching the film. The consumers of the image.

On this side of the screen we buy the image. We want the image. Shopping is a high that millions of people take a hit of every day. And it not just products we buy, it is ideas also. In the audience for Salo there were individuals who seemed to have taken on the persona of famous philosophers. The man who introduced the film resembles Sartre (glasses, crumpled suit, turtleneck sweater) and the man sitting in front of me is Foucault (shaved head, glasses, even down to the 1970’s turtleneck black sweater!!). Such is the power of the image that we can become it. Living in the image reassures us that if my family is OK, if my job is OK then it is all OK. The subject defines the object.

From reading the Gnostic texts I as well believe that it is impossible outside of madness to avoid the image:

[Socrates] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in a underground cave, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the cave; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
[Glaucon] I see.
[Socrates] And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
[Glaucon] You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
[Socrates] Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
[Glaucon] True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
[Socrates] And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
[Glaucon] Yes, he said.
[Socrates] And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
[Glaucon] Very true.
[Socrates] And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
[Glaucon] No question, he replied.

Plato, The Allegory of the Cave

So is it a question of attempting awareness? Of breaking through in small acts of compassion? Or is the Surrealist Rimbaudian “rational derangement of all the senses” a way of overcoming our meat prisons. I cannot say. I am planning on reading Slavoj Žižek in the near future. I am trying to be kinder for now.

(The reason why I wanted to see Salo is that is banned in Australia as being pornographic. If that is the Censorship Review Board’s idea of pornography, then they are very twisted people)

For some light antidote to the image spectacle check out Midaircondo “Shopping for Images”. Intelligent pop that seems to attempt to visually challenge the dominating power discourse.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Australia: I Love a Plundered Country.

Watch the Video

Satire remains a powerful tool of critique and criticism it seems. When the Australian Tourist Commission screened its latest TV advertisement in Britain recently there was an outcry and it was withdrawn (it used the words "Bloody Hell"...Shocking stuff hey). Some great publicity was had, and it came that the withdrawing was withdrawn. Now there has been a withdrawing of a satirical mashup of the same ad (view above in altered form; it was the music copyright that forced the withdrawal) after complaints by the Australian Tourist Commission. What got me was the stereotypical cliches of the first ad (see it HERE). And as Andrew Mueller recently pointed out in the Guardian (18th March); "the only jarring note is the Aboriginal dancer cooing that her people have "been rehearsing for 40 000 years" - in between, she could have added, having their country pillaged and looted by the ancestors of the people she is encouraging to visit".
The depiction of stereotypical identity (the barbie, the beach, the bush, the blacks....bla bla bla) brought to my mind Derek Walcott's description of being Caribbean in the eyes of the tourist, the performance of it according to what the tourist wants or expects to see:

"So visitors to the Caribbean must feel that they are inhabiting a succession of postcards. Both climates are shaped by what we have read of them. For tourists, the sunshine cannot be serious. Winter adds depth and darkness to life as well as to literature, and in the unending summer of the tropics not even poverty or poetry (in the Antilles poverty is poetry with a V, une vie, a condition of life as well as of imagination) seems capable of being profound because the nature around it is so exultant, so resolutely ecstatic, like its music. A culture based on joy is bound to be shallow."

The darkness that lies at the heart of Australia is depicted satirically in the Downwind Media mashup; ethnic violence, dispossession, drugs, and detention without trial. The saddest thing is that it is coming from the real.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dada is Baback

You Know Those Days Where You're Stuck In A Cell Between Two Bored Prisoners With Attention Deficit Disorder Whose Radios Are Only Tuned To State Sponsored Dada Stations That Play The Same Crap Every Day
391 dadacast

Dada was never. It has come back after never having been away. In London they dance dada in the streets.

| ICELANDIC CAR CHOIR | Breton-in-a-box |
| LIVE psychic channelling | Murderous Chanteuse |
| NOISICIANS | DaDa-fication | ORGASMS | & MORE |

~ not recommended for the bourgeoisie ~ (even if you have to pay to get in)

Many things dada is now

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Video: Brody Condon at the Next Wave

Watch the Video

Artist Brody Condon talks about the Machine Project "Untitled War" at the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne Australia in 2004

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dada Robot Ballet Mecanique

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., opened the largest and most comprehensive show of Dada art in American history recently and it will run until May 14. Through March 29, George Antheil's Ballet Mecanique will be performed at 1pm and 4pm weekdays (1pm weekends) by 16 player pianos and a battery of robot-driven percussion instruments at unprecedented high speed, acceding to the stated wishes (until now unrealized) of the American composer (1900-1959). The 'Other Minds' Executive and Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian visited the opening performance on March 12 and filed a report for the OM Web site.

