A conversation with
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United States and NATO
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Desmond Fernandes and Iskender
Identity and Interpretation
in Literary Practice
Tales of The Great
20 reviews 20 minutes
Mr tayto and Mr Tayto
Manuel Rafael Mancillas
with James Kelman
In September 1999 the first new
play by James Kelman for five years was ready for production on a profit-share
basis by a small Glasgow-based company, the actor Gary Lewis had already
committed to it. At the time Kelman was joint holder of the Scottish Writer
of the Year award. Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre was the first venue approached.
It was Kelman's choice; during past years three of his own plays and one
of his translations have been produced there. The Traverse requested that
in the first instance Kelman should submit the play for consideration by
the "literature committee". He replied to the effect that he didn't do
auditions these days. The Traverse insisted so he withdrew the play and
wrote to the Scottish Arts Council to express his feelings about the situation.
This is an informal conversation,
more than an interview, recorded in late August 2000, which reveals something
of what it is to be a writer working in Scotland.
James Kelman When I got involved
in this thing last September , almost a year ago, I thought of it
as something personal and was wanting to keep it personal. I'd just come
home from the States, I had been away about a year so things were kind
of hectic and I didn't want to get too involved. I didn't have the time
to get involved anyway, I had a lot of stuff to clear up; the new novel,
get on with my essays, then the plays. But I thought about going public.
There seemed to be a lot happened within the Arts Council in the last couple
of years that was detrimental, and it should be taken on. The changes to
do with the Book Trust for instance, as I understand it the Book Trust
is now responsible for a lot of work the Literature Department used to
do. Things that had been the case are no longer the case, such as money.
Before, if you were ever taking part in a gig, doing a reading or whatever,
where the audience were charged to get in, you'd always be paid a minimum
wage. The writer would not take part in something where there was an admission
fee and no payment and the Arts Council would not have supported such an
event. There was always a basic payment for the writer. That was part of
the way things used to operate so there's been a lot of changes, all these
rip-off readings from places like Borders and Waterstones, writers never
getting a paid a penny, why don't they boycott them. I remember a couple
of years back the Edinburgh Book Festival broke the guidelines, they offered
me a fee of fifty quid. I couldn't believe it. At that time the minimum
Arts Council fee was £80, maybe £70. It was extraordinary they
tried to get away with it. They were surprised when I said no! I don't
know how it is at the Book Festival nowadays, I haven't been back since.
No writer should ever take part
in that kind of shit. The public getting charged money to get in as well,
why don't they pay the writers a proper fee! The same with financial support
to arts magazines, the main reason the Arts Council gave it was so the
writers who wrote for them got a payment for the contribution. So there
was that, then the way the education department has crept into the Arts
Council reckoning as well. Does that mean their criteria will start being
used to deal with writers, censoring or suppressing the ones school inspectors
don't want to be seen or heard in a classroom? So now writers who are in
any way radical are going to stop getting readings? is that what it means?
It'll just be all the safe bastards who'll be earning the fees from school
or university readings. Of course that is the way it is just now anyway
when you look about, I'm talking generally, the ones getting all the 'creative
writing' and residency jobs. You just have to look at the literary brochures
and flyers coming at you, quite a cosy wee scene, and then there's the
usual team that gets all these invitations to British Council events--Burns
Suppers in Turkey and Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.
So a lot of different things, I
felt there was a lot of questions needing to be addressed. Other writers
feel the same. And if I had got too involved in this thing of mine with
the Arts Council I thought I would wind up having to address these other
issues and I didn't want to, so I was being selfish, no time no energy.
I tried to keep it at that personal level, just me moaning. Here was a
situation pertaining to myself, one writer, a writer who has done this
much work, x-amount. It doesn't have to be good, bad or indifferent work
either, just that if this writer gets a new book out people will read it
and if he puts on a new play audiences will want to go and see it. Good
bad or indifferent. Just because the writer has already done all that work
in the past and the audience know it, and now here he's got a new work
out, that's why the audience are going to be interested. They might go
away and criticise it, condemn it, but they'll go and see it in the first
place, because it's a particular writer they know: "Kelman's first play
for five years, let's go and see it." The Traverse wouldn't have lost,
it was just a profit-share, no wages, but we would've got some expenses.
So these kind of arguments, basic arguments, I just wanted to let the Arts
Council hear my side of it, I can't get my work on in this country unless
I'm prepared to put up with these stupid insults. Not even for nothing!
Submit your work for consideration! They're so fucking naive, they don't
even know they're insulting you. Or do they? I felt part of the strength
of my case was because it was one writer, it didn't matter who the hell
you were, to the extent that even somebody who was joint holder of the
Scottish Writer of the Year Award, Booker Prize bla bla bla, even a writer
like that could not get a play on without auditioning, getting approval
from some sort of literature committee, without meeting their criteria,
whatever that might be, amazing crap. A profit-share remember, we weren't
looking for any commission-type payment from the theatre, just a percentage
of the box-office, we were doing all our own rehearsals, finding our own
space, in our time, every damn thing, props, the fucking lot, we were asking
nothing from them at all except the space to perform the play for a week
or two--well, a week, five or six days, they told us there was no chance
of a fortnight--nobody gets a fortnight for a touring show, so they say.
I thought the strength of the case lay in keeping it personal. A general
case could come about but only as an effect of the personal thing. As well
as that I felt it was something that could be put right if I explained
the situation as clearly as I could, "I cannot get a play on at the Traverse
Theatre for nothing, not even for no money," just something like that.
William Clark You wrote to
the Arts Council?
WC There's an expectation
that they can do something. There's also an expectation--you were saying--you
assumed that people were aware of your work or that people had made themselves
aware of what's going on in Scotland. One makes these assumptions: that
people at a certain level within the Arts Council are even aware of these
things or aware of real problems within their organisation or even aware
of contemporary art, and they tend to be oblivious.
JK You're right to that extent,
but it took me a while to realise that they didn't know my work. They maybe
knew it by repute. And not always by the repute I would have chosen. I
mean what was coming across was that they didn't really know my work and
some of the attitudes they had to it were the same kind of attitudes you
would get from papers like the Sunday Times, not the Scottish edition.
WC 'It's not proper literature.'
JK Yeah, they regard me as
a 'primitive', 'preculture'; writers like me are 'savages'. But it surprised
me, even at this stage in your writing life how you still get the vaguely
patronising, vaguely irritated attitude coming to you from the Scottish
Arts Council. It's an anglocentric thing, quite a common attitude to Scottish
art from people in high Arts Council positions. So there are two points
there Billy, the first thing relating to what you scoffed at, the idea
of the Arts Council being able to have some kind of influence on their
own employees, I mean the staff at the Traverse Theatre. Of course they
saw the Traverse employees as the ones they're in solidarity with. Whatever
the employee says goes, and they'll back them up to the hilt. They see
you as being the foreigner, the artist. The artist is the alien figure
that they're in opposition to. They don't see themselves as people who
are there in order to support and assist artists. They don't see themselves
WC Not at all.
JK So the first point you
made is dead right. Yeah I wouldn't have illusions about that. Except I
did have expectations! In relation to the Traverse you've got to remember
that I'd already had a play produced there--two plays. In fact it's been
four I've had over the years. One play was actually commissioned by them,
and I had one translation commissioned from them as well, a play by a French
writer, both about 10 or 12 years ago. So what with that and my last play
on--One-two-hey with the Blues Poets band--you felt, well, there's no question
here, no economic question either because One-two-hey sold out, there's
going to be a proper box-office return, it's guaranteed. The Traverse'll
know all that stuff already.
WC They were aware of that?
JK I don't know. I think
I wrote to the director of the theatre in the first place just to make
sure he was aware. If he hadn't been at that time then I was going to fill
him in with the details. I was basically expecting that he was going to
put a word in the ear of the Traverse admin staff: "Don't worry, it's James
Kelman, he's a known writer here in Scotland and he's already got a track
record, people'll go and see his stuff. It's just a profit-share touring
thing anyway." Instead of that the director's position to me was "Well
I'm backing up the decision already made by my staff and you're out of
line expecting anything different. But don't worry, the committee are not
going to actually judge your play, it's something else, they just want
to see if it fits the Traverse bill." Something like that, just splitting
hairs. "You've got to put your work in front of our literature committee
the same as anybody else. Do you expect to be treated differently because
you're a senior writer?" The Traverse director used that phrase which grated
on me, putting me in my place, "senior writer". Not because of the age
thing, I don't dispute it, I'm in my 50s. But there was the implication
that somebody like me expects to be beyond criticism just because I'm an
old bastard, as if I'm saying younger writers should be criticised and
judged but not me because I'm beyond it.
So that kind of shite. I felt it
was important for me to address that. On the one hand I felt yeah, there's
elements in what you're saying that are true. But I know my own response
isn't just due to egocentricity or perversity or out and out vanity. There
is some underlying critical point I want to get to. So I went into it,
I tried to work out what the argument was. Why is it that I expect to be
treated differently from somebody else. Is that what I was asking? Here's
another way of saying it: Why does the 53 year old Kelman expect to be
treated differently to the 25 or 30 year old Kelman? It can't just be an
ego thing. Or can it? So these kind of questions.
I was saying to them the burden
of proof is not on me as a writer, that became the bottom line. Look, here
is all the work I've produced, it's all out there, it's available, it can
be criticised and looked at whenever. If you want to check out my stuff
go to the fucking library. I don't have to prove to the Traverse literature
committee or any other damn committee that I'm capable of doing this, that
or the next thing. I've done all that, time and time again. Here is all
my work, it's all out in the open. Just about everything I've ever written
is still in print, including three of my plays. So why is it that you want
to "consider" my work? What's the context or whatever that makes it valid
for you to make that demand? Why do you feel that my work needs to be "considered"
by you? Is it to establish that my play will be worthy of being staged
at the Traverse? Is it just to see if it'll be "good". What evidence do
you have to suggest that I might give you in something that's "bad"? Away
and check your records, go and see how my last three or four plays went,
my last two plays sold out, you've got the figures, what the hell is it,
what's going on here?
WC So this is the Traverse
Theatre literary Dept.?
JK Yeah, literature committee
WC Who is that?
JK I hear it can be anybody
in the Traverse who's around. They weren't going to say it was this individual
or that individual. Just whoever was in that committee at that time. I
don't know who it is. It wouldn't matter who it is. I wouldn't allow my
work to be "considered" by any of the Arts Council bosses, never mind the
literary committee at the Traverse. I'm one of the ones who would never
apply for these £25,000 grants they're always on about, "Creative-Scotland"
awards! For me no one who is a serious artist, who has produced a real
body of work, can ever apply for these grants. They're premised on certain
attitudes or values in relation to art that very few real artists could
support, not honestly, they would have just to kid on. There's a certain
way of looking at art, or what equals the 'end' of the art project, it
can be seen in the brochure/application thing. It's a kind of end-means
way of looking at art that I don't think artists themselves really share
at all. Old fashioned reactionary crap, it's 19th century stuff. "How do
you expect this work to be valued by the public?" That sort of stupid question
Arts Council officers give to artists before handing them out money so
they can go and do their fucking work. Naive shite. I would not allow my
work to be put in front of any of these people, no, no longer. I might
have when I was a young artist, because I had no body of work, fair enough,
sometimes I did do that. But sometimes I didn't do it. When Polygon made
that first contact with me for Not Not While the Giro, back in 1981 I had
already stopped sending my stuff out for "consideration". Even at that
time I had stopped it. If they wanted my stuff fine, I gave them it, if
they didn't I didn't, I wasn't going to fucking audition. That was then
never mind now. But if you have a substantial body of work there's no need
anyway I mean what the fuck do they want off you?
WC So is it your concept
of the artist that is alien to these people. You use the word artist, they
use the word, but it's not the same.
JK Yeah, not at all. It's
weird to meet it head-on like that.
WC For them an artist is
some form of rent boy or something: you're rented; but sometimes you don't
even get the money.
JK Yeah, that became quite
clear, it becomes clear in the whole phraseology, I got another of the
"Creative-Scotland" awards information through the letter-box recently.
It came through my agent believe it or not...
JK Yeah, "I thought I should
make you aware of it." She's right but, of course she should make me aware
of it, that's the sort of thing she gets paid for, she's a good agent.
The first time I was sent it was in the middle of all the shenanigans,
it was from the director of literature or maybe the overall Arts Council
director. Probably an obscure form of put-down. You could only apply in
a cynical way because like I said it's got certain attitudes towards art
which one cannot share in the year 2000. To give the Arts Council the benefit
of the doubt, these are very old fashioned attitudes, not beyond first
year art theory or something. They make these assumptions about how "we"
value art. Its like, What! in order to discover the merit of my work I've
got to look at how the audience responds to it! I beg your pardon! The
beholder's response to a work of art will define the value of the work
of art! That sort of ludicrous shite. You expect it from first year students,
not from people experienced in art. But it's very convenient in relation
to funding if you're representing a public body dishing out so-called public
funds to so-called artists, you get seen as an efficient individual who
is putting the wishes of the public totally to the fore, it's pure crap.
WC It's just a bureaucratic
expediency. They're now getting to the position whereby they prescribe
the work: "We will fund a film like..." and then they name a film maker
who they like. That makes their job easy, it makes arts administration
a very biased phoney rationing of resources. That's all it is.
JK There was a Scottish film
maker based in New York, a young guy, he was wanting to do a film of my
novel The Busconductor Hines, a few months ago. So I did the first draft
screenplay to get things moving, it was long, 250 to 300 pages, a full
piece of work. Later on in the process the guy approached Scottish Screen.
I didn't know he was doing that, but when he told me I went along with
it. I thought there must be something in it, maybe a change in policy,
maybe they were starting to support actual writers... Then I was asked
along to an interview with the Scottish Screen people. I liked the guy
I met there and quite respected what he was saying at first. But then I
realised that the only reason I was there was they were wanting to work
out if I was worthy of being given a wee up-front sum of dough in order
to complete a second draft, or maybe take it a stage further, get it finished,
I can't quite remember. That was all it was, all that palaver, just to
see if they would throw me a few quid to do more work on the screenplay,
they wanted to see if it was merited or not. To give me the fucking money
I mean! I was supposed to submit the first draft of the screenplay to them
so they could say whether or not I was worthy of getting this small up-front
sum of dough.
I said "No, you're not judging me
at all, what are you talking about?" They were wanting to "consider" my
first draft and chat about whether or not the project was merited or some
such shite! I had already done all the work--the slogging stuff--for nothing,
for no wages, that first draft like I said, I done a full job on it. Remember
as well that this was a film based on my own adaptation of my own novel.
So all this crap was just if they would deign to give me a wee sum of dough
in order for me to go away and work on it some more. The public's dough!
This is Scottish Screen right. The guy who's interviewing me, he's got
my entire first draft screenplay in front of him.
It was to be a three person committee.
So who's to be involved in that? How are they going to do their judging?
Are they going to read my novel and then read the first draft screenplay,
and if so then what, what does that tell them? And who's to do it anyway,
who is there in Scottish film that's work a fucking button, who is there
to respect as an artist, is there anybody at all, maybe one or two. But
really, it's hard to think of anybody in Scottish movies you could trust
as an artist, they all compromise, they go for easy options, else they
just sell out altogether, and now they're going to sit and "consider" my
work! Fuck off. I just find that extraordinary, I'm talking about six months
ago. At this stage in my life my work is going to be judged by people like
that to get a couple of thousand quid to go away and work on the next stage
of the screenplay. It is fucking unbelievable. This is public money for
christ sake it's for artists, to help them do their work, let us do our
fucking work, it's just a wage, you'll get it back. What right do they
have to stop us doing our work? That's what happening. The same as happened
to the play, that film project has finished, like every other film project
I've ever been involved in, nothing.
WC But a great deal of the
public money is tied up by the administrators of public money. You mentioned
Scottish Screen. It emerged that previous director, gave himself a million
pounds of Scottish Screen public money, over and above his salary as an
administrator, for his own project. Some people are administering these
things to try to get at the money first.
JK Well they're succeeding.
WC The government policy
may or may not be well-intentioned, but all they can ever produce ends
up as an opportunist's charter. Certain perennial problems of government
exist. We're asked to believe that with prohibition in America they couldn't
foresee the rise of...well, look at the drug laws now: they actually pretend
they're working. They can't admit that corruption will destroy any system.
JK It was foolish of me to
get involved. It was a misunderstanding. You see I hadn't realised that
the guy in New York who was going to get things moving had approached Scottish
Screen at this trivial level. I thought there was a new approach going
on and they were saying, "Right, Kelman is going to do an adaptation of
one of his novels at long last and he's already done a full first draft
screenplay. The project's got x-amount of dough ready to come in from Canada
and New York and wherever, once it's up and running, so if we give them
such and such an amount that'll get the thing moving, once we stick in
something the overseas money'll start coming in." That's the level I thought
the discussion was going to be at. Then I found out no, it was the same
old story, it was back to that old stage where I was going to have to audition
my work for a committee of three just to see if I was worthy of the chance
to develop my fucking screenplay. And not even to get proper dough, just
a wee personal sum so I could revise the fucking script! there's a good
boy, a pat on the head. I felt oh christ I'll call this off immediately.
The way I see it over the years
Scottish Screen was always just a corrupt body, intellectually bankrupt,
like the telly or something. All you have to do is see the people involved
in writing the shoddy third rate work that comes out. It never uses real
writers. Why is that? Maybe once in a blue moon. It gives a lot of money
to actors, directors and all these other people to do screenplays. How
come they never pay real writers? The bottom line is they don't want real
writers. It's like Hollywood in the 50s or something.
WC But a lot of American
writers did work for the movies, Faulkener...
JK Yeah there was a good
period. But the 50s was a time when they started to get rid of real writers,
the McCarthy era. What you saw was how the directors became the main figures,
real writers were too political. So Scottish Screen in that sense is just
part of the usual Scottish Arts scene. All they want is working-class sentimental
shite, a kitchen-sink fantasy land, fucking hopeless. What a waste of time,
all the emotional energy. For me now it's finished, Scottish theatres like
the Traverse as well, finished in a personal way. I should've known that
a while back when the Traverse refused to let me, Tom Leonard and George
Gallacher's blues band use their space to play a one-off night, they didn't
think we could get an audience--for a one-off night performance! Fucking
hell man. Another profit-share thing. That was less than three years ago,
just before I went to work in Texas. Of course theatre's been finished
for a while now anyway and I should have realised that. I'm finishing this
new book of essays of mine and there's a big diatribe I wrote back in 1987
or something, caused by the shit that went on trying to put on another
play of mine, In the Night. So here I am just now fighting a battle I wouldn't
have wasted my time fighting twelve or thirteen years ago. I wrote a bit
about it in the introduction to that book of plays of mine, Hardie &
Baird. Fucking waste of energy. It's shocking, but at the same time...
WC Earlier on we were criticising
the history of Scottish theatre and now with all the closures and 'privatisation'
there's no future. Some people would say there's been a lot of things:
some sort of reputations and ultimately it's come through. Theatres have
come through 'Thatcherite' arts council policies whereby it's complete
commercialisation and forget anything else. I felt that via the Arts Council
the government pushed this managerialism--organisations were swayed through
that, because it was presented as purely administrative. Now it's all up
in the air again: it's still totally tied in with government policy, there's
no two ways about that. To get funding from the Arts Council you must follow
and like the government policies and views or put up a believable impersonation
of that. But what are the models for that kind of thing: Stalinist Russia?
Who exactly is being helped along here? There's also the law of diminishing
returns. How many plays that say the government's policies are fantastic
would you want to go and watch in a year? What defence is there against
that, what awareness of it even, on the part of the SAC? With Magnus Linklater--
an appointee of the previous administration--the arts suddenly became an
opportunity to negotiate a salary straight from the word go. For everybody
else its take it or leave it.
JK I suppose with myself
when I wrote to Magnus Linklater I also wanted things to be on record.
So I don't really regret all the time I've spent, because I have this correspondence
here and the idea of making it known like just now. Plus nobody can say
I didn't try, like when I tell people in the States I can't get a play
on and they look at me, well, here it is, I was stopped at this level and
that level, this is me being stopped. I still can't get a play done at
a place like The Traverse without doing a clown routine for the bastards,
and I'm talking about for nothing, no wages.
WC Maybe you didn't really
see it but at the time of the Booker Prize a lot of the coverage--like the
Times and so on--would say it's an insult to the Booker Prize, you get Waugh
or Julia Neuberger or Greer, somebody like that and their tirade of gibberish.
But it must be quite effective. In some ways it colours some people's views
of your work.
JK Yeah...well it did up
here too, MPs obviously, they took the Neuberger line and supported the
hostility against me. Brian Wilson and other ones, Donald Dewar, they attacked,
every Labour MP who opened his mouth--apart from Gordon Brown, he was the
only one I saw that came out in print without attacking me. Like The Glasgow
Herald as well, after I won the thing just about the entire bunch that
write for it came out and attacked, they all found their own wee way of
doing it, it was like tossing coconuts, it was so bad the fucking editor
was reduced to defending me, Arnold Kemp. What was interesting too was
that bodies like the Saltire Society attacked. They just took the Neuberger
line on language as having some truth in it. I remember the quote from
the Saltire Society was something like "Oh yes, Scottish writers tend to
shoot themselves in the foot." Something like that. So here you've got
people who are directly associated with contemporary writing in Scotland
just taking up that uncritical hostile position to a Scottish writer, basically
on the word of an English tabloid, and you would have that hostility from
a lot of the Scottish educational system, yeah, and people involved with
the SNP of course, they came out and attacked the novel as well, Paul Scott...
WC What because everyone
JK Perhaps it was that. It
was also because the conventional wisdom being peddled was that my work
was "primitive writing" and they wanted to be seen as being on the side
of "matters of the intellect" or something, the SNP, they didn't want to
be seen as 'parochial'! They were wanting to be seen as mature persons,
they're big enough to attack a Scottish work written in a Scottish kind
of working class dialect bla bla bla... It's part of that colonial mentality
again, inferiorisation, plus the usual anglocentric attitudes from the
Scottish establishment. That would have been part of the crap that was
going on from them, I don't know. One of the points that you were making
earlier in relation to Thatcher and 1979, there certainly were shifts in
the arts. One of the ways it happened during the next ten years was the
way funding went, American style Corporatism...
WC The "if the private sector
aren't funding you we're not funding you" routine...
JK ...the whole attitude
of Ian McGregor and the people who came in the 70s. Remember the title
of McGregor's autobiography? The Enemies Within. A typical Thatcher/Reagan
Cold War line. But before the Thatcher government we were already being
put into that way of thinking so it's a mistake to say "Thatcherism". But
between that and also as a way to control the arts--move it out of the public
sector and into the private sector as a means to suppress or censor etc.
BP [British Petroleum] was one of the major sponsors of theatre, they had
the Young Director of the Year awards and so on. So as soon as you have
groups taking control like that, funding becomes a functional thing. There's
obviously ways in which slowly but surely avant garde theatre--never mind
left-wing, radical political stuff--will slowly but surely...
WC ...know they're not wanted.
JK What's wanted is the Kings
and Lyceum Theatre, the Citizens... Shakespeare and P.G.Wodehouse, foreign
writers and Noel Coward, pantomimes--and style as well, what's cool, can
I join the gang, give us a fucking Nike stripe. But what I was going to
say is it is an error to fall into that way of thinking that says how before
1979 things were okay. It's crap. What you're talking about, the 7:84 company,
Wildcat, that sort of thing... Really, it was just what you would say Labour
Party. And it was probably Manifesto Labour Party, it wasn't even Tribune.
None of that stuff was left-wing at all, not if you step outside the Labour
Party. In some ways it was really reactionary theatre. As far as they were
concerned, political theatre...as a musician friend of mine used to say...
"If you walked out, sang a song and said Fuck the Queen, then you'd get
described as political theatre, and you'd get funding." That was what it
was about at that period. Or so he said, I don't actually believe you could've
said that. It was mainly shit though. Real radical art, genuine left-wing
art, I don't think it was a possibility. There was nothing much going on
then. Maybe not all shite. But as far as being at the cutting edge of literature,
christ, theatre's so old fashioned, it was then and it is now, compared
to straight prose fiction, give us a break... No. Whereas it might be nice
to see maybe John Byrne's work, The Slab Boys or something, it's not ever
going to be accused of being too radical. Or like John McGrath's work.
It has a place and all that but it's surely not going to be regarded as
radical theatre! Or is it, who knows. You had a lot of pseudo stuff then,
as you still get, like Scottish movies it's full of pseudo left-wing stuff.
It's "working class"--it gets sold as that anyway, so called working class--and
that gets equated with left-wing. But is it? A lot of it's just old fashioned
naturalism, and naturalism is only a sort of weird fantasy. In literature
that kind of stuff was out of date in the early 1950s for christ sake but
this is what gets supported and funded in the year 2000 in the World of
Drama, theatre and movies. It's fucking hopeless, apart from one or two
WC So you're saying you're
never going to get a play on in Scotland?
JK The Tron theatre didn't
even reply to the letters we sent them. Maybe the Arches would have been
interested, they did One-two-hey. But we just felt this particular play
should go to particular places. Theatres are different, the spaces are
different. I remember that play of mine Hardie and Baird, it would have
been great to see it at the Tron. I couldn't imagine it at the Arches but
who knows. It ran two weeks at the Traverse and it was selling out, and
then that was that, it just finished, it never went anywhere else, it just
died a death. I found that amazing. I know at that time in Glasgow...I'm
sure nobody in theatre wanted to be at loggerheads with the Labour Party
and Glasgow District Council--a major funding body--and that would've been
that, putting a play of mine on, because of the situation at that time.
Myself and you and a few others were anathema in those days Billy, Glasgow
WC Not just at that time!
JK Of course, and they've
got longer memories than us. There's only been two plays of mine ever on
in Glasgow, then the wee revival of The Busker a couple of years ago, the
same company that were wanting to do this new one that's caused the bother.
There would have been no chance of Hardie and Baird playing there in 1991.
But maybe it wasn't political at all, nobody's got a right to get a play
on, including me. I've got three plays just now, new ones, the one we've
been talking about plus another two. Where do I go with them. I don't blame
people like the Tron or the Citizens for not trying to stage my work because
maybe they just don't want to stage it and they're entitled to that. In
relation to what you're saying, I could see them putting on Hardie and
Baird after I'm dead.
WC What because it's historical?
JK Yeah probably, that makes
it safe. A couple of critics were amazed there was so much religion in
it, they thought it was too much. But maybe that would make the Labour
Party feel even more safe, if it was just religion, they would think there
was no politics. I don't really know what's going on in Scottish theatre
these days, I don't go very much. It's not just Scotland of course, it's
elsewhere in the UK. A lot of things have happened. People down south are
worried as well, it's not even politically radical, or experimental theatre,
sort of "mainstream radical" where they're just trying to put on a new
play or something.
WC Certainly there has been
depressing changes in theatre and I think a lot of this is due to notions
of nationality. The Arts Council want to devolve power--and that's quite
laudable in some respects--but all that comes down to is you cut touring
companies and rep. because you don't have a national body to encourage
that. The National Companies receive about half the total funding budget.
Moves that came in the wake of the Audit report which castigated all the
big Lottery projects--it was really the Tories' appointees fault so you
can't blame the present administration, well you never can, can you? perhaps
that's why they change. Well it all centred on the Royal Opera House in
'97, the failings there and the vacuum that created in the Arts Council,
the ACE was on the brink of collapse. This occurred as the new government
came in with all their new ideas as to where the money should flow. A lot
of people react against them but for fuck's sake they gave these people
millions and when they needed more they gave them more. But a lot of that
was obviously politically motivated. Opera got the money, but they did
it through unusual ways and got caught and fell out at a bad time. Important
people had their chance first. They blew it. That's what happened. The
report showed that the big companies fucked things up for the wee ones.
Meanwhile a lot of cuts were made and the entire ACE Drama committee just
packed it in, which saved them getting rid of them. I don't understand
these resignations. They should have stayed and said "We're going to make
life fucking difficult for you bastards," but they just resigned.
JK Are they not part of the
career structure themselves, part of that group? I'm resisting using the
WC No. They're a committee
to create the illusion of democratic decision-making. They have no power
really. They realised that. That's the real reason why they resigned. Minutes
were being withheld from them--the usual thing--decisions were taken behind
JK I always feel that these
kind of committees are doing their bit for their own kind of class.
WC That's certainly a motivation.
It's all got to be seen as "we're all in it together."
JK If you think about the
dispensation of Arts Council money in terms of class, the artists in a
sense tend to be treated as working class. One of the ways that operates
is like--take the £25,000 "Creative Scotland" bursary, the best I've
ever seen for Scotland--the money would be the equivalent of an excellent
working-class wage, a top tradesman. Whereas the bureaucrats are getting
a middle class wage, an officer's wage, probably that starts from the £25,000
or just below. The arts administrators are the cultural officers, paid
at the middle class level, but the artists get a working class wage, a
hundred quid for a writer's fee, it's like an emergency call out for a
plumber, a writer-in-residency, it's working class dough, fair enough.
Part of it gets carried through with entire groupings so Scottish Opera,
or Scottish Ballet or big Scottish theatres maybe, they get treated in
middle class ways whereas other groups aren't, they'll be treated in a
working class kind of way where they'll get the crumbs and fight for scraps,
WC TAG Theatre did commission
an Edwin Morgan play then the SAC cut TAG's money. There are divisions
of labour, but even the notion of being an artist and a writer. You know
'art critics should work for a nice responsible magazine', but I think
there are tiers within tiers as well. Surely the lowest of the low are
the poets and visual artists.
JK I don't think so. Well,
WC In Scotland?
JK Well it's often assumed
that if you're a poet you're an academic or you're making a good income
anyway, Robert Crawford or Eddie Morgan, Douglas Dunn. An interesting thing
to look at is the level of award that Tom Paulin got in England, to go
away and write a poem or work at a poem, he got about 75 grand, something
like that, to go away for a year's sabbatical. Because he is assumed to
be on their upper middle class level. In some establishment quarters they
see a poet as somebody who is sort of dilettante--I hate that term, but
to define it economically... These kind of poets have a huge income anyway
in terms of the day-to-day work they do, and they create art in their spare
time... So not the lowest of the low, the opposite from scum.
WC Well I think there's something
in what I'm saying.
JK Yeah, I'm not generalising,
most poets get treated badly
WC If I think about the visual
arts, and I go into an art gallery, say the CCA in Glasgow. There's going
to be a person sitting inside behind the desk, now I know that's an artist,
that's somebody who's just left art school. And they're sitting there getting
paid what, a fiver? Its almost like they're on display, "look, this is
what happens to you if you become an artist," as if they are in the public
stocks or left hanging on the gallows at the at the entrance to a city.
Then there's the serious artist having an exhibition, but they're probably
not really getting any money. Then there are all these people who hang
the shows, they will probably be artists on the dole who also sit at the
desk. Maybe people aspire to this sort of thing. It's replicated throughout
all the major cities in Britain. Peculiarly verybody's getting paid, the
person who cleans etc., except for artists. In the visual arts that's the
way it works. Until as you say, you get to a certain level where you cross
some kind of class aspiration thing...
JK Sometimes no, you think
that's the case, but then it comes back and haunts you, as with this latest
thing, you might get to a level but you never make that crossing, all the
stuff you've done as an artist, as a writer, it's not opening these sorts
of doors at all, you're still fighting all the time, I'm talking about
just to do your work. So, you're back to--well...to introduce other people
into that equation, I don't particularly want to, but if I was thinking
really off the top of my head it would be people like Alasdair [Gray],
Tom [Leonard] and Agnes [Owens], Jeff Torrington, Janice Galloway, even
Crichton Smith before he died, people who either have no money to get on
with things or else still have to chase around. There's no harm in artists
like having to earn a living etc. but I don't see why at a certain stage
they still have to be chasing around the country for paltry eighty quids
here and a hundred quid there, people who have produced all that great
work. I think that's a scandalous thing. Alasdair not being able to finish
The Book of Prefaces because he didn't have the money, meanwhile the Arts
Council are dishing out...I mean where the fuck are the...who's getting
it? Where does all the money go when someone like Alasdair, he couldn't
finish the 'Prefaces' at that time because he didn't have enough money
to get him through another year, he had to find private sponsoring, what's
the fucking Arts Council for. These kind of questions which I don't really
want to get into. Tom chasing up and down to England every week to survive,
and Janice couldn't even do that, having a kid, and of course Jeff couldn't,
and Freddie [Anderson] who's in his mid 70s. That brings you into other
WC The funding culture, the
Arts Council stuff: its obviously a deeply bourgeoisie, middle-class, don't
rock the boat, status quo values...that's it.
JK And also Billy, the rent
boy thing, that point you made--for them ultimately there is no belief whatsoever
in art. And somebody whether it's myself, as with the theatre carry-on,
it's how they have absolutely no belief in what you do. They put no value
in the art you create. They still think that if they were to give you a
bursary for example, it's just Kelman or Gray is getting £10,000...
WC You'd see the error of
JK They would just...no,
it's just how for them they're giving you ten thousand quid and somehow
you're "getting away with something", you're just getting the money, it's
not for anything, it's not even old rope, it's just a game, there's no
value in what you do. There's no value in it, the Arts Council don't see
it. Some people might talk about your work in a pub or something, yeah,
the Arts Council officers know that, or maybe at least they'll see a book
you've written on a shelf in a library, but they don't put any real value
on the stuff you do, not in itself, they don't see it as art, not real
art, there's no value in it
WC I don't think so. I don't
think there is. If you look back to the original thinking with Keynes,
it was Keynes that thought it up as an extenuation from ENSA, you know
to help the troops (which gave us Stanley Baxter and Kenneth Williams),
that was for the lower orders right. And CEMA was this thing which basically
was designed to fund the big opera houses. The financial methodology was
loans. It was never ever intended to be 'here's money on you go we will
JK Yeah that's a 70s thing.
WC Exactly. The notion of
continuing funding. Now they're attacking that again. Keynes' notions are
largely taken from an article in The Listener. His notion of artists were
pretty muddled actually. The analogy is that they are like butterflies
in a jar, give them money and they have freedom. It's quite flowery, apolitical...no
social responsibility whatsoever. If they do still believe that they have
also come to believe that if you let the butterfly out of the jar it'll
go straight to the pub. That's what they think. If you give artists money
they will spend it on their lives [laughter] they'll waste it, they'll
pay bills with it. There is an anomaly there. I think at a very high level
in the arts they have got to rediscover that the values of what we would
call the 'counter-culture', all these things that were wrongfully ditched
by the establishment, actually revivified art. They refuse to deal with
certain sets of issues because they call their own roles into question.
Until they address these sorts of things and stop putting nutcases in charge
because they're 'good businessmen' I can't see anything changing and remember
they're doing themselves out of a job. Look at the BBC for instance. It's
ethos has been commercialised. So it will compete with all these commercial
imperatives. If that's what it's doing then why am I paying the license?
It will only do-in the whole basis of the thing. You pay your license fee
so that it doesn't have to be ruled by commercial imperatives and it's
the same with art's funding. I can't see any real way in a 'modern democracy'
where they could say "we're going to have this fund which will force people
to go along with the government's hastily constructed views on culture."
That just doesn't make any sense. I want to believe there's a chance for
them. I support the idea of an Arts Council in the same way I support the
concept of the BBC. If you look at the ACE's website it says we will try
and challenge this 'historical bias': they're penitent. But they're right
for the wrong reasons, they're just saying that because they're told to
say it. They actually admit historical failure. But they're still not going
to change things. Departments and individuals within the Arts Council are
very different, but I don't think I've ever read anything which honestly
conveys what it's like to encounter the sheer crippling madness of the
bureaucracy...most people just give up.
JK You know I fought that
damn thing for nine months, nine months wasted energy.
WC ...yeah see there's the
time scale of these things. The day in day out...
JK One of these letters I
wrote took about five or six days work--because I'm watching my back...you
have to be careful... See I knew the attitude was going to be "Well what
does he expect, he acts like the theatre's his or something I mean what
right does he have to come walking in here!" That sort of attitude. These
theatres are theirs, they belong to the admin officers, they've got nothing
to do with us, the artists, that's the point. Well we knew that anyway
that's just fucking banal. I landed myself in banalities for nine months.
I got slapped down and put in my place. And how many times that has happened
in the past for myself in this country, trying to get...you know...just
get your work done.
WC What is the root cause?
JK What in other people's
WC Well if somebody as you
say hasn't got a track record well they'll say maybe later. Somebody in
the middle position who's getting treated like shit can themselves say
'aye maybe one day'...
JK When they're up there
winning Scottish Writer of the Year Awards! ...No but it is outrageous.
So just to try and get it made public, that this is the reality here, this
is what we're actually talking about, I can't get a play on for fucking
nothing, this is what it is like to be a writer in Scotland. None of that
is discussed. Meanwhile we get the usual crap from The Herald and The Scotsman,
or Scotland on Sunday, attacking writers about this...what's that one by
Tom, their "feather bedded life of luxury..."
WC Yeah 'they're all getting
funded and they're all moaning'. But that's just sad wankers who haven't
got a clue...
JK Well they do have a clue...
WC What are you trying to
tell me that they're saying this to create a...
JK Well some of the media
are, yeah. And attacking people in a very underhand way. Just about every
time I read a column about contemporary Scottish literature in The Herald
we're getting attacked, in one way or another. I'm talking about the exciting
stuff--all the reactionary crap gets supported. Look how they attacked Janice
Galloway and Alasdair Gray in The Scotsman, or was it Scotland on Sunday?
And when Janice and Alasdair replied they didn't even publish the letter
they sent but again they attacked them, and they used bits of the letter
for that purpose, imagine it, cowardly bastards. This is the kind of thing
they do in Scotland. Imagine these little shits attacking writers like
Alasdair and Janice! Christ almighty. Magnus Linklater is a former editor
of The Scotsman anyway, but that's the Andrew Neil team nowadays and Linklater
is nowhere near as bad as that, I don't think so, if he had been I wouldn't
have written to him in the first place. Who knows. He's an ordinary kind
of right-wing guy, I suppose, in a position of authority. Another one!
But take people like...what's her name...writes for The Herald and does
stuff all over the place, for the BBC... Her that's in the Labour Party,
she's attacked me in the past because of Workers City, her that always
backed up Pat Lally and whoever, the three stooges...
WC Oh what Ruth Wishart!
JK Yeah, people like Ruth
Wishart, who have quite a strong position within the arts...
WC ...She's the Labour Party
hatchet for the arts...
JK But these people really
are the enemies in a sense, they try to hurt you and all that, and they
succeed. I don't get so hurt because I'm maybe in a stronger position,
I regard myself as quite strong, and yet for people who are less...in a
worse economic position...they can get hurt really badly you know, they
get stopped, they can't do their work. At least I know next year will not
be as bad because I'll be in Texas, Texas half the year, England the other
zine & comics
Apologies if you missed this column
in the last issue, I had a late summer break and popped over to New York
to search out and track down some interesting print creations...
Weird N.J.--Your Travel Guide
to New Jersey's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets is a round up of
odd architecture, forgotten theme parks, urban folklore and just plain
weird goings on in New York's ugly sister state. Issue 14 features the
Palace of Depression--a quirky landmark built in the 1930s out of junk and
old car parts--and has a round up of boat-shaped buildings, a Cemetery Safari
round-up, local Pirate tales, Roadside weirdness, kid's attractions and
telegraph poles mysteriously adorned with sculptures. There's lots of lively
input from their readers--always the sign of a good zine--but it's odd that
they're not wise to the Andre the Giant graffiti campaign. Immensely readable,
Weird N.J. is an engrossing look at an American state that rarely receives
anything other than bad press.
Tuli Kupferberg, best known as a
member of The Fugs, is an East Village counter culture survivor. On previous
visits to New York I've always spotted him selling tapes and booklets on
SoHo street corners, but this time around he was nowhere to be seen, maybe
Mayor Giuliani's zero tolerance policies have driven him off the streets.
Tuli finally gets his very own Teach Yourself book, this collection of
200 collages and cartoons is called Teach Yourself Fucking. It's
idiosyncratic, loosely drawn and scrappily thrown together--just like his
booklets always were, but maybe losing the sharper edge of his earlier
publications and with a heavy focus on New York politics. 'The old Fucks
at Home' is his continuing series of two oldsters trying to make sense
of the world as it comes through their TV. There's also the satirical 'Great
Moments in the History of Politics, Art, Literature, Journalism and Capitalism'
cartoons. A couple of my favourites; cockroaches standing around discussing
the merits of 'People Motels--where people check in, but don't check out'
and Tuli's ad for the Village Voice personal column; 'Beautiful Woman!
I saw you walking down village streets in the sixties. I should have spoken,
but didn't. Please contact me.'
Public Illumination Magazine,
celebrates 20 years of publishing with issue 46, this 'non-occasional'
print oddity is tiny--just larger than a business card. Each issue is themed,
'Busts' this time around, 'Luxury' for the next issue, and contains a mix
of bite size prose, drawings, sketches and haikus. Originally New York
based, editor Zagreus Bowery has relocated to Italy and continues to assemble
this cute curiosity from works by contributors with equally unlikely, and
obligatory pseudonyms; Crispy Prawns, Rank Cologne and Gulley A. Rosebush
all feature in this issue. I've got a treasured collection of previous
Public Illuminations stashed away, picked up on previous visits to New
York and bought here in the 80s when copies were on sale in London, and
look forward to rediscovering them when I file this copy...
Cool (comics for you) is
a free tabloid showcasing recent and forthcoming books by some of today's
most interesting independent comic publishers from the US, UK and Canada.
It's a collaboration between Top Shelf, Drawn and Quarterly, Highwater
Books and Slab-o-Concrete. The low cost newspaper format means there's
plenty of space to print sample strips from all of the books featured,
some in full colour. It's a great idea that they could easily charge money
for, and let's be honest, it's always better to see work for yourself than
have it filtered and part-digested by some reviewer!
Vice is a freebie skate/hip
hop lifestyle magazine out of Canaduh & Brooklyn that distinguishes
itself with a varied range of articles to amuse, offend and puzzle. Interspersed
between the ads for overbranded leisure clothing and skate shoes for non-skaters
(it is, after all produced by a chain of clothing stores...) there's articles
on 'The Joy of Eavesdropping', an interview with a Strawberry Farmer (a
real farmer not a band name), A Backstreet Boys Impersonator, Horror Rap?
(there's a whole lot more where chart-topping 'Nem' came from), "I didn't
wear a shirt for a month", East Timor and Porno Reviews, plus there's a
glossy colour comics section with short strips from Kaz, Kochalka and Fiona
Smyth. Vice have a helluva lot of fun with their do's and don'ts pages,
featuring photos of cute guys and girls on the 'do's' page and mercilessly
picking on style atrocities on the 'don'ts' page. Vice embodies an anything
goes spirit, occasionally going too far, but they've got their name to
live up to.
Paper Rodeo, is another tabloid
freebie, out of Providence, Rhode Island. A collection of some of the most
disconcerting, dream-like, tripped out comics to be seen since the demise
of Brighton's Watermelon Comic. I honestly can't tell if the strips are
all by the same artist or ten different people! Ultra scratchy drawing
styles are reminiscent of Gary Panter's Jimbo and with a nice touch, the
adverts for local Providence cafes, galleries and bookshops are all done
in matching styles. Apparently they have a whole catalogue of other work
by the artists involved.
Roctober is one of my favourite
music zines, previous themed issues have focused on Masked rock'n'roll,
Monkey rock'n'roll and Midget rock'n'roll! I missed the last few issues,
so was pleased to find this one in the racks at See Hear, New York's zine
shop. Roctober #28 maintains their track record for outstanding cover artwork
coupled with refreshingly low production values of the interior pages!
This issue has a long feature on the risque comedy records of Redd Foxx--who
also starred in the US TV remake of Steptoe & Son, and an exclusive
interview with wholesome whitebread crooner Pat Boone! Plus there's articles
on Dolemite, The Dickies, Andre Williams, Swamp Dogg, Maceo Parker and
Brazilian superstar Xuxa. Roctober has a knack for finding interesting
offbeat musicans neglected elsewhere and always has a dauntingly long reviews
I haven't reviewed any of Mark Gonzales'
zines here, much as I'd like to, sorry Mark but at £20/$20 a pop
they're too expensive, hey but feel free to send review copies.
Paul in the country by Michel
Rabagliati, is a delightful story which intersperses memories of the author
growing up in french-speaking Quebec with a trip to the country, accompanied
by his partner and young daughter, to visit his aging parents. Beautifully
drawn in a clear-line european style, this is only the first comic book
from Rabagliati-who has worked as an illustrator and graphic designer for
the past 20 years. It's up to publisher Drawn and Quarterly's usual high
standard, and on the basis of this comic I'm waiting eagerly for Rabagliati's
forthcoming graphic novel Paul has a Summer Job.
Back in the UK now, Weird Zines,
is a new reviews zine, Issue 1 covers some zines you'll be familiar with
from this column (Infiltration, Book Happy, From Parts Unknown) together
with an unhealthy dose of zines focussing on trash, sleaze and exploitation
cinema. Titles such as Mansplat, Streetcleaner, The Exploitation Journal
and Cashiers du Cinemart give you a good idea of what these guys are into!
Just 22 reviews seems a bit scanty, they could easily have squeezed a few
more in here, but there's plenty of illustrations, and heck its only the
first issue. Publishing a reviews zine is a thankless task at best, and
previous attempts have fizzled out or floundered under mountains of mediocre
zines sent to them, for this reason alone Weird Zines deserves your support.
Everything's a Pound, a survey
of books weighing sixteen ounces avoirdupois, is both a practical examination
of the size and weight of books (extremely pertinent to small publishers
who rely on mailorder and are at the mercy of postage costs) and a hommage
to the Great British Pound Shop--which these days seems to be a global phenomena
with every country having its equivalent, ¥100 shops in Japan and Americas
99¢ stores. Everything's a Pound is a balanced mixture of artists'
books produced specifically for the project and existing publications which
happen to weigh a pound or have been chopped down to size. Rodger Brown
contributes a set of books weighing 8, 4, and 2 ounces--which can be used
as weights, a slightly overweight copy of 'SPAIN-the rough guide' has a
corner sawn off by Martin Rogers to arrive at the correct weight and in
the process gets retitled 'PAIN-the rough guide'. Everything is in the
catalogue, including work that fails miserably to adhere to the theme from
contributors who couldn't be bothered to read the instructions properly
and work from metric-minded Europeans who don't know what a pound is! This
book weighs in on target but seems overpriced at £5.00.
UK small press comics' stalwart
John Bagnall's A Nation Of Shopkeepers, takes us on a walk down
an early 1970's northern high street, calling in at the supermarket, chip
shop, butchers and boutique along the way. Each tableau is crammed full
of accurately observed period details and hideous seventies styles, fish
and chips wrapped in real newspaper, green shield stamps in the supermarket,
listening booths in the Record Shop, Jimmy Saville hairdos, carcoats, tanktops
and flares are regulation issue. It's a very British and decidedly unglamorous
trip down memory lane.
The latest book from the original
badly-drawn boy, Scottish doodlemeister David Shrigley, Grip, is his largest
yet and even has a colour section. This selection of drawings, ponderings,
wonderings and meanderings seem bleaker and loopier than his earlier work,
if that's possible. Shrigley's work deserves a book this size, so you can
flick back and forth through it several times choosing your favourite pages
and gradually working round to the rest of the book, just reading from
start to finish doesn't seem appropriate. Buy a copy so he can afford some
more packs of felt-tip pens off the market. Grip is published by Edinburgh's
pocketbooks; steered by Alec Finlay they've built up an interesting, eclectic
list of titles in a short time, several come with accompanying CDs, check
out their catalogue.
A Nation Of Shopkeepers, John Bagnall,
16 pgs, A5, £1.50, Beechnut Books. email@example.com
Everything's a Pound, A survey of
books weighing sixteen ounces avoirdupois, 84 pgs, A4, £5.00. RGAP,
Britannia Mill, Mackworth Road, Derby, DE22 3 BL.
Roctober Comics and Music, A4 80
pgs, $4.00, 1507 E.53rd Street #617, Chicago, IL60615, USA. www.roctober.com
Grip, David Shrigley, 200pgs, £7.99+£1.20p+p,
pocketbooks, Canongate Venture (5) New Street, Edinburgh, EH8 8BH. www.pbks.co.uk
Paper Rodeo, tabloid, 16pgs, free,
send $ for postage & a catalogue, Box 254, Allston, MA 02134, USA.
Weird N.J.A4 80pgs, $4.00+postage,PO Box 1346, Bloomfield, NJ 07003, USA.
Paul in the country, Michel Rabagliati,
comic 32 pgs, $3.50, Drawn and Quarterly, PO Box 48056, Montreal, Quebec,
Canada, H2V 4S8. www.drawnandquarterly.com.
Teach Yourself Fucking, Tuli Kupferberg,
A4 192 pgs, $15.00, Autonomedia, PO Box 568, Brooklyn, New York 11211-0568
Public Illumination Magazine, $1.50,
24pgs. Casa Sorci, 06044 Castel Ritaldi (PG) Italy. firstname.lastname@example.org
Weird Zines, A5 24pgs. £1.50+an
S.A.E. Justin Marriott, 159 Falcondale Rd, Bristol, BS9 3JJ Cool (Comics
for You), tabloid, 28 pgs, free, 1536 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL
60607, USA. www.coolbooks.com
Vice, Free, look out for copies
in likely central London Record shops, or send £ for postage to Vice,
43 Lexington Street, London, W1R 3LG See Hear, 59 E 7th Street, New York
and NATO inspired "psychological warfare operations" against the "Kurdish
communist threat&" in Turkey
Desmond Fernandes and Iskender Ozden1
The sheer extent to which the United
States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have been responsible
for consciously and structurally providing aid, training and technical
expertise to Turkish contra-guerrilla death squads, repressive state forces
and far right fascist groups makes for chilling reading. In pursuit of
US governmental and NATO Cold War and post Cold War agendas, secretive
and often publicly unaccountable initiatives have been undertaken in order
to organise, protect and support repressive and anti-democratic Turkish
state military mechanisms in their targeting actions against the internal
'communist threat'. The internal 'communist threat', observes Chomsky,
is "used here in the technical sense (which) has (been) assumed in American
political discourse, referring to labour leaders, peasant organisers ...
organising self-help groups, and anyone who has the 'wrong' priorities
and thus gets in our way."2 Kurdish 'nationalist'
and/or pro-democratic/pro-socialist movements which have sought to defend
peoples' labour and human/cultural/political rights within the region,
and/or query the 'colonial/neo-colonial/pro-NATO/repressive' orientation
of the militarised Turkish state, have similarly been targeted as 'communist
The Truman Doctrine, the Central
Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and psychological warfare initiatives.
With the Truman Doctrine of 1947,
millions of dollars worth of military equipment assistance was provided
to the Turkish terror state to counter the internal and external 'communist
threat.' As President Truman's address to Congress on March 12th, 1947,
made all too clear: "I believe that it must be the policy of the United
States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation
by armed minorities or by outside pressures ... Should we fail Greece and
Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West
as well as to the East. We must take immediate and resolute action."4
By the end of fiscal year 1950,
resolute action had been undertaken: Over US $ 200 million in military
aid had been received by Turkey, "along with 1,200 US military advisers."5
Between 1950 and 1979, a further $ US 5.8 billion in official military
aid was forthcoming: "Arms supply and training programmes helped to integrate
the Turkish military, police and intelligence services into those of the
United States. Under the Military Assistance Programme, 19,193 Turks received
US training between 1950 and 1979."6 Lord
Kinross, indeed, suggests that a much higher number of Turkish troops were,
in fact, trained. By 1954 alone, "the American Military Mission claim(ed)
to have trained, in the Turkish army, a force of thirty thousand technicians."7
US advisors also assisted Turkish
authorities with their covert monitoring activities of Kurdish political
prisoners. Musa Anter, for example, confirms--in his Memoirs--that a 'Special
Team' from the US was sent in 1959 to the Turkish prison he was in, to
assist the authorities with the decoding of messages between Kurdish prisoners.8
Turkish Interior Ministry reports further reveal that Turkish governing
circles clearly understood that they would be provided with economic support
and US military and political encouragement in their implementation of
the on-going Kurdish genocide9 as long as
they could keep officially identifying the Kurds as a 'communist threat'
to American officials (even at times when they clearly did not represent
such a threat, and could not produce any evidence to the Americans to that
effect): "This (Kurdish targeting) operation should be used ... to obtain
economic aid from the US. The event should (merely) be represented to the
American authorities as a 'Communist Kurd Movement'. To the relatives of
the suspects (targeted), the event should be explained as a 'Communist
Movement' (despite the fact that) ... so far, there's no evidence that
can be used against the suspects."10
Ghassemlou and Kendal have also
established that the US government, which was "in control of all (the)
military decisions"11 of a Cold War Central
Treaty Organisation (CENTO) Pact between Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Britain,
had decided that a central purpose of this pact was to assist the Turkish
and Iranian governments with their psychological warfare operations against
"any attempts on the part of the Kurdish people."12
As Randal has confirmed: "In the 1950's, the Baghdad Pact--rebaptised CENTO
when Iraq dropped out following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958--amounted
to Western approval of anti-Kurd animus, enshrined in the Saadabad Treaty
Besikci further argues that US government
supported 'psychological' research projects were conducted in the 1960's
in order to strategically assist the Turkish state with its assimilation
and anti-Kurdish policies: "In 1962, Professor Frei, an American, carried
out a survey throughout Turkey, in conjunction with the Bureau of Research
and Testing at the Ministry of Education, and the US government's Agency
for International Development (AID) ... From the information provided at
the end of the research project, it becomes clear that American government
officials proposed to the Turkish government that the best way to fight
against the spread of the Kurdish struggle was through the creation and
institutionalisation of a party based on religion."14
As Besikci confirms, this advice "was taken seriously by the Turkish government."15
There was also an apparent offer by the US government in 1962 to establish
a 'Kurdish' radio station--costing US $33 million--which would broadcast
psychological warfare propaganda which would be anti-communist, anti-Kurdish
nationalist in nature, and in keeping with "the USA and Turkey's ideology."16
The CIA's role in covert action
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),
moreover, began to covertly fund and train fascist paramilitary right wing
gangs and virulently anti-Kurdish organisations in Turkey--including the
Organisation to Fight Communism and the National Action Party (NAP/MHP)--along
the 'successful' lines of the Bicchierai 'anti-communist' paramilitary
gang in Italy. As Christopher Simpson has ascertained, "the role of this
(Bicchierai) band"--which was financed by the CIA using 'black currency'
which "came from captured German Nazi assets, including money and gold
that the Nazis had looted from the Jews"17
--"was beatings of left wing candidates and activists, breaking up political
meetings and intimidating voters. Bicchierai's troops became the forerunners
of a number of other similar paramilitary gangs funded by the CIA in Germany,
Greece, Turkey and several other countries over the next decade"18
which were used to destabilise wider democratic initiatives which were
perceived to be inimical to US interests.
The ex-Director of the CIA, William
Colby, has further conceded, when pressured, that "there is a possible
CIA backing of (such) anti-Communist organisations to stop Turkey falling
into the hands of communism."19 Clearance
to actively proceed with covert 'psychological' warfare of this nature
was provided at the highest level. Through National Security Council (NSC)
Directive 4-A in 1947, the CIA was "secretively authorised ... to conduct
these officially non-existent programmes and to administer them."20
As Simpson clarifies, "the NSC action removed the US Congress and public
from any debate over whether to undertake psychological warfare abroad.
The NSC ordered that the operations themselves be designed to be 'deniable,'
meaning 'planned and executed (so) that any US government responsibility
for them is not evident to unauthorised persons and that if uncovered,
the US government can positively disclaim any responsibility.'"21
National Security Council Directive
10/2 (NSC 10/2), which replaced NSC-4A in 1947, similarly authorised the
Office of Policy Co-ordination (OPC)--"the covert action arm of the CIA"22
--to carry out "any covert activities related to propaganda; preventative
direct action including sabotage ... (and) assistance ... (in) support
of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free
world."23 As Frank Wisner, the head of OPC
(dubbed the United States' Psychological Warfare Organisation by the NSC)24
has since conceded, these operations were "conducted in a covert or clandestine
manner to the end that official US interest or responsibility" in these
terrorist 'anti-Communist' actions could be "plausibly disclaimed by this
government."25 The OPC's psychological warfare
objectives, according to Wisner, included:
"1. Political warfare including
... support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries
of the free world.
2. Psychological warfare including
'black' and 'grey' propaganda.26
3. Economic Warfare.
4. Guerrilla and partisan-type warfare.
5. Sabotage and counter-sabotage.
6. Other covert operations."27
It is important at this juncture
to also clarify just what 'psychological warfare', as termed above, actually
meant. To Christopher Simpson, who has analysed much declassified material
related to the above issues:
"the primary object of US psychological
operations during this period was to frustrate the ambitions of radical
movements in resource rich developing countries seeking solutions to the
problems of poverty, dependency and the entrenched corruption ... At heart,
modern (US) psychological warfare has been a tool for managing empire,
not for settling conflicts in any fundamental sense. It has operated largely
as a means to ensure that indigenous democratic initiatives in the Third
World and Europe do not go 'too far' from the standpoint of US security
agencies ... The problem with (US) psychological warfare is ... its consistent
role as an instrument for maintaining grossly abusive social structures
"Several points should be underlined.
First, psychological warfare in the US conception has consistently made
use of a wide range of violence, including guerrilla warfare, assassination,
sabotage and more fundamentally, the maintenance of manifestly brutal regimes
in client states abroad. Second, it has also involved a variety of propaganda
or media work, ranging from overt (white) newscasting to covert (black)
propaganda ... "
Re-examination of (the US) record,
even as it applies to Turkey, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Philippines,
Indonesia and Panama, inescapably leads Simpson in short order to an heretical
"The role of the United States in
world affairs during our lifetimes has often been rapacious, destructive,
tolerant of genocide and willing to sacrifice countless people."28
In the case of Turkey, there are
clear indications that the US government directly facilitated the Turkish
government's genocidal programme against the Kurds through its endorsement
of the CENTO pact, its provision of military equipment and its training
of state backed 'anti-Kurdish' psychological warfare death squads, intelligence
gathering organisations and 'commando' groups.29
Marcus Raskin, an NSC staffer, has
conceded that these psychological warfare "activities around the world
... were criminal by other nations' standards as well as criminal by our
own."30 To George Mc Govern, US senator between
"We were involved in assassinations,
assassination attempts. We were operating paramilitary operations with
mercenary forces hired in other people's countries with no knowledge on
the part of our own Congress, our press or the American people. All of
these things are alien to a system of constitutional democracy."31
Recently declassified 'Psychological
Warfare' methods used by the US Army and CIA advisers during the early
Cold War years again confirm that the army's operational definition of
the 'psychological warfare' it was actively engaged in--be it in Turkey,
Italy, Greece or Iran--clearly did include terrorist acts of "warfare" that
"employs all moral and physical means, other than orthodox military operations
... Psychological Warfare," as recommended and practised, must "employ
any weapon to influence the mind of the enemy. The weapons are psychological
only in the effect they produce and not because of the nature of the weapons
themselves. In this light, overt (white), covert (black) and grey propaganda;
subversion; sabotage; special operations; guerrilla warfare; espionage;
political, cultural, economic and racial pressures are all effective weapons.
They are effective because they produce dissension, distrust, fear and
hopelessness in the minds of the enemy."32
Psychological warfare 'special operations' were defined in the above context
to additionally include "miscellaneous operations such as assassination
(and) target capture."33
According to Philip Agee, a former
senior CIA secret operations officer, CIA stations regularly used "offensive
weapons of psychological and paramilitary operations" which involved surveillance
measures and "include(d) the placing of anti-Communist propaganda in the
public media, the frame-up of ... officials for police arrest, the publishing
of false propaganda attributed to the revolutionary group in such a way
that it will be difficult to deny and damaging as well, the organising
of goon squads to beat up and intimidate ... (people) ... using ... harassment
devices to break up meetings, and the calling on liaison services to take
desired repressive action."34
"Within the US governmental bureaucracy
itself," notes Peter Dale Scott, "intelligence agencies and special warfare
elements have recurringly exploited," trained and even protected "drug
traffickers and their corrupt political allies" to facilitate these types
of "anti-Communist and anti-subversive operations."35
As Adams has concluded in 'Secret
Armies', the US military and "the CIA ... under the single OPC umbrella
... managed to embrace every aspect of covert warfare from espionage to
psychological operations and subversion."36
Widespread and chilling actions and atrocities against Kurdish communities
and 'radical' human rights and 'leftist' activists in Turkey/North West
Kurdistan were clearly committed as a consequence of these 'anti-communist'
inspired US-CIA-NATO linked 'psychological warfare' training and operational
programmes.37 To Jeffrey Bale, writing in
the Berkeley Journal of Sociology and Lobster, the CIA was "instrumental
in establishing the contra-guerrilla" death squads in Turkey.38
By 1969, moreover, Turkish "commandos, who had been trained by American
specialists in counter-insurgency," were despatched into Kurdish regions
"under the pretext of a general 'arms search'" to terrorise the population.39
These commando actions "rapidly became associated with arbitrary brutality
and torture that had marked the suppression of Kurdistan four decades earlier."40
According to the journal Devrim,
one commando report which focused upon its anti-Kurdish psychological warfare
operations, ran along the following lines:
"Since the end of January, special
military units have undertaken a land war in the (Kurdish) regions of Diyarbakir,
Mardin, Siirt and Hakkari under the guise of hunting bandits. Every village
is surrounded at a certain hour, its inhabitants rounded up. Troops assemble
men and women separately, and demand the men to surrender their weapons.
They beat those who deny possessing any or make other villagers jump on
them. They strip men and women naked and violate the latter. Many have
died in these operations, some have committed suicide. Naked men and women
have cold water thrown over them, and they are whipped. Sometimes women
are forced to tie a rope around the penis of their husband and then to
lead him around the village. Women are likewise made to parade naked around
the village. Troops demand villagers to provide women for their pleasure
and the entire village is beaten if the request is met with refusal."41
These actions, which have mirrored
those of other US inspired and trained commando groups in El Salvador,
East Timor, Indonesia, Guatemala, South Vietnam and Nicaragua, followed
a "general pattern ... A village is surrounded by armoured cars and helicopters
move ahead; all the villagers are rounded up without any explanation, then
herded into specially prepared camps. They are then called upon to surrender
their weapons. Should a peasant declare that he has none, he is severely
beaten and humiliated. The Turkish troops force both men and women to strip;
often they rape the women. 'Suspects' are hanged by their feet from a gallows.
Sometimes strings are attached to the genitals of naked men whom the women
are then forced to lead through the streets in this manner. Many die under
Kendal confirms that these targeting
actions continued throughout the 1970's:
"During the more or less fascist
period which followed the military coup on March 12th, 1971, the commandos'
activities were considerably extended and became a real 'Kurd-hunt'. The
troops raked through the Kurdish provinces one by one: several thousand
peasants were pursued, arrested and tortured ... in counter-insurgency
centres which had been set up by Turkish officers trained by the US in
Panama ... (When) Demirel (who went on to become president of Turkey) returned
to power ... commando operations started up with renewed intensity in Kurdistan.
In the towns, the state police and the fascist militias assassinated sixty
people from March 31st, 1975 to April 10th, 1976 ... Even under the 'democratic
parliamentary regime' of the late seventies, the commandos were still at
work in Kurdistan. There were more than 10,000 of them patrolling the frontier
province of Hakkari from October to December 1975."43
Despite being aware of such atrocities,
US-NATO funding, active training and protection of racist and fascist,
genocidal, anti-Kurdish psychological warfare teams and militias continued.
One such militia was "the CIA/drug-linked terror gang known as the Grey
Wolves," the "paramilitary arm" of the National Action Party (NAP/MHP).44
According to Berch Berberoglu, "attacks by the CIA trained and equipped
death squads of the fascist NAP intensified during 1979."45
A report by the Turkish Internal Ministry acknowledges that these NAP death
squads were ideologically "akin to Hitler's Nazi organisation."46
NAP supporters, for instance, were clearly encouraged in a 1977 party leaflet
to act in the following fashion: "Those who destroyed (the Ottoman Empire)
were Greek-Armenian-Jewish converts, Kurds, Circassians, Bosnians and Albanians.
As a Turk, how much longer will you tolerate these dirty minorities? Throw
out the Circassian, that he may go to Causasia, throw out the Armenian,
throw out and kill the Kurd, purge from your midst the enemy of all Turkdom."47
As Kendal has clarified, "the NAP
is violently and militantly anti-Kurdish ... The liquidation of the Kurds
is thus an integral part of their agenda."48
Investigative research by Celik
has uncovered the following details: "The intelligence services of (NATO
ally) Germany and other European countries ... protected the NAP/MHP,"49
despite being fully aware of the ideological slant and character of the
organisation. "This protection continues to this day. The CIA openly protected
the NAP/MHP in Germany ... One of the 'protectors' was the CIA man Ruzi
Nazar," who had previously "collaborated with German Nazi occupation forces
in the Second World War ... NAP/MHP militants were used in hundreds of
murders, became very professional, and were used by the CIA in international
According to Counterspy,51
the CIA--as part of its ongoing psychological warfare training strategy
in Turkey--also "assisted Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT)," the notorious
Turkish national intelligence agency, "in 1960-69 in drafting plans for
mass arrests of opposition figures similar to the pattern followed in Thailand,
Indonesia and Greece. In a single night, generals ordered 4,000 professors,
students, teachers and retired officers (to be) arrested. They tortured
(many) ... The coup" in Turkey in 1971 "was also carried out by counter-guerrilla,
the CIA, the Turkish military and Turkish military intelligence (MIT)."52
From its station in Athens, Greece, the CIA Technical Services Division
(TSD) support group provided particular psychological warfare operational
expertise to its staff operating in Turkey. "TSD assistance," Roubatis
and Wynn conclude, "included electronic monitoring devices, various gadgets
for surveillance, special weapons for clandestine operations, drugs for
use in such operations, forged documents and other similar material ...
The TSD activities involved aggressive operations."53
The CIA's role in assisting MIT
in targeting actions against the 'Kurdish' and other 'internal communist'
threats was publicly exposed in 1977 when Sabahattin Savasman, the deputy
director of MIT, acknowledged that "the CIA has a delegation of at least
20 people who co-operate in the MIT with the CIA and who occupy high positions
inside the MIT. They supply information, contacts and they participate
in operations ... All technical equipment is supplied by the CIA. A lot
of personnel was trained by the Americans in courses abroad, the buildings
were constructed by the CIA, the instructors were supplied by the CIA ...
The employees have been working for years as CIA agents for the benefit
of the American secret service."54 He further
stated that "MIT personnel have been accepting payments and taking part
in operations with the CIA for years."55
Zurcher confirms that MIT's operations
against 'internal threats' during this period were clearly and publicly
known to be of a brutal nature: "Widespread reports of torture" of Kurds
and other 'communist activists' "in so-called 'laboratories', torture chambers
of the MIT," exist.56 Aldrich Ames, a former
CIA officer who was stationed in Turkey, has also acknowledged that "the
Turkish intelligence service (MIT) was cash-strapped, so we gave it half
a million dollars worth of wiretap equipment and taught its people how
to use it"57 against its 'internal threats'.
MIT's own leader, General Ziya Selisik, confirmed in 1962 that its internal
"communist" threats even included "all Kurds who were studying."58
It should also be noted at this point that Sait Elci, who was the leader
of the underground 'Kurdistan Democratic Party--Turkey' (KDP-T) during the
late 1960's, had--just before his assassination by Dr. Sait 'Siwan' Kirmizitoprak--accused
the latter of acting as a Kurdish double-agent for the CIA. Elci was convinced
that Dr. Sait 'Siwan' Kirmizitoprak was working to fulfil the agendas of
a joint CIA-MIT operation.59
Jeffrey Bale further confirms that
"there are numerous connections between the CIA and (the fascist) MHP (NAP),
both in Turkey and Europe. It seems clear that the CIA and US military
intelligence"--via these 'collaborative' psychological warfare operations
with the virulently anti-Kurdish MHP--"made use of civilian 'idealists'
(fascist hard-liners) by recruiting them into the contra-guerrilla (death
squad) organisations, and former Turkoman SS man Ruzi Nazar has been identified
by several investigators as the liaison between CIA personnel, including
Henze (a CIA Turkey Station Chief) himself and the MHP Leadership in West
It is also worth noting at this
point that the successive CIA directors who were involved in initiating
and overseeing these disquieting psychological warfare operations were
well suited to their additional tasks of 'covering up' these actions from
the public gaze. According to Loftus and Aarons, for example, CIA Director
Allen Dulles'61 "State Department files show
that he was the man (previously) assigned to cover up the Armenian massacre
(genocide) ... Simpson's research62 (also)
fully documents the equally repugnant cover-up engineered by Dulles and
his sources during the Jewish Holocaust of World War II."63
The Pentagon and NATO'S 'stay
Under the Pentagon's confidential
1948 plan for the formation of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
styled structure, it is also instructive to note that one of the five major
objectives of the emerging military alliance would be to ensure that no
internal or external threat to the current "political independence (sic)
or territorial integrity of Turkey"64 would
be entertained. Kurdish aspirations for basic cultural and political rights--within
a democratic, federal, Turkish or independent Kurdish structure--would clearly,
under these criteria, have been considered psychological 'threats' which
needed to be eradicated using all necessary means.
With the eventual formation of NATO
in 1949 and Turkey's membership of the alliance in 1952, Turkey's military
forces and several right wing fascist organisations were concretely provided
with even greater covert support in their 'anti-Communist' war against
Kurdish cultural and political rights and other pro-democratic 'liberal',
'leftist' and trade unionist movements. General Sir Walter Walker, former
NATO Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, Northern Europe, confirms that
"Kurdish activists" were, indeed, being identified as "Marxist" communist
'internal' threats to the 'territorial integrity' of the Turkish Republic:
"Turkey's Kurdish leaders have refused to be assimilated. The (Kurdish)
revolt in the eastern provinces was the single most challenging security
problem in the country, and in addition to that, it was notable that Kurds
were playing a leading role in Marxist-Leninist groups that were ideologically
Through the protective curtain and
secretive cover of a wider 'anti-Communist' NATO 'Gladio' styled 'Operation
Stay Behind' Psychological Warfare network--which was "spearheaded by the
CIA ... (and) conceived by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff according to a
1976 senate report on the CIA by Frank Church which first revealed its
existence"66--a 'contra (counter) guerrilla'
force called Seferberlik Taktik Kurulu (STK--'Tactical Mobilisation Group')
was funded, organised and allowed to operate from the same Ankara building
that housed the US Military Aid Mission.67
According to Roth and Taylan, the
training of officers assigned to this Psychological Warfare Group "begins
in the US and then continues inside Turkey under the direction of CIA officers
and military 'advisers'."68 By 1959, a further
military accord between the US and Turkey agreed upon the 'use' of the
contra-guerrillas "also in the case of an internal rebellion against the
regime."69 Six years later, with the restructuring
of the STK into the OHD (Ozel Harp Dairesi--Special Warfare Department),70
the contra-guerrilla psychological warfare and death squad structures were
placed under the authority of the president of General Staff.71
Significant US funding of this structure, at least until 1974, was confirmed
by the current Turkish Premier Bulent Ecevit, who additionally stated that
"patriotic volunteers were members of the group. They were trained specially
to launch a counter guerrilla operation."72
These 'operations', Turkish army
spokesmen have recently conceded, were explicitly involved in anti-Kurdish
actions.73 A directive by General Sabri Yirmibesoglu,74
who was a leading figure in the OHD during the 1970's, describes the types
of psychological warfare activities which were being actively encouraged
at the time of CIA 'grant-funding' and training: "Use 'open' as well as
'covert' activities, murder, bombing, armed robbery, torture, kidnapping;
encourage incidents which invite retaliation; take hostages; use sabotage
and propaganda; disseminate disinformation (and) use force as well as blackmail."75
With ex-CIA director William Colby's
admission that "there is also such an organisation ('Gladio--Stay Behind')
in Turkey,"76 General Dogan Beyazit (President
of Turkey's General Staff) and General Kemal Yilmaz (Commander of its psychological
warfare 'Special Forces'), were forced to confirm that this secretive and
'special' NATO organisation--which had been plausibly denied by Turkish
officialdom and military sources until 1990--did exist.77
Ecevit further revealed on November 13th, 1990, that "I was told that it
was financed by the United States ... I was also told that the organisation
had secret weapons depots. Its members were trained in special warfare
techniques."78 In a more recent interview
with Julie Flint, Ecevit clarified issues further: "Certain unhealthy kinds
of measures were taken for internal security. Too many covert actions obviously
took place. I'm afraid such events have taken place in many other NATO
As Celik and others have ascertained,
training of death squads was clearly undertaken by the OHD-CIA-NATO linked
structure, and US psychological warfare and contra-guerrilla manuals were
used80 --as they were in other 'Gladio - Stay
Behind' structures elsewhere in Europe--after having been translated into
Turkish: "The 'special war methods' which (were) taught supposedly for
the prevention of a communist occupation include among others 'assassinations,
bombings, armed robbery, torture, attacks, kidnap, threats, provocation,
militia training, hostage taking, arson, sabotage, propaganda, disinformation,
violence and extortion.'"81
Investigative research has also
established that "selected elements of the(se) Turkish contra-guerrillas,
together with the generals, were all trained in contra-guerrilla" and psychological
warfare "schools in the USA ... During their training, the contra-guerrilla
forces ... learn how to handle explosives under the supervision of Green
Berets in Matamoros near the Mexican border, and they are taught how to
kill, stab or strangle somebody silently, etc.82
Other places where Turkish officials are trained are the Escuela de los
Americas in Panama, which is attached to the US base Southern Comfort,
the Police Academy near Washington and the Schongau and Oberammergan bases
in Germany."83 According to a report by Republican
Peoples Party (CHP) deputy, Fikri Saglar, "the links between the illegal
right wing organisations and the Turkish security should be traced back
Reports in the Turkish Daily News
(13 July 1994),85 furthermore, confirm that
OHD linked Turkish military officials, commanders and Chiefs of Staff continue
to be briefed, advised and even awarded 'Legion of Merit' medals by US
Pentagon staff, high ranking members of the US armed forces and psychological
warfare organisations including the US Army 'Special Operations Command'.
The US Army 'Special Operations Command' houses "such specialised psychological
warfare command groups as the Army Rangers, Navy Seal Teams, Special Boat
Units and the 23rd Air Forces 'Special Operations Force'."86
OHD linked officials such as Karadayi (until recently, Turkey's Chief of
Staff) have officially liaised with senior US counter-insurgency 'experts'
and officers at Fort Bragg, Fort Knox and Goldman Army airfield.87
It has also been established that Huseyin Kocadag, Chief of the Special
Forces in Hakkari (in South-East Turkey/North West Kurdistan) and Deputy
Chief of Police in Diyarbakir, who has been identified as "one of the most
bloody enemies of the people who organised the units of the 'head-hunters'
in Kurdistan ... was trained at a CIA school in the US."88
The Human Rights Watch Arms Project
has additionally exposed the way in which "US troops, aircraft and intelligence
personnel have remained at their posts throughout Turkey, mingling with
Turkish counterinsurgency troops and aircrews in southeastern bases such
as Incirlik and Diyarbakir ... throughout Turkey's wide-ranging scorched
earth campaign" against Kurdish civilian settlements and PKK hideouts/encampments.89
This campaign, indeed, has assumed genocidal proportions.90
Human Rights Watch's concern over this type of support has led to its public
request to the US government to "order an inquiry into all training, joint
manoeuvres, liaison and other interforce activities undertaken since 1990
by US military special operations forces with Turkish forces, with a view
to identifying the Turkish units involved and the nature of US special
operations training and doctrine imparted to them."91
Brigadier General Kemal Yilmaz,
head of OHD, has also recently conceded that the OHD co-operates with NATO
on 'technical issues' and that, at times, it has joined NATO's training
programmes in Turkey and abroad.92 Its psychological
warfare operations function, under the redesigned term Special Forces Command
(SFC), according to Yilmaz, "is to support the operation of the Turkish
Armed Forces with its 'irregular warfare activities' by preparing plans
and executing the activities of war preparedness during peacetime. During
wartime, SFC is responsible to establish the irregular local forces and
to 'manage and control' these forces under the directives of the Chief
of Staff's Office ... The units also are trained regularly by various NATO-member
countries. SFC commandos are trained with the most advanced weapons of
The nature of the SFC's establishment
of psychological warfare 'irregular local forces' (i.e. assassination squads)
and of their 'management and control' structures were partly revealed in
a 1995 report by a commission of Turkish MPs which sought to investigate
more that 600 assassinations which had taken place in the south east of
the country (north west Kurdistan) between 1991-1995. The report, which
hard-liners sought to 'cover up', quoted a police chief in Batman as acknowledging
that assassins ('contra-guerrillas') at war with the 'Marxist-Leninist'
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), had, indeed, received training from Turkish
military units. There was also a clear acknowledgement that assassins and
irregular forces were said to be living in security forces accommodation,
from where they committed murders. "Sometimes they were arrested, but most
of these incidents were covered up," it concluded.94
US-NATO 'psychological warfare'
connections with anti-Kurdish agencies, 'death-teams' and fascist organisations
MIT Deputy, Sabahattin Savasman,
has confirmed that the intelligence service of Turkey's NATO partner, West
Germany, regularly liaised with MIT and held meetings with the organisation
in Munich and Ankara to discuss and evaluate operational matters and Turkey's
"internal" problems.95 NATO countries, moreover,
have apparently actively engaged in the training of anti-Kurdish "death-teams",96
called 'Special Teams'. A recent Celik investigation uncovered the following:
"In 1985, a force was set up to
counter Kurdish guerrilla warfare. It was known as the 'Special Team'.
Even at the beginning, the unit numbered 5,000 ... For 9 months, the personnel
were trained in the use of the most effective weapons and in the use of
guns, torture, sabotage, plotting, interrogation, camouflage and learning
about the culture and traditions of the people in the regions they were
to serve in ...
"Some Special Team members were
trained in other NATO countries such as Germany ... An army officer from
Germany, Hauptmann Weygold, was interviewed by a Turkish newspaper called
'Tercuman' on 1st February, 1987. He informed the paper that he had 'trained
2 groups of Turkish Special Team units at St. Augustine in GSG-9 camp,
near Bonn.' The German newspaper, 'Suddeutsche Zeitung', in its 31st March-1st
April, 1987 edition, also stated that 3,000 Special Team members from Turkey--also
known as 'Black Insects'--were trained in West Germany ... Special Teams
were trained ideologically and in militaristic terms to look upon Kurdish
people as enemies ... In their manifesto, Special Teams are described as
'Special Activity Teams'. They may join in with Turkish army units in operations.
They also had other different assignments. An army unit might surround
a group of guerrillas in a village but the Special Teams were trained to
then take over the operation. It was usually their job to carry out extermination
operations ... or ... mine ... or set traps on roads, interrogate, torture
and lead operations in disinformation. There are hundreds of people in
Kurdistan disabled as a result of the treatment and operations of the Special
Teams ... Special Teams have also executed guerrillas even though it was
clearly possible to arrest them. In raids, they have raped women, seized
gold and money and treated people brutally."97
Randal confirms that "the so-called
Special Teams, whose members often wore civilian clothes ... were feared
as the cruellest of the cruel."98
Turkish state collusion with anti-Kurdish,
fascist and Nazi collaborationist criminal gangs also appears to have been
actively encouraged and promoted by the US and NATO 'Gladio-styled' Stay
Behind Network. As Simpson's study, 'Blowback: America's Recruitment of
Nazi's and its Effect on the Cold War', has ascertained, events in "Greece
in 1947 and Italy in 1948 also taught the CIA that it could employ former
Nazi collaborators" and other fascists "on a large scale in clandestine"
and psychological warfare "operations and get away with it. US national
security planners appear to have concluded that extreme right wing groups
that once collaborated with the Nazis should be included in US sponsored
anti-Communist coalitions, for the participation of such groups became
a regular feature of US covert operations in Europe in the wake of the
Greek and Italian events."99
In Turkey, this resulted, in the
opinion of Supreme Court Justice Emin Deger, in the endorsement of a close
working collaboration between the fascist and anti-Kurdish Nationalist
Action Party (NAP/MHP) armed 'commandos', or 'Bozkurts', and the Turkish
state's CIA and NATO linked 'counter guerrilla' units.100
This collaboration directly led to "NAP commandos" being "trained by the
CIA."101 The leader of NAP, observes Lee,
was Colonel Alparslan Turkes, an "enthusiastic supporter of Hitler during
World War Two."102 As Harris has ascertained,
"during the Second World War, he had been leader of the Pan-Turkish movement
which backed Hitler in exchange for financial support from Berlin and in
the hope that a victorious Reich would allow Turkey to annex those parts
of the Soviet Union inhabited by people of Turkish origin."103
It is also known that "Turkes established close ties with Nazi leaders
in Germany in 1945 and ... maintained his contacts" in the post Second
World War period "with the German neo-Nazi underground."104
Despite clear awareness of his pro-Nazi
past and highly disturbing, fascist and racist anti-Kurdish leanings, it
is instructive to note that NATO welcomed and did not seek to dispute his
placement as Head of the NATO Department of the Armed Forces Headquarters
in Turkey by 1960, or his role as a principal liaison officer between the
Turkish General Staff and NATO in its operational activities.105
CIA inspired support for the NAP and Grey Wolves' objectionable and murderous
activities has been detailed in a number of investigative reports. Brodhead,
Friel and Herman, for example, draw upon a number of reports which detail
the way in which "Frank Terpil, the CIA agent and international arms dealer,
had supplied the NAP and the Grey Wolves with weapons and explosives in
the mid 1970's"106 to proceed with their terrorist
'activities'. These activities, Kendal and Celik observe, had resulted
in the murder of over 200 Kurdish and Turkish 'leftist' students by 1978,
as well as a number of trade unionists, teachers and influential thinkers.107
NAP, in return for this type of 'psychological warfare support' in its
anti-Kurdish and 'anti-communist' offensives, had, not unexpectedly, "pledg(ed)
to abide by accords with international organisations like NATO."108
It should additionally be noted
that Grey Wolves fascist paramilitary groups, which were engaged in terrorist
actions against Kurdish community groups and 'Kurdish/Leftist activists',
were further encouraged to forge active and collaborative operational links
with the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, another CIA backed 'anti-communist/anti-radical'
coalition led by former fascist World War Two collaborators from Eastern
Europe.109 Colleagues of Turkes were, equally
disturbingly, placed in control of a Turkish chapter of the World Anti-Communist
League (WACL), "an umbrella group that functioned as a cat's paw for US
intelligence" and US psychological warfare operations "in Latin America,
Southwest Asia and other Cold War battlegrounds."110
Celik has also ascertained that
"the German writer Jurgen Roth had information obtained from the German
police and claimed in his book, 'Die Verbrechen Holding', that MHP (NAP)
was a branch of the Turkish (CIA-NATO) Gladio Organisation."111
In this capacity, MHP/NAP has been able to obtain support and protection
from the intelligence agencies of NATO countries: "With very few exceptions,
no court cases have been opened against the Party in Western European countries.
It is protected in Europe, even though it is at the centre of the drugs
trade. This protection is particularly strong in Germany. Right-wing German
politicians, especially those in Bavaria, protect the Party. It is impossible
that German intelligence should be ignorant of this, since it has been
proven that they gave support to the Party in the 1970's. Turkes used Germany
as his base before he died, visiting it several times a year and holding
big meetings there. These meetings have never been the subject of German
legal proceedings ... The German authorities ... have shown no concern
over the Nationalist Action Party. It is clear that there is organised
protection. The Party also finds Belgium, Holland and the UK to be countries
in which it can comfortably organise."112
Recent revelations after the Susurluk
car incident further point towards a 'Turkish Gladio' US-NATO connection
with the late Abdullah Catli, a Grey Wolves-NAP 'anti-Kurdish', anti-Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK) contra-guerrilla/OHD death squad organiser,113
who was also a convicted drug smuggler and dealer114
and colleague of the Italian Gladio and Aginter Press terrorist, Stefano
According to an Italian investigative
journalist "who had helped uncover the international Gladio network ...
Catli was affiliated with the central figures of Italy's notorious (CIA-NATO
linked) Gladio organisation. Catli, Agca and Celik ... an old friend of
Abdullah Catli who had been implicated in several cases of political killings
along with Catli and Mehmet Ali Agca, 'the man who shot the Pope', ...
were operating under CIA guidance."116 An
Aydinlik investigation further reveals that "French journalist Jean-Mari
Stoerkel said that he had determined beyond any doubt that Abdullah Catli
and Oral Celik ... had been used by Western secret services. He said that
Catli and Celik had been doing business with another Turk, Bekir Celenk,
who in turn was working with Henry Arsan, a man who co-operated with the
CIA and with a number of secret organisations, fascist groups and terrorist
gangs."117 CIA agent Frank Terpil is also
reported to have publicly confirmed his involvement in helping to illegally
release the extremist Grey Wolf, Agca.118
According to Herman and Brodhead,
there can be no denying that "there was a close tie between the counter-guerrilla
and the CIA. Deger charged further that the CIA, acting through MIT and
the counter-guerrilla, promoted right-wing" psychological warfare "terrorist
actions to destabilise the Turkish government and to prepare the way for
the military coup of 1971. It also seems quite clear that the United States
and the CIA ... assisted in the coup of that year. According to former
US diplomat Robert Fresco, (the) government had simply become incapable
of containing the growing anti-US radicalism in Turkey ... There are indications
that the US, and particularly the CIA, exercised influence in the right-wing
political sectors that included the Grey Wolves"119
in order to effect the necessary governmental changes and subsequent psychological
warfare 'anti-radical', 'anti-Kurdish' targeting actions. Berberoglu has
additionally drawn attention to "Turkish press reported 'rumours' of a
meeting on March 11th between the (1971 coup) commanders, (US) Ambassador
Handley and Richard Helms, Director of the CIA, at the US Embassy in Ankara--thus
implicating the CIA directly in the March 12th (coup) intervention."120
Similar US-NATO inspired psychological
warfare tactics were again utilised to effect the 1980 coup. As Harris
observes, "it is important to be clear that this analysis is not just a
matter of speculation, or of 'the inevitable results of mob violence.'
... It remains the case that the tactics of those who helped to justify
and organise a coup d'etat ... succeeded in Turkey ... It cannot be seriously
denied that in the case of Turkey, it was perceived by NATO that western
interests would best be served by the overthrow of democracy."121
The US government's role in inspiring and covertly facilitating the coup
has been charted by Savran, Tanor and Vassaf: "According to the ... journalist
(Mehmet Ali Birand, the) US Secretary of State ... phoned (the US) President
... on the day of the coup to tell him: 'Your boys have done it. Those
who were to intervene, have intervened.' One of the 'boys' was General
Sahinkaya, Chief of the Air Force and one of the five members of the (junta's)
National Security Council (NSC). He had a series of high-level meetings
in Washington in the week preceding the military intervention."122
Saley Aay elaborates: The coup "was
engineered not by fringe groups with fringe agendas but by the web of security
agencies that had been woven by the CIA. Following the coup, the disappearances,
murders, arrests and tortures" of Kurdish and other 'radical activists'
"increased in volume and intensity. Henze's (CIA) coup--which was engineered
by his good (NAP) friend Turkes--had a triple (inspired) goal:
a) To combat the growing (Kurdish)
unrest in Kurdistan,
b) To combat rising Islamic fundamentalism,
c) To counter Soviet expansionism
which had set a beach head in Afghanistan."123
The effects of this 'inspired' psychological
warfare policy were devastating: The "group of army generals (who) carried
out (the) coup d'etat ... made it clear that they intended to brook no
expression of the Kurdish movement or identity whatsoever."124
In response to these and other positive assurances, the US Secretary
of Defence, Weinberger, expressed his desire "to be of as much assistance
as we can be" to the military junta.125 "Endorsements
of the coup" were also made by NATO's overall commander, US General Bernard
Rogers, who visited Ankara four times in early October, 1980, and General
David Jones, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of staff, who visited Turkey
in early November."126 As US-NATO psychological
warfare and other 'regular' military assistance continued, no fewer than
eighty one thousand Kurds were detained between September 1980 and September
1982, and two thirds of the army's total force was mobilised in the Kurdish
southeast to repress Kurdish society in the region.127
"Villages and homes were raided
by the army, and tens of thousands of people, primarily Leftist activists
and Kurds, were arrested and interrogated, frequently under torture."128
At least 1,790 suspected members of the clandestine Kurdistan Workers Party
(PKK) were captured, including several members of its central committee,129
and several "leading PKK members were killed in detention."130
"In the case of the PKK itself, 122 death sentences were passed and some
150 were demanded."131 Legislation, moreover,
was passed which clearly sought to intensify the process of cultural genocide
of Kurds.132 In response to these targeting
actions, Weinberger, US Secretary of Defence, noted with satisfaction that
"the Turkish military government has fulfilled our highest expectations
since assuming power. We particularly admire the way law and order has
been restored (sic)."133
1. Desmond Fernandes lectures in
Human Geography and Tourism Studies at De Montfort University, Bedford,
England. He has written extensively on issues relating to Turkish state
terror, genocide, 'deep politics', tourism and the environment. He is the
author of Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror,
Tourism and the Kurdish Question (London/Bangalore, KIC/R&B Books,
1996), Tourism Boycotts of Turkey and Burma (London, KIC, 1996), The Kurdish
Genocide in Turkey (Reading, Taderon, forthcoming) and editor of Ismail
Besikci's International Colony (Reading, Taderon, forthcoming). Iskender
Ozden is a Kurdish analyst and has translated Musa Anter's Hatiralarim
(My Memoirs) and Selahattin Celik's Olum Makinasi: Turk Kontr-Gerillasi
(Death Mission: The Turkish Contra-Guerrilla) into English.
2. Chomsky, N. (1991) Terrorising
the Neighbourhood--American Foreign Policy in the Post Cold War Era. Stirling,
AK Press, p. 32.
3. Refer, for example, to Kinnane,
D. (1964) The Kurds and Kurdistan. London/New York, The Institute of Race
Relations/Oxford University Press, p. 33. For a wider debate on the 'targeting'
activities of the 'colonial' and 'repressive' Turkish state, refer to Besikci,
International Colony, and Anter, M. (1991) Hatiralarim (My Memoirs--Volume
One). Istanbul, Yon Ayincilik.
4. As cited in Cook, D. (1989) Forging
the Alliance: NATO, 1945-1950. London, Secker and Warburg, p. 74. See also
Truman, H. (1947) 'The Truman Doctrine', in O'Tuathail, G., Dalby, S. and
Routledge, P. (eds.) (1998) The Geopolitics Reader. London/New York, Routledge,
5. Kolko, J. and Kolko, G. (1972)
The Limits of Power. New York, Harper and Row, p. 413. Refer also to Herman,
E. and Brodhead, F. (1986) The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection.
New York, Sheridan Square Publications, p. 61.
6. Herman and Brodhead, The Rise
and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection, p. 61.
7. Lord Kinross (1954) Within the
Taurus. London, John Murray, p. 101.
8. Anter, M. (1991) Hatiralarim
(My Memoirs--Volume One), p. 54. Translated into English by Iskender Ozden.
9. For further details on the nature
of the Kurdish genocide, refer to Fernandes, D. (1998) 'The Kurdish Genocide
in Turkey, 1924-98', Armenian Forum, Vol. 1 (4), p. 56-107.
10. Excerpts from a Turkish Ministry
of Interior Affairs Report, dated 31st July, 1959, as quoted in Meiselas,
S. (1997) Kurdistan: In The Shadow of History. New York, Random House,
11. Kendal (1980) 'Kurdistan in
Turkey', in Chaliand, G. (ed) People Without A Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan.
London, Zed, p. 73. Kendal notes, for instance, that "a US officer headed
its military committee," p. 73. Miles Copeland, a CIA officer and US Vice
Consul in Syria in 1949, also notes in his book, The Game Of Nations: The
Amorality of Power Politics (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, p. 180),
that "the Egyptians and everyone else knew very well that the (Baghdad)
Pact"--later to evolve into the CENTO pact--"was (US) Secretary Dulles' brainchild."
12. Ghassemlou (1965) Kurdistan
and the Kurds. London, Collet's, p. 251. See also Kendal, Kurdistan in
Turkey, p. 73 and Ghassemlou, Kurdistan and the Kurds, p. 228, 251.
13. Randal, J. (1999) After Such
Knowledge, What Forgiveness? Boulder, Westview, p. 269. Cihat Baban, a
journalist for 'Ulus' newspaper, and an MP for the Peoples Republic Party
(CHP) of Turkey, has also confirmed the anti-Kurdish basis of CENTO's strategy--See
Anter, Hatiralarim, p. 193. Translated into English by Iskender Ozden.
14. Besikci, I. (forthcoming) The
International Colony (English translation from the original). Reading,
15. Besikci, I. (forthcoming) The
International Colony (English translation from the original). Reading,
16. Anter, Hatiralarim, p. 184.
Translated into English by Iskender Ozden. Anter notes, however, that the
Turkish state chose to "turn down this suggestion" as it would indirectly
have the negative effect of promoting and legitimising the Kurdish language
(p. 184)--a process which military and 'Kemalist' political circles found
17. Simpson, C. (1988) Blowback:
America's Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War. London,
Weidenfeld and Nicholson, p. 91.
18. Simpson, Blowback: America's
Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War, p. 94.
19. Celik, S. (1995) Olum Makinasi:
Turk Kontr-Gerillasi (Death Mission: The Turkish Contra-Guerrilla). Cologne,
Ulkem Press, p.67. Translated into English by Iskender Ozden.
20. Simpson, C. (1994) The Science
of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare. Oxford,
OUP, p. 39.
21. Simpson, The Science of Coercion:
Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, p. 39.
22. Adams, J. (1988) Secret Armies:
The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force and Spetsnaz. London, Pan, p. 28.
23. Paddock, A. (1982) US Army Special
Warfare. Washington DC, National Defence University Press, p. 73, also
as cited in Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force
and Spetsnaz, p. 28-29.
24. Simpson, The Science of Coercion:
Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, p. 60.
25. Adams, Secret Armies: The Full
Story of the SAS, Delta Force and Spetsnaz, p. 29.
26. According to Agee, "white propaganda
is that which is openly acknowledged as coming from the US government,
e.g. from the US Information Agency (USIA); grey propaganda is ostensibly
attributed to people or organisations who do not acknowledge the US government
as the source of their material and who produce the material as if it were
their own; black propaganda is unattributed material, or it is attributed
to a non-existent source, or it is false material attributed to a real
source."--Agee, P. (1975) Inside the Company: CIA Diary. Harmondsworth,
Penguin, p. 70.
27. As cited in Adams, Secret Armies:
The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force and Spetsnaz, p. 29-30.
28. Simpson, The Science of Coercion:
Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, p. 7, 8, 13, 116, 117.
29. For a detailed insight into
the nature of the Kurdish genocide in Turkey, refer to Fernandes, D. (1999)
'The Kurdish Genocide in Turkey, 1924-98', Armenian Forum, Vol. 1(4), p.
30. As quoted in Lewis Lapham's
investigative documentary American Power: Episode 4--Omnipotence, screened
on Discovery Channel, 1999.
31. As quoted in Lewis Lapham's
investigative documentary American Power: Episode 4--Omnipotence, screened
on Discovery Channel, 1999. For a further account of the use by the CIA
of mercenary forces and criminal syndicates/masonic lodges (such as Aginter
Press, World Service, Paladin Group, P-2, the Organisation Armee contre
le Communisme International) throughout Europe, refer to Christie, S. (1984)
Stefano Delle Chaie: Portrait of a Black Terrorist. London, Anarchy Magazine/Refract
32. As cited in Simpson, The Science
of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, p. 12. Simpson
interestingly notes that the army's definition of 'psychological warfare'--quoted
here--"was classified as top secret at the time it was promulgated (early
1948) and remained officially secret until (as late as) the early 1980's,"
33. See Simpson, The Science of
Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, p. 12.
34. Agee, P. (1975) Inside the Company:
CIA Diary. Harmondsworth, Penguin, p. 61.
35. Scott, P.D. (2000) 'Washington
and the Politics of Drugs', Variant, 2 (11), p. 3.
36. Adams, Secret Armies: The Full
Story of the SAS, Delta Force and Spetsnaz, p. 30.
37. See Celik's Turkey's Killing
Machine: The Contra Guerrilla Force (http://www.hatford-hwp.com/archives/51/017.htm);
Deger, E. (1978) CIA, Kontr-Gerilla ve Turkiye. Ankara, Calgar; Roth, J.
and Taylan (1981) Die Turkei: Republic unter Wolfen. Bornheim, Lamuv; Genc,
S. (1975) Bicagin Sirtindali Turkiye: CIA/MIT/Kontr-Gerilla. Istanbul,
38. As quoted in Lobster--The Journal
of Parapolitics, Issue 18, 1989.
39. See Kendal (1993) 'Kurdistan
in Turkey', in Chaliand, G. (ed) A People Without a Country: Kurds and
Kurdistan. London, Zed, p. 78.
40. Mc Dowall, D. (1996) A Modern
History of the Kurds. London, I.B. Tauris, p. 409.
41. Devrim, no. 36 (23rd June, 1970),
and quoted in Mc Dowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, p. 409.
42. Kendal, 'Kurdistan in Turkey',
43. Kendal, 'Kurdistan in Turkey',
44. Burghardt, T. (1998) 'Editor's
Introduction', Antifa Info-Bulletin, Special Edition, May 12, 1998, p.1.
For a detailed description of the drug linked terrorist activities of the
Grey Wolves and NAP, refer to Celik, S. (ed.) (written in 1998) Gangster
State: The Susurluk Crash and the Entanglement of the State, Underworld
and Counter-Guerrillas in Turkey (The English Translation, as yet unpublished).
45. Berberoglu, B. (1982) Turkey
in Crisis. London, Zed, p. 119.
46. Poulton, H. (1997) Top Hat,
Grey Wolf and Crescent: Turkish Nationalism and the Turkish Republic. London,
Hurst and Company, p. 161.
47. As quoted in Poulton, Top Hat,
Grey Wolf and Crescent: Turkish Nationalism and the Turkish Republic, p.
48. Kendal, 'Kurdistan in Turkey',
49. Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk Kontr-Gerillasi,
p. 69 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
50. Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk Kontr-Gerillasi,
p. 69 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
51. Counterspy, Summer 1980, p.
14, as cited in the 'CIABASE files on Death Squads supported by the CIA'
as compiled by Ralph McGehee, 10/11/95.
52. Counterspy, Summer 1980, p.14,
and as cited by Ralph McGehee, 'CIABASE files on Death Squads supported
by the CIA', 10/11/95.
53. Roubatis, Y. and Wynn, K. (1978)
'CIA Operations in Greece', in Agee, P. and Wolf, L. (eds) Dirty Work:
The CIA in Western Europe. London, Zed, p. 149.
54. As quoted in Devrimci Sol (1997)
'The Name of the War Against the People: Contra-Guerrillas,' Devrimci Sol
Revolutionary Left, January 1997, p. 21.
55. Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk Kontr-Gerillasi,
p. 168 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
56. Zurcher (1997) Turkey: A Modern
History. London/New York, IB Tauris, p. 272.
57. As quoted by Earley, P. (1997)
Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames. London, Hodder and
Stoughton, p. 47.
58. Anter notes, for instance, that
"the leader of MIT, General Ziya Selisik, sent a letter ... in 1962 ...
to Yon ('The Way') magazine to be published as a way of warning to 'left-wing
groups' to rethink. He pointed out that all Kurds who were studying were
viewed by the state as communists!" --See Anter, Hatiralarim, p. 217 (As
translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
59. It should be noted here, however,
that doubts have been expressed in some quarters concerning the accuracy
of Elci's claims. For a detailed discussion of this affair, refer to Anter,
Hatiralarim, p. 210-216 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
60. As cited in Fernandes, D. (1996)
Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours:Turkish State Terror, Tourism and
the Kurdish Question. London, KIC, p. 69.
61. Who was CIA director between
1953 and 1961.
62. Simpson, C. (1993) The Splendid
Blond Beast: Money, Law and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. New York,
63. Loftus, J. and Aarons, M. (1997)
The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish
People. New York, St. Martin's Press/Griffin edition, p. 221.
64. Cook, Forging the Alliance:
NATO, 1945-1950, p. 131.
65. Walker, W. (1982) The Next Domino?
London, Corgi, p. 143, 146.
66. Pallister, D. (1990) The Guardian,
5th December, and as cited in Statewatch's (undated) 'Operation Gladio'
file, p. 11.
67. As revealed to Former Prime
Minister Ecevit and as cited in the February 1993 edition of Info Turk
and Fernandes, Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror,
Tourism and the Kurdish Question, p. 69. Refer also to Celik's Turkey's
Killing Machine: The Contra-Guerrilla Force (http://www.hatford-hwp.com/archives/51/017.htm);
Roth, J. and Taylan, K. (1981); Counterspy Vol. VI, No 2, February-April
1982, p. 23-25 and Herman and Brodhead's The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian
Connection, p. 61.
68. Roth, J. and Taylan, K. (1981)
Die Turkei: Republik Unter Wolfen/Turkey: A Republic Ruled By Wolves. Bornheim,
Lamur Verlag, as quoted in Herman, The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection,
69. Hurriyet, 26 November 1992,
and as cited in Celik, Turkey's Killing Machine: The Contra-Guerrilla Force
70. In effect a parallel structure
to the CIA-NATO inspired 'Gladio' paramilitary organisation in Italy, 'Schwert'
('Sword') in Austria, 'SDR-8' in Belgium, 'Glaive' in France, 'Operation
Sheepskin' in Greece, 'Sveaborg' in Sweden, 'P-26' in Switzerland and others
in Denmark, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the
71. Celik, Turkey's Killing Machine:
The Contra-Guerrilla Force (http://www.hatford-hwp.com/archives/51/017.htm).
72. Associated Press release, 14
November, 1990 and as cited in Statewatch's (undated) Operation Gladio
73. See Lee, M.A. (1997) 'On the
Trail of Turkey's Terrorist Grey Wolves', Antifa Info-Bulletin, 10 July,
74. Directive ST 31-15--'Action Against
Irregular Forces'--See Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk Kontr-Gerillasi, p. 77
(As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
75. See Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk
Kontr-Gerillasi, p. 77 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
76. See Celik, Turkey's Killing
Machine: The Contra-Guerrilla Force (http://www.hatford-hwp.com/archives/51/017.htm).
77. See Celik, Turkey's Killing
Machine: The Contra-Guerrilla Force (http://www.hatford-hwp.com/archives/51/017.htm).
78. As cited in Fernandes, Beyond
the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror, Tourism and the
Kurdish Question, p. 69.
79. Flint, J. (1997) Correspondent:
In the Interests of the State. London, BBC 2.
80. See Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk
Kontr-Gerillasi, p. 76 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
81. Directive ST 31/15 for Operations
Against Irregular Forces, as cited in Celik, Turkey's Killing Machine:
The Contra-Guerrilla Force (http://www.hatford-hwp.com/archives/51/017.htm).
82. Franco Salinas, 'State of Emergency'
(p82-88), as cited in Celik, Turkey's Killing Machine: The Contra-Guerrilla
83. Celik, Turkey's Killing Machine:
The Contra-Guerrilla Force (http://www.hatford-hwp.com/archives/51/017.htm).
84. Kurku, E. (1997) 'Turkey: Trapped
in a Web of Covert Killers', Antifa Info-Bulletin, 7 August 1997.
85. As cited/quoted in Fernandes,
Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror, Tourism
and the Kurdish Question, p. 69.
86. As cited/quoted in Fernandes,
Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror, Tourism
and the Kurdish Question, p. 69.
87. As cited/quoted in Fernandes,
Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror, Tourism
and the Kurdish Question, p. 69.
88. Devrimci Sol (1997) 'Who Are
Guilty?', Devrimci Sol, January 1997, p. 31.
89. Human Rights Watch Arms Project
(1995) Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey. New
York, Human Rights Watch, p. 4.
90. See Fernandes, D. (1999) 'The
Kurdish Genocide in Turkey, 1924-98', Armenian Forum, Vol. 1 (4).
91. Human Rights Watch Arms Project,
Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey, p. 17.
92. See Fernandes, Beyond the Paradise
of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror, Tourism and the Kurdish Question,
93. As cited in Fernandes, Beyond
the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror, Tourism and the
Kurdish Question, p. 69.
94. As cited in Fernandes, Beyond
the Paradise of Infinite Colours; Turkish State Terror, Tourism and the
Kurdish Question, p. 71.
95. See Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk
Kontr-Gerillasi, p. 168-169 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
96. A term used by Celik in Olum
Makinasi: Turk Kontr-Gerillasi, p. 87 (As translated into English by Iskender
97. See Celik, Olum Makinasi: Turk
Kontr-Gerillasi, p. 87-88 (As translated into English by Iskender Ozden).
98. Randal, After Such Knowledge,
What Forgiveness? My Encounters with Kurdistan, p. 263.
99. Simpson, Blowback: America's
Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War, p. 62. For further
details on this matter, refer to Christie's book, Stefano Delle Shaie:
Portrait of a Black Terrorist.
100. See Herman and Brodhead, The
Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection, p. 62; Berberoglu, Turkey in
Crisis, p. 126 and Benhabib, S. (1979) 'Right Wing Groups Behind Political
Violence in Turkey', MERIP Reports, Number 77, May 1977, p. 17.
101. Berberoglu, Turkey in Crisis,
102. Lee, M. A. (1997) 'On the Trail
of Turkey's Killers' (http://burn.ucsd.edu/archives/kurd-1/1997.Jun/0006.html).
103. Harris (1990), as quoted in
Fernandes, Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror,
Tourism and the Kurdish Question, p. 69.
104. Berberoglu, Turkey in Crisis,
105. Taken from a Harris (1990)
quote, excerpted from Fernandes, Beyond the Paradise of Infinite Colours:
Turkish State Terror, Tourism and the Kurdish Question, p. 69.
106. Brodhead, F., Friel, H. and
Herman, E. (1985) 'Darkness in Rome: the "Bulgarian Connection" Revisited',
Covert Action Quarterly, No. 23, Spring 1995, p. 28.
107. Kendal, 'Kurdistan in Turkey',
p. 96, and Celik, Gangster State: The Susurluk Crash and the Entanglement
of the State, Underworld and Counter-Guerrillas in Turkey, Chapter 7 (The
English Translation, as yet unpublished).
108. Poulton (1997) Top Hat, Grey
Wolf and Crescent: Turkish Nationalism and the Turkish Republic, p. 151.
109. See Clark, W (1999) 'Byzantine
Politics: The Abduction and Trial of Abdullah Ocalan', Variant Supplement,
Autumn 1999, p. 3 (quoting from an excerpt from Covert Action Quarterly,
110. Covert Action (No. 61), as
quoted by Clark, W (1999) 'Byzantine Politics: The Abduction and Trial
of Abdullah Ocalan,' p. 3.
111. Celik (1995) Olum Makinasi:
Turk Kontr-Gerillasi (Death Mission: The Turkish Contra-Guerrilla), p.
70, as translated into English by Iskender Ozden.
112. Celik, Gangster State: The
Susurluk Crash and the Entanglement of the State, Underworld and Counter-Guerrillas
in Turkey, Chapter 7 (The English Translation, as yet unpublished).
113. Devrimci Sol (1997) 'Who Are
Guilty?', Devrimci Sol, January 1997, p. 30.
114. Devrimci Sol, 'Catli Was in
Cyprus with Topal: Radikal--Press Clippings from Turkey on the Susurluk
Scandal', Devrimci Sol, January 1997, p. 29. See also Devrimci Sol (1997)
'Who Are Guilty?,' Devrimci Sol, January 1997, p. 30.
115. See Aktuel magazine, no. 282,
1996, 'Gladio took Abdullah Catli to USA.'
116. Devrimci Sol, 'Agca and Celik
in Danger: Sabah--Press Clippings from Turkey on the Susurluk Scandal',
Devrimci Sol, January 1997, p. 23.
117. Devrimci Sol, 'The Catli-CIA
Link: Aydinlik--Press Clippings from Turkey on the Susurluk Scandal,' Devrimci
Sol, January 1997, p. 24.
118. See Aktuel magazine, no. 282,
1996, 'Gladio took Abdullah Catli to USA.'
119. Herman and Brodhead, The Rise
and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection, p. 62.
120. Berberoglu, Turkey in Crisis,
121. Harriss (1990), as cited in
Fernandes, The Paradise of Infinite Colours: Turkish State Terror, Tourism
and the Kurdish Question, p. 72. See also Herman, E. (1982) The Real Terror
Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda. Boston, South End Press, p.
122. Savran, S., Tanor, B. and Vassaf,
G. (1987) Out of Order: Turkish Universities and Totalitarianism. London,
World University Service, p. 8. Savran, Tanor and Vassaf cite the Birand
source as: Birand, M. A. (1984) 12 Eylul Saat 04.00. Istanbul, Karacan
Yayinlari, p. 286-287.
123. Aay, S. (1999) Paul Henze:
Scholar or Ethiopian Propagandist? (http://www.primenet.com/~ephrem2/articles/henze_sal.html).
124. Mc Dowall, D. (1992) The Kurds:
A Nation Denied. London, Minority Rights Publications, p. 44.
125. Herman, E. (1982) The Real
Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda. Boston, South End Press,
126. Berberoglu, Turkey in Crisis,
127. Mc Dowall, A Modern History
of the Kurds, p. 414.
128. Mc Dowall, The Kurds: A Nation
Denied, p. 44.
129. Mc Dowall, A Modern History
of the Kurds, p. 414.
130. Rayne, T. (1992) 'Introduction'
to We Put Our Trust In The Kurdish People: Abdullah Ocalan, General Secretary,
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)--Interviews And Speeches. London, KSC-KIC
Publications, p. 2.
131. KSC-KIC (1992) 'Biographical
Notes' in We Put Our Trust In The Kurdish People: Abdullah Ocalan, General
Secretary, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)--Interviews And Speeches. London,
KSC-KIC Publications, p. 6.
132. For a detailed insight into
the matter, see Fernandes, 'The Kurdish Genocide in Turkey, 1924-98', p.
133. Wake Up (1996) 'British Intelligence
and Covert Action: How the British State Supports International Terrorism',
Wake Up, Number 11, p. 48.
Interpretation in Literary Practice
People involved in the practice
of literary art are often asked about their sense of identity, their sense
of place; do others interpret their work correctly? what is it about their
background etc? what makes them want to be writers?
These questions are sometimes
shot-through with marketing spin. Nevertheless, there is no denying that
they are important. Whether the answers to the questions are of any use
is debatable, but the process of trying to answer, of thinking about them,
is certainly useful. What follows is a collage concerning these issues.
From Robert Burns to W. S. Graham1:
Beyonds, Roundabouts & Backwards
Whilst making some biographical notes
on the Paisley poet Robert Tannahill (1774-1810) around 1995 I put the
following in brackets--
It is time to forget about the unhelpful
categorising of some writers as local, minor talents and others as wonderful
magicians of universal truth.
This was around the time Tom Leonard's
Reports from the Present was published by Jonathan Cape. Leonard, in a
superb series of 3 essays titled "Art as Encounter"2,
tackles issues relevant to the above head on.
There is an e.e. cummings poem which
since feeling is first
who pays attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you
What this meant to cummings himself
I have no idea, nor can I remember which poem it comes from or in which
book it appears. But to me it is saying something akin to the arguments
put by Leonard. That is, of course, if one first of all dispenses with
a literalist interpretation based on classical Cartesian duality. There
is a political dimension to these lines, just as there is in Leonard's
essays: so, let me say something political:
Control of political institutions
means control over language.
Control over language means control
of political institutions.
In light of this, W. S. Graham's
question "What is the language using us for?" takes on an extra dimension,
additional to being an exploration of the possibilities of communication.
I say this silence or, better, construct
So that somehow something may move
The caught habits of language to
you and me.
From where we are it is not us we
And times are hastening yet, disguise
The times continually disclose our
Here in the present tense disguise
The trying times are hastening.
Yet here I am
More truly now this abstract act
from The Constructed Space, W.S.
But at a deeper level it was one
of Shakespeare's great statements about art, that he knows he's doing this
for you, he knows that you know it, and what he's saying is that Art is
so precious because only in it can an object come to have human life in
Who the fuck cares? Mad and obscure
auld bastard that I am. Wondering where asides fall in and out. What does
that mean? What does that?
Robert Burns (1759-96), magnificent
writer that he was, has become a national icon more tarnished than the
most garish, phoney tartan. The marketing of Burns has everything to do
with tourism and nothing to do with literature. Burns is the quintessential
symbol of the commodification of a writer. The same thing has been inflicted
on Shakespeare by the English/British State/Establishment. Only a fool,
or someone who whole-heartedly supports the underlying assumptions of free-market
capitalism, would not lament this state of affairs. To put it in those
free-market terms, every thing must have a realisable market value, from
a person to an art work to space exploration, there has to be some means
of extracting a profit. But before this can happen the thing must be objectified,
made part of that value system or canon and stripped of its inherent value
as a thing in itself. Autonomy must be suppressed.
This is the assumption which underlies
how the global market is run and it is underpinned by the principle embodied
in the previous statement that:
Control of political institutions
means control over language.
Control over language means control
of political institutions.
It is for this reason that the "local"
is so important. It implies a sense of place and experience of life that
can be, to some extent, controlled and apprehended on an ordinary human
scale. This can help folk find their own sense of identity and give them
the confidence to move further into the world beyond their locale, assured
of the intrinsic value they have as human beings. As folk who can act to
make the world the better (or worse) the way they want to.
In a certain sense, all the particular
localities are different and the same simultaneously. Flannery O'Connor,
Robert Burns, Robert Tannahill, all of us really, are most honest about
ourselves (or most ourselves?) when engaged closely with our immediate
In light of the note in bold at
the start of this section, the Edinburgh-based writer Dilys Rose suggested
I look at the work of the American writer Eudora Welty. This is what Welty
said about the use of the local as a limiting term to pigeon-hole writers:
"Regional" I think, is a careless
term, as well as a condescending one, because what it does is fail to differentiate
between the localized raw material of life and its outcome as art. "Regional"
is an outsider's term; it has no meaning for the insider who is doing the
writing, because as far as he knows he is simply writing about life.
What is the matter with Franz
I wonder if there is anything
the matter? precisely that is what is the matter. If there is nothing the
matter I wonder why, yet if there is something genuinely making me ill
I am puzzled as to what to do. Always what ails me is my mind. I am mentally
ill, the illness in my lungs is merely a manifestation of that affliction.
It is immaterial that I am ill.
The gulf between those two worlds;
the world of the dreaming mind where my imagination might release me from
the physically dishevelled actual world, is sometimes preferable. To occupy
the gulf itself is a pleasure; though this pleasure does not last as it
impossible to remain a long time at that place. The place I have titled
the gulf. Only there am I released from the purgatory of the physical.
How am I to know this for sure?
There was, I assure you, a time
when I wished that Louise would kill me. The strength of this feeling was
not, however, always constant. Sometimes it vanished completely. Then I
was forced to consider the reliability of my own thought processes. This,
I imagine, is what mortals, live human beings all suffer from; and it is
easy to understand how such is related to the general propensity of people
to exercise free will. The indulgence of which may be seen as a certain
source of satisfaction. Imbuing one with a feeling of wellbeing.
Again, as I sat musing on some
problem, the case of another, another afflicted with lung disease and wishing
to claim, quite correctly, their entitlement from my employers, The Insurance
Institute, I wondered what was the matter with me.
I have never been afraid of asbestos.
I have failed myself and others
in various different ways which in reality amount to nothing but a dark
street, empty and lifeless. Of course I have spent time studying the law,
took a slight interest in the Gaelic language. It has surrounded me. I
know it in a certain sense though it is not mine. Language is not really
to be possessed at all. I think not. Again and again I wondered what was
wrong with me. What was the matter? Possibly cancer. Maybe weakness. General
weakness of the spirit. Magnified debility. The inability to overcome.
Yet not so. Such was not in my
public demeanour. Not in any obvious way. Yet if what is the matter is
that there is nothing the matter then evidently there is something the
matter. A sentence can take on its momentum. Go in a direction one is not
at all sure of. Not all writing is deliberate. Nor is every word put down
with conscious intent. The fact is that a very many people know this and
yet do not appear to be aware of it at the same time; if such is the case
then fact it is not.
What is the fact of a thought?
Where did the small group of
students go? They too studied law. Were vaguely acquainted with myself.
If the night was wet it might be that they simply had gone indoors. Entered
It cannot be possible to mistrust
so greatly, that both the mental and physical realities of life are cast
into doubt. Yet all language is unreliable; English, Gaelic, French, Czech,
German, Yiddish, Hopi. All of it. Or perhaps none. And how to translate
between all and none, or from one person to another, without a loss somehow
Is it true about my thought processes?
The fact that Kafka did not come
from Germany but an émigré community in Prague possibly contributed
to the originality of his voice4. He was in
a marginal community, and marginalised still more within that community
because he was Jewish. Prague German was not an identical language to the
standard German of the time.
Place, Peers & Tradition
Where does one place oneself? I don't
know: in a certain sense, that of geographical location, being in a country
or a city is irrelevant but at the same time it is one of the most important
facts in the formation of what is called identity, person-hood or sense
of self. This contradiction5 arises for the
While I love Glasgow and Scotland
I am always disappointed with where I live and happen to have been born.
Whether this is a personal failing I do not know but it is associated with
feeling a lack of freedom. There is an awful lot of cramping of creativity,
for all sorts of reasons, but mostly I think to do with social class, religion
and negative attitudes towards others connected with sexism and race snobbery.
This is mixed with other judgmental attitudes and stereotyping; poets are
gay, writers are mad or eccentric, if you're not making much money why
do you do it? Just a complete lack of understanding of what it is to be
a literary artist. (Or any other practising artist).
I used to think I was a poet, now
I only think that occasionally; where tradition might offer comfort and
a sense of fitting in for some people, I have never really felt this greatly.
The only thing I know is that I love the sounds of peoples' voices. If
there is any kind of "tradition" I feel an affinity for it is the idea
of using language in a way that recognises words as sounds, as noises.
Even from the page I want to feel the breath of a writer. Their cadences,
the song of themselves, to paraphrase Whitman. My peers are interesting,
as writers, only in so far as I can feel the breath and honesty of their
writing. Of course as human beings they are more important than that. Almost
everyone is. A person is much more than the sum-total of their work.
I wish we had more fun in this culture.
But then, even the Gloomy Winter6 has its
good points. You always have to be optimistic. Even if it's a bleak kind
of optimism. That is what I am for, bleak optimism: I think, maybe, Camus
was involved with something like that.
Descartes and all that
It is difficult to think about questions
of identity without the old dichotomy of the inner and outer life popping
up. The psychological and the physical, the inside the head and the out
there. But maybe that's all just bullshit. Maybe there is no dichotomy
at all and everything just is. Outer/ inner/ thinking/ other peoples' thinking/
the external physical world, maybe it's all just the one thing, just life:
being alive and experiencing what it is to be alive and the argument, so
well described by Descartes is just a fine detail, a kind of trivial spectroscopy
which in the absolute sense doesn't matter a fuck.
However, even if one were to accept
the "wholeness" of it all, it gets us no further forward in the argument
as to what it means to have sense of identity, except perhaps that one
is less fragmented than folk who have fallen for Descartes.
It seems to me that at a fundamental
level identity is accidental, but this quasi-objective viewpoint also has
its difficulties: because as individual human beings who we are, is so
very important. And if we think we know who we are then another kind of
dualism comes in. This is the idea of those who are not ourselves being
other, those who come from a different place, have different ideas and
practices, eat different food, use a different linguistic code. Then one
should ask the question--What does that matter? Essentially, the problem
of difference is the fundamental problem of identity. To have an identity
there must be some other; there must be a different identity which one
can compare one's own against. The real question then is whether this awareness
of otherness makes you fearful or curious. If folk become fearful then
we have the war situation, the defence response, which is very natural
in the animal world. Nevertheless it always appeals to me, as an individual
to be curious, to want to know and understand what other people are about.
All this is probably self evident, sometimes the obvious is easy, like
Newtonian mechanics before Einstein, but it is also easy to overlook.
Who knows? the world is the place
where we live, the best I can do is try to make it as good as I can. Always
this will fail; but in the trying maybe folk become better. Maybe they
don't become irrational murderers. This is an interminable question, there
is no end of it until there is an end to human beings, or we evolve to
a state of being which would be unrecognisable to anyone alive at present.
Of course, there are those who believe
that all folk need to have to have a sense of identity is a religion. Even
such a singular view is fraught with problems: which religion? what for?
why? does religious faith make people feel any better?
Predestination, Fate, Coincidence
Flannery O'Connor's A Good
Man is Hard to Find
This story is essentially about a
particular kind of morality and world view. The view is Christian. Yet
the characters can never live up to the ideals of Christianity and so must
suffer. The idea of predestination; that everything is determined by God
for eternity and that human's must suffer or love this state of affairs
There is a sense of narrative distance--the
narrator as God--the voice of the narrator being very detached from the
story and the characters; the matter of fact style of narration, one might
say bears some relation to a Presbyterian theological outlook. There is
also the possibility of a non-Christian fatalism; that the fate of the
characters cannot be avoided, whether or not there is a God. It's just
that the people in this story, especially the grandmother, happen to believe
that there is. For the grandmother God might offer her a kind of redemption
in this life by letting her live. But he does not. God is not always merciful.
As The Misfit said. "It's no real pleasure in life." But then The Misfit
is clearly not a good man. He is a serial killer with a Messianic complex.
This is the story of the brutal
murder of six members of the one family; the grandmother, the mother and
father and three children. The fact that they appear to end up dead through
the actions of the grandmother and her cat may or not be significant. There
may be some kind of symbolism involving the cat and the grandmother. If
the grandmother had never taken the cat in the car then they would all
still be alive. If the grandmother had had her own way in the first place
they would have gone elsewhere and still be alive. However, the story unfolds
with a relentless logic of its own, a kind of predetermined logic whereby
the only thing that can happen is that this family end up dead.
No doubt there are many possible
interpretations of this story and its meaning etc. but I agree with Susan
By reducing a work of art to it
contents and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation
makes art manageable, comfortable.8
However, there is a different kind
of interpretation,--perhaps many--whereby one is moved into something of
greater consequence and significance than the mere content of the work.
It is that leap into the almost intangible space where art has a particular
impact on individuals and changes them. Where a work moves one to a new
place, a different place to that which existed before the encounter.
Another possible interpretation
of A Good Man is Hard to Find would be that of the corrupting influence
of the "American dream." Something that has come to have significance for
millions of people owing to the Hollywood effect or US cultural imperialism.
O'Connor demonstrates how this materialist striving affects behaviour and
From the offset the grandmother
is defeated by the attitude of her son Bailey and his silent wife. It is
also significant that the only one she cries for is her own son "Bailey
Boy." Maybe this has no significance whatever!!
It certainly is relevant to compare
the work of Ms O'Connor to that of Arthur Miller. This is such a frustrating
tale of the chase, just like the chase of Willy Loman . Who could have
a daughter called June Star and a son named Biff in their separate works,
and not share the same angst?
The magnetic draw of the "American
dream" is so romantically approached by the grandmother, when at first
she recalls the tale of the lover who arrives every Saturday with the simple
gift of a watermelon. Immediately, this is disregarded by the obnoxious
children as their grandmother's nostalgic love, yet harks back to a more
innocent age. Eventually, the grandmother's naivete (goodness) is uncovered
as a mere pretence for her own lack of faith.The choice of destination
is sad for the grandmother due to the fond memories she has of Tennessee
and Georgia, which she would like the spoiled children to have the chance
to experience. Instead, they head off as a family for the promised land
of Florida which they have visited before!
En route, she remembers a house,
just a few miles from the road they are driving down, she visited as a
young woman. In order to persuade the family to indulge in her nostalgia
and do the necessary detour she tells the children of a hidden panel where
the family who lived there hid all their silver. Immediately the children
insist on visiting the house. Driving down the dirt track towards the house
the grandmother remembers that they aren't on the right road at all; this
journey has taken a wrong turn.
It's completely wild that from this
point until the end of the story, which is only a few more pages each member
of the family is murdered. It is here that Ms O'Connor reveals the fatalism
of the journey; which is symbolic of the dichotomy between materialism
and the kind of Christian Fundamentalism found in the American south.
No one is innocent.
1. W. S. (Sydney) Graham was born
in Greenock in 1918. He died in 1986. Much of his adult life was spent
at St. Ives in Cornwall. The best edition I have found of his work is Collected
Poems 1942-1977, Faber, London, 1979. See also: Edinburgh Review no.75,
Polygon, 1987. The Constructed Space--A Celebration of W. S. Graham, Jackson's
Arm, Lincoln, 1994 .
2. Tom Leonard, Reports from the
Present, Jonathan Cape, London, 1995, pp.19-62.
3. Ibid, p.29.
4. In this context there is the
ever present problem of translation from one language to another, but I
think this problem can be solved to some extent by reading different translators.
Though it is always better if one can read an author in the original language.
5. There is also the contradiction
between genetic inheritance and learned behaviour. Perhaps, in essence,
another form of the argument about free will and predestination.
6. See Robert Tannahill, Poems and
Songs, Ed. Semple, Gardner, Paisley, 1876, p.198.
7. Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man
is Hard to Find, Women's Press Edition, London, 1980.
8. Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation.
Care, Diligence and Skill
A handbook for the governing
bodies of arts organisations
The Scottish Arts Council £5.00
Imagine a book which finally explains
how to organise things in the arts, and that this has been compiled over
a period of twenty years by the people at the very top of the Arts Council,
with the assistance of legal and financial experts. Well its been around
for some time: the fifth edition of Care, Diligence and Skill (CD&S)
is to be re-printed and updated some time this year; although it is a surprise
it was funded, given the present criteria. It is aimed at a tiny audience,
which by its own reckoning meet for only 18 hours each year. Although almost
completely useless, the publication's history, the people behind it, how
and why it came about--its underlying assumptions--reveals a very negative
The 1986 version attacked 'non-incorporated
organisations' inciting that these vital and diverse forms be discouraged,
disenfranchised and branded as inherently useless:
"In short, the unincorporated association
is not appropriate for any organisation proposing to undertake ventures
of any significance, to handle large sums of money, to own or lease property
or to assume legal commitments."
This has been retained in all four
editions and is one of the few points the book makes. No explanation or
evidence is offered for the hypothesis. I would assume it is because individuals
cannot escape being held responsible for the consequences of their own
Any serious revision should re-evaluate
this generalisation in the light of the enduring success of artist-run
projects (mostly unincorporated associations) and the spectacular collapse
(and expensive bailing out and quasi-legal swindling of creditors) of numerous
thoroughly incorporated associations throughout the UK during the '80s
In the arts things have to start
somewhere, and they tend to start small. This book imagines that artwork
comes from nowhere. To offer a self-fulfilling prophecy where all artist-run
projects are deemed improper purely through their existence is poor leadership.
Historically this dogma inhibited or prevented the funding of artist-run
projects at a crucial point in their development. Suspicions of ignorance
or worse are aroused when what is presented as a positive guide for arts
organisations, seems better described as a negative document proscribing
what is allowed. In this review I will show that its root aims are to limit
and exclude and that they are ideologically flawed.
Bored of Directors
So who should be running arts organisations?
The answer given in CD&S is an illogical, tortuous, encroachment of
"First and foremost a board needs
one or more members with professional knowledge of the relevant art form.
Of equal importance is having a person with a knowledge of finance, banking,
accounts and law. A business executive...may be valuable." [emphasis added]
They may also run off with the money.
But not all people with business acumen are untrustworthy. Similarly, the
SAC failed to realise that not all unincorporated organisation are "not
appropriate," simply because they are unyielding to appropriation because
they do not believe that promises of commercial exploitation will lead
to the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Artists have the right not to act as a
wholesale propriety for certain standards of conformity and ownership as
dictated by finance, banking and business executives. No one holds these
kinds of jobs up as paragons of virtue anymore anyway. The many ways artists
have organised themselves (at no great expense to the tax payer) is written
out of this handbook because they haven't got a clue about what actually
CD&S' advice on professionalism
is amateurish. It comes from a period when arts funding (by that I mean
actually funding art) was unbalanced and conditioned by obsessive propaganda
that the social value of art should be welded to crackpot versions of the
'values of the marketplace'. A very politicised period which pretended
not to be.
The proud chairman of the SAC when
CD&S first emerged was the economist Sir Alan Peacock, at the time
a trustee of the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA); eventually joining
its advisory council in '91, when questions were asked in the House of
Commons concerning its status and activities. These aimed to establish
that it was covertly a political organisation, and thus unworthy of its
charitable status. An allegation often levelled at small misunderstood
The economics or 'standards' propounded
by the IEA, which were openly taken up by the Tory government in '82, were,
"...more denationalisation of industry;
an extension of private medicine; the introduction of education vouchers...;
and more anti-union legislation."1
The formal political manifestation
of the "nominally independent" IEA was the Margaret Thatcher and Keith
Joseph led, Centre for Policy Studies (CPS):
"Both were in the propaganda business.
Both have offices in relatively unassuming private houses in SW1."2
The CPS concentrated on the Universities,
the IEA on Fleet Street and the City, Sir Alan was appointed by the government,
to concentrate on the SAC.
Founded in the '50s by Lord Ralph
Harris, the IEA was the first organisation in the UK to publish Milton
Friedman's monetarist economics. It gets weirder. Investigative journalists
say it later took an active part in the cabals which covertly drove the
Conservative party rightwards in the 70s. Arthur Seldon, deputy for Lord
Harris, wrote a book with the notorious MI6 operative, Brian Crozier. Lord
Harris himself shared a platform with Crozier and John Gouriet of the Freedom
Association (founded by the far-right McWhirter twins) addressing the officers
of the Army Staff College at Camberly circa '75. This was an effort to
encourage