Armistice Centenary, Artists for Brexit, Brexit, Daisy Brown, Dr. Jiankui He, Edinburgh University, Familie Flöz, Glasgow School of Art Fire, Happy New Year, Jair Bolsonaro, Les Gilets Jaunes, Mark E Smith, Podcast Review, Podcasting, Review of the Year, The Amelia Project, The White Vault, The Windrush Scandal, USS Strike, V&A Dundee, What's the Frequency
The White Vault is yet another “found footage” podcast, in supposedly comprising recordings that have been retrieved or salvaged from the outpost. These recordings are being curated by a “Documentarian” (Hem Cleveland), whose voice is so emotionless that we might vaguely suspect her to be an AI. Is her podcast a corporate report for the perusal of Sidja’s shareholders or is the Documentarian conducting an internal inquiry into whatever disaster has happened on Svalbard? Or is she a historian of the future who “came into the full collection” of the recordings, as she puts it, in an amateur, documentary-making capacity? Who are we, the listeners, meant to be, therefore, and why are we listening?
Podcast Review: The White Vault (January).
Smith reportedly fired a studio engineer for ordering a salad. This story went viral on Twitter after Smith died and appeared in several obituaries… He claimed to have fired one bandmate on the guy’s wedding day… After one gig, he gave one slap across the face per bandmate… etc
“29 Truly Excellent and Typically Weird Stories About Mark E Smith,” Newsweek (January).
… the university apparently cannot take any position on the pension dispute because it has to abide by the line of Universities UK, the nationwide incarnation of all higher education employers. In common with the European Union that is so beloved amongst academics, these universities have pooled their policymaking, so that the decisions about any particular university’s own affairs are always made elsewhere and responsibility is thus always evaded. In this happy system, there can be no direct connection between the £33 million that the University of Edinburgh has spent upon its brick floor at Bristo Square and the money that is not being spent on its own staff’s wages.
“Lunchtime at the USS Strike,” (February).
“I came over a hill and all of a sudden there was this car in front of me on my side of the road.” Modest Charmaine said she barely had time to think before instinct and training kicked in. “I touched the brake and as soon as I did the back end slid out so I took my foot off and just guided it through the space that was there.” The resulting video has been watched more than 100,000 times – yet Charmaine was oblivious until she sat down later at home with husband Andrew, 43. “After it happened, I just switched back on to driving and watching the road,” she said. “I totally forgot about it until I came home.”
“Revealed: The Edinburgh bus driver who averted snow disaster,” Edinburgh Evening News (March).
In 2016, one survey by the Creative Industries Federation had found that 96 per cent of its members supported the EU, whilst a Times Higher Education poll had put over 90 per cent of the university sector down for Remain. And this was before the backlash against the result. The 4 per cent of artists who are lurking, like foreign cells in an unsuspecting body, might represent a kind of helpful inoculation rather than a cancer. Look, we can say once the class war really gets going and the proletariat are on the rampage, here are some artists who are on the right side. So don’t burn down the opera house! Don’t blow up the art gallery!
“What is the Use of ‘Artists for Brexit’?” (March).
But the piece of advice that was hardest to swallow was this: “Try to be ‘Jamaican’ – use local accents and dialect (overseas accents can attract unwanted attention)”. How was I supposed to “be Jamaican”? I had not set foot on the island since I was a child. Who was going to help me learn to be Jamaican? My mum and my support network were in England. “Try to be Jamaican.” They don’t know how hard that is.”.
Michelle Blake,”‘Act Jamaican,’ they said when they deported me. But I’m British,” The Guardian (April).
“Podcast Review Artwork” (March).
But the direst horror of all is humdrum and human. It is the horror of Daisy’s loneliness, the fact that she is trapped in a house with no friends or parents and with only an abuser to love. Such horror is presented in the videos and it is confirmed in the many piteous messages that multiply below them. Those who take a step into this alternative reality soon feel compelled to befriend Daisy and to offer her any support that they can… The horror of her loneliness is the real monster and, by contrast, Alan’s evil is, in fact, like a small, flapping cardboard toy.
“The Horror of Daisy Brown and Alan,” (May).
INT. WALTERS CAR MOVING – DAY
[Whitney is driving as Walter sits in the passenger seat. Krog is taking up the backseat.]
Iz done unduhstand. Etz ah buk. Etz gahtz wurdz pintted init.
Technically yes but that was just it. Each page in a large font was the word “Words”. Can you believe that? Weird, right?
Uh huh. Right, Huh.
Oi. Troubles… your thoughts? Anything at all?
Sounds like a larger mystery that has nothing to do with our missing writer.
“Transcript for 8. Feeback,” What’s the Frequency? (June).
“Paper Plane Intellectual” (May).
The video for “This Is America,” directed by Glover’s frequent collaborator Hiro Murai, turns this tension into satire. Bare-chested and sprightly, Glover trots through a warehouse dancing and gunning people down; seamlessly transitioning between these activities, his face is inscrutable, hidden behind a smile. The video and song use the candor of trap to ground the rapture of black joy, and thus the ambivalence of the United States’ relation to blackness.
“Childish Gambino: ‘This Is America,'” Pitchfork (May).
In a coruscating article for the Scottish Review last week Eileen Reid, the former Head of Widening Participation at Glasgow School of Art, cut through all the hand-wringing and lamentation. “In truth, the seeds of the Mack’s destruction were sown long before both fires,” she wrote. “Members of staff and alumni who raised issues about the safety of the building for years prior to 2014 had to remain tight-lipped after the first fire, or condemned as churlish in the wave of sympathy and grief. Fire experts are shaking their heads in disbelief. Where, they ask, was the full modern preventative technology that exists for life safety and property protection?”
Kevin McKenna, “Proper scrutiny vital if Glasgow School of Art is to be rebuilt,” The Herald (June).
In truth, it will not really do to term The Amelia Project a comedy. It is susceptible to being admiringly dismissed as some stylish fluff, a story that is all too patently showing its colours for Wes Anderson, but there are powerful muscles flexing beneath the cute fur. The usual landscape of a comedy is here: we have a firmly middlebrow tone and some staunchly nice characters who are always rolling drolleries around. But there is no genuine anarchy – no hilarity in fact – and there is often no butt to the humour. Instead, this is a playground for postmodernism and its self-consciously whimsical cleverness.
“Podcast Review: The Amelia Project,” (July).
“Tychy @ the Fringe 2018 Artwork” (July)
Of course, the foursome turns out to be full of suitable spirit and va-va-voom in both the shadow of the cradle and on the edge of the grave. The central baby is so amazingly lifelike in his subtlest movements that you might question whether the most skilful acting at this year’s Fringe has gone into producing his dumbshow. There is an imaginative scenario in which the baby ends up climbing on to a gigantic chair, as well as some daringly awkward observations of whatever children have instead of sexuality. On the other side of the hill, we witness so much horseplay in the old people’s home that it looks like the least depressing old people’s home in human history.
“Tychy@ the Fringe: Infinita,” (August).
Horror shows are quite rare at the Fringe. Many pieces of theatre will seek to make the audience laugh or quietly reflect, but few will incite terror and leave a trickle of sweat crawling down your spine. Urban Death is one of those shows. It takes a while to reach its gut-wrenching crescendo, but when it does you will be crying for your mother. This show is relentless.
“Urban Death,” The Edinburgh University Student Newspaper (August).
I am listening on headphones whilst walking around Edinburgh, already a bit too immersed, as this story begins to drain enormously away into a squalling industrial soundscape and a meditative trance… With drugs… this episode would be seriously dangerous. With mushrooms, it would probably kill you outright. Imagine being trapped within all of that repetition, with all of its suspense and paranoia, struggling on the surface like a kicking insect, and with no escape!
“Podcast Review: What’s the Frequency? (Finale),” (September).
Dundee has a new star attraction that should win over even the most entrenched naysayers. Admittedly, it cost £80.1m, looks like a crushed municipal car park, and is framed by some of the ugliest modern buildings I’ve ever seen. And yet – and despite years of difficulties and political turmoil – the V&A Dundee is terrific. I’ll go further, it is world class. The first purpose-built design museum in Scotland is itself an instant design classic
“Will Gompertz reviews Scotland’s first design museum, V&A Dundee ★★★★★,” BBC (September).
Tori’s friends began to complain about Brexit. They were chuckling that the prime minister was a clown and her government clueless. It was a fiasco and the country was an international embarrassment. Didn’t Theresa May know that you had to do this during a top-table negotiation, and behave like that when the time required it? Since Brexit, and the fall off in immigrant labour, each of Tori’s friends had been either promoted or they had obtained more highly paid jobs, but I thought better of mentioning this. They each attributed their success to their own unique CVs and not, naturally, to Brexit.
“Funky Chicken,” (September).
On democracy and dictatorship:
“You’ll never change anything in this country through voting. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, things will only change when a civil war kicks off and we do the work the [military] regime didn’t. Killing some 30,000 …. Killing them! If a couple of innocents die, that’s OK.” (May 1999)
“I am in favour of a dictatorship … We will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy.”
“Who is Jair Bolsonaro? Brazil’s far-right president in his own words,” The Guardian (October).
How much harder it is for us to admit to the truth: that the establishment had treated millions of human lives as having no value and that so many soldiers had died because they had acquiesced to this worldview. There were no significant mutinies or mass desertions and nobody had set up a revolutionary government at the Front. And our entire centenary industry refuses to acknowledge the simple fact that these soldiers were wrong to be so passive. This industry ends up looking like it is worshipping gormlessness and exalting stupidity. It grieves for the dead even as it lives and breathes its oppressive thanatos.
“The Lessons of WW1,” (November).
“More Podcast Review Artwork,” (December).
Where do all these “dots” leave us today? Can we connect them?
We need much more information to get a clear picture, but in my view they paint a partial picture that isn’t pretty. The dots suggest to me that He orchestrated events this week for maximum publicity for himself and his unethical work. He also wasn’t up front about his intentions and where things stood with his research, and there remain uncertainties and concerns over whether he got needed ethics approvals and conducted proper consent with trial participants.
Paul Knoepfler, “Trying to connect the dots on CRISPR baby story paints a dark, cloudy picture,” (November).
Most of the UK Left have embarrassingly little to say on the great questions of people power and democratic sovereignty. They are happy with our democracy being rendered meaningless. Their silence advises that our democracy should be equally silent, a mouse-like pattering under the tables, for fear of scaring and inconveniencing the capitalists. If previous generations of revolutionaries had taken this dreary stance, the modern Left would presently have no great thinkers to prostitute and no trendy or glamorous imagery to hide themselves behind. Meanwhile, we witnessed the devastating implications of conservatism last night, when the Conservative parliamentary party voted to keep their leader, Theresa May, in office as Prime Minister.
“The Trouble with Brexit,” (December).
The gilets jaunes aren’t pure or perfect. They represent the true state of popular opinion: angry, confused, contradictory. But a left that will only support movements with a pre-approved ethical agenda, that monitors people’s opinions for any sign of “wrongness”, would never support anything at all. Nothing meaningful, at any rate.
The social victories of the last 200 years, from the end of child labour to the building of the welfare state, reflected the collective struggles of flawed people and the interventions of heroic, puritan, ideological agitators. Both groups are indispensable. The left must have the courage to lead the justified anger at austerity, or somebody else will, and it won’t be pretty.
Cat Boyd, “To end austerity, the UK could do with some gilets jaunes of its own,” The National (December).
Tychy wishes all readers a Happy New Year.