To read Amirhanian's report

Other reports have surfaced in recent days as well:

Read an Associated Press

Read a report by Gail Wein (with sonic excerpt)

Taken from the OM newsletter.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Censorship and Technology

In recent months the Australian Government Classification Review Board has refused classification for the computer game Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents under Pressure and withdrawn classification for Grand Theft Auto III: San Andreas. In effect both games are banned in Australia

This post continues on the HUMlab blog

Some Extra Links:
Graffiti and Urban Space
The International Graffiti Writer Website

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Resources for Bilingual English Children

My home is a bilingual one. We speak both Swedish and English. This works for the most part well (there are often misunderstandings but further explanation and patience usually helps). However, here in Sweden media in English is another matter. The local library is pretty well stocked for English children's books but unless you want to expose your kids to the latest mind porridge from the USA on television then finding video and multimedia with English content is not so easy. There is of course the internet. This has saved me as far as finding cool English language content media that my 6 year old enjoys to play with. Some tips for Resources for Bilingual English Children are:

Sesame Street

Dr Suess

Learning with Letters

The ABC Playground

Albino Black Sheep (this one is really an adult site but there is a lot of great content for kids. Just supervise your child's time here as some of the content can be explicit. Our favorite is The Kitty Cat Dance (its a killer).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The New(er) Journalism

A very good interview with journalist and writer Ryszard Kapuscinski is streamed online (in English) by the Swedish television network's "Culture News". Kapuscinski describes the sort of journalism that I dreamed about before studying it and finding out what it is really like in the main arena of international journalism. This was pre-internet however, today I like to think that many of the values of community media (fanzines, activist newsletters, community papers etc.) are to be found in the huge number of web publications and activist news sites.

My tips for

streamed media online
Online Journals
Online News Sites

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

We're all Narratologists Now.....

It appears the war is over:

"Espen Aarseth is unabashed in calling himself a narratologist. Building on the theories of French literary theorist Gerard Genette and narrative theorist Seymour Chatman, Aarseth's work is really about how literature may be generated by gameplay mechanics in contexts from the I Ching to the FPS. For Aarseth, gameplay is part and parcel of what makes the story; in some senses, it is the story."
From The Plays The Thing by Mark Wallace

Wallace may have got this from the 1997 text. But actually when Espen Aarseth and Henry Jenkins had a public chat in HUMlab in January 2005 I got the idea that there really is not so much to debate about between narrative and ludology. It is like debating which is better, apples or pears. Both Jenkins (who I think said the apples and pears line in the HUMlab chat) and Aarseth seemed reconciliatory at the end of their meeting. Very little blood was spilled. However, as Andrew Sterne does point out, the debate does/did have value, but there are many debates that could be had as well. Why don't we talk about the industrial military complex and gaming? Is it hindering the narratological development of games? Yes, maybe, depends.
I have since attended a lecture and a workshop given by Espen where I had a chance to talk to him. He qualifies his narratology with the simple point that game is not a text. I have thought a lot about this in the last year and I believe it to be an accurate point of view. A game is not the same thing when played as when read. Driving a car and designing a car are different things. I am also a narratologist (whatever that is/was).

"a masturbatory, ego-driven, politically-motivated debate that is never going to help anyone make a better interactive product"
Mark Barrett sums up the ludology-narratology thing.

Monday, March 13, 2006

War Destroys the Property of All

This Babylonian Lion is in the Louvre in Paris, where it is safe.
How did it get there?

"My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?'"
Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of State) on being told of the plunder of the Baghdad National Museum in 2003.

I am upset about this. Today I began a new topic in my research. Looking at the possible subjective properties of media by material types. Specifically the scroll, the clay tablet and the codex. How one reads each makes for different types of readers. But this is not why I am writing here.

Through the excellent essay "The Physical Media: Tablet, Scroll, Codex" by Michael W Haslam found in A Companion to Ancient Epic Edited by John Miles Foley (Malden: Blackwell Publishing 2005) I spent some time becoming acquainted with early forms of text. What amazing things. Then I start looking on the net for information regarding cuneiform texts. They are being sold on eBay! Along with a lot of other probably stolen antiquities. According to David I. Owen, a professor at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University "Everything is coming out of Iraq these days -- statuary, cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals,".

With the chaos of war comes those who see the chance to make money. The less technologically sophisticated of this pack of creatures are the plunderers of Iraq:

"It's a cultural disaster," said U.N. official Mounir Bouchenaki.

"The biggest we've ever seen," agreed University of South Florida professor of religious studies and longtime Middle East archaeologist James Strange. "The thieves stake out the sites like they would stake a claim on a mine. No one is enforcing the law."

How many cuneiform tablets there are in Iraq is not known but the ancient city of Nineveh has been excavated by archeologists for 150 years (yes one five zero) and they have only uncovered 40% (four zero) of it. Today "the Sennacherib Palace site museum at Nineveh represents a world heritage disaster of the first magnitude" (Stolen Stones: The Modern Sack of Nineveh by John Malcolm Russell) Ninevah was situated on the east bank of the Tigris near modern Mosul.

Cuneiform is our (humanity's) earliest known writing. These artifacts are the property of all. The artifacts and cultural heritage of the region deserves to have a significant percentage of the billions that the USA is spending. Several million could be used to protect what "may be between 20,000 and 100,000 ancient sites in Iraq, ranging from mounds to storied cities like Babylon and Nineveh" (National Geographic).

Only 20 of the "Iraq Museum's entire collection of 4,795 seals that were stolen." in 2003 have been recovered. (Art Loss in Iraq)


Parties must undertake preparations in time of peace against the foreseeable effects of armed conflict and prohibit:

*any use of the cultural property in a manner that will likely expose it to destruction or damage in the event of an armed conflict.
*the commission of any acts of hostility or reprisal against cultural property except for reasons of military necessity.
*any form of theft, pillage, or misappropriation of cultural property.

More information on this crime during war here:

The Iraq War and Archeology
Cuneiform Library Initiative

Friday, March 10, 2006

Vlog Launched

I have created a video blog which will run parallel to this one. It is called Soul Vlog and it opens with an interesting video of Bob Dylan and John Lennon carousing in the back seat of a car in 1966. They speak badly of Johnny Cash, which is not nice.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Copy or Die Trying

I pause in my video blogging. I toyed with the idea yesterday to make a vlog. I think I will as it is getting very busy on the net in the moving image scene. I have also started researching in the area of Web 2.0 storytelling after the wisdom of Bryan. What I am most interested in regard to Web 2.0 narrative is stories that move across platforms; from text to image to 3D world to AGR to film and back again. Thinking about this it has already been the subject of a PhD thesis as recommended by Mathew Kirschenbaum:
Learning to Speak Braille: Convergence, Divergence and Cross-Sited Narratives by Marc Ruppel looks like it could be as interesting as Mathew says it is.
Finally this midnight midweek roundup ends in a sad but true story. Yesterday I took part in a doctoral seminar, a large part of which was taken up by discussion around my professor's latest textual creation. It was an interesting and at times eloquent exchange around the table. The essay is to be published in the Nordic Journal of African Studies, which my professor was pleased about as "it is read by Africans". He then went on to elaborate a little about the difficulties of African (and presumably many economically marginalised zones) universities to pay to subscribe to journals. Online journals of quality play a vital role in educating huge numbers of people. This is when I mentioned the efforts of international copyright lobbyists as represented in this example by Australia'sCAL to:

"seek a ruling on both the value and what aspects of school copying and communication activities should be monitored."

This is because:

"The use of digital materials, CDROMs, intranets and internet in teaching practice is at an early stage. Monitoring needs to take place to identify uses of digital material before it can be decided whether these activities are remunerable under the Copyright Act 1968 (the Act)."
Update on the CAL and school's Tribunal hearing

In short if a teacher tells a student to look for something on the internet, CAL (and their multinational associates) want a payment made:

"SCHOOLS have warned they will have to turn off the internet if a move by the nation's copyright collection society forces them to pay a fee every time a teacher instructs students to browse a website."
Copyright makes web a turn-off

In Australia and other affluent societies many students do have alternative sources for learning materials (although these should not be taken for granted either) but I know that students in Kenya, Nepal, Laos, Brazil, and dozens of other nations do not. This is a great danger.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Video Own Earn

Friday, March 03, 2006

Video Mind

Over the last two weeks I have been trawling the videosphere on the net. I am diving into Web 2.0 for a short course I am a leader for in HUMlab. Over that time I found some great videos that are streamed online. The other thing is that my selection of what is "good" is obviously a reflection of my own taste. A sign post as to who "I" am and this motivated me to post them here (catagorized thematically, some contain adult themes and images):

Tibetan Singing Bowls
Boredoms (Japanese Noise Gods) 93 Tour and music video
Clann and Drumma Intense Scotish tribal trance music
Hamsa Lila Moroccan trance sounds
Ravi Shankar A brief Introduction to Indian Music
Drumming and dancing in Hawaii
Butoh performance 'Dead Fever'

Beat Films:
Pull My Daisy The supreme beat film, Jack Kerouac spontanously narrates as Allen Ginsbers, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers and Peter Orlovsky act 'Beat'.
A Thanksgiving Prayer Willaim Burroughs gives us so reasons to be cheerful.
Reefer Madness It's 1936 and the assassin of youth has arrived.

The Outer Limits:
Terrence McKenna and Marc Pesce
The Dervish Project
Tattoo 3

Festivals and Communities:
Rainbow Gathering Utah 2003
SPOR Squatted Art Space A picture of life in a well run creative autonomous zone
147 (and rising) Fims from Burning Man
The Harmony Festival

Art and Spirit:
Le Chein Andalou
Youism: Second Person Singular
Buddhist monks sand mandala ceremony
Mohandas K. Ghandi's Life (14 Episodes)

Future Peak Macworld 06
Making Digital Durable: What Time does to Catagories