It happens that nowadays making political music is often considered gauche, and everything needs to be dressed up in nine layers of irony in order to be considered legitimate. Ironic detachment is itself an attitude and aesthetic born of a feeling of political impotence against a backdrop of rapid technological change and the immense, constant, and overwhelming deluge of contradictory information. Like it or not, artists must grapple with this ironic detachment and find ways to appeal to or circumvent it.
Pandering to that ironic detachment is risky, because the work will just get lost in the wash, or will reinforce a detached affect that defuses political power. Read More
Ring around the rosies,
Pocket full o’ posies,
We all fall down!
Most everyone knows this nursery rhyme. Urban legend places its origin in the Great Plague of London in 1665 and 1666 – one of the last major outbreaks of bubonic plague on the European and Asian continents – the beginning of the end of a three hundred year pandemic. Read More
Masterful cinema usually leaves little to accident. With the film world completely oversaturated by works that are intellectually lazy and yet somehow overwrought with production costs, this is easy to forget. Many would say that the age of the auteur is behind us. It’s overly glib, but also understandable.
Throw in a film that cuts against this, where everything is well-placed and intentionally so, and a film-going public hungry for something that hits the sweet-spot between smart and emotionally satisfying will not be able to stop talking about it. Enter, like an unexpected guest who has been hiding in your basement, Get Out. Read More
John Berger is dead. There are very few people who, when they pass on, leave you at such a loss for words. Mostly because there are so few as versatile and prodigious as he was. Art critic, painter, poet, novelist, socialist. And he was consistently brilliant in every one of these roles. Often, he was more than one simultaneously. His first novel A Painter of Our Time was available for a month in 1958 before the publisher withdrew it under pressure from the anti-communist Congress for Cultural Freedom. When he won the Booker Prize in 1972, he donated half the prize money to the Black Panthers. Landscapes, a recently published collection of his works, nestles musings on Cubism next to moving tributes to Rosa Luxemburg. Read More
In 2015 it became clear that Viktor Shklovsky’s imperative to “make the stone stony” is a much simpler task than “making the corpse corpsely.” I am thinking of the use of autopsy transcript as poem, Kenneth Goldsmith’s appropriation of the shooting death of Michael Brown.  While this particular text was said to be uniquely parasitical and vampiric, likely as much for its arrogance as its form, it should be understood as the logical product of an aberration in American documentary poetics that has recently adopted the brand name “Conceptualism.” Goldsmith’s personal framing of Conceptualism holds that all that must be written has been written and must merely be re-packaged Read More
There is nothing about that six second video that is not wonderful and beautiful. A diverse crowd of anti-racists – Black Lives Matter of course, but also supporters of Bernie Sanders, immigrant rights and anti-Islamophobia activists – jumping up and down and shouting Kendrick Lamar lyrics in celebration: they just shut down Donald Trump.
Trump supporters and other conservatives – as well as Trump himself – are now whining about “thugs,” and threatening to show up at Sanders’ rallies. Centrists and a great many liberals are wringing their hands about whether Trump’s “free speech” has been violated – as if Trump or his supporters have ever shown such regard for our right to express ourselves. Read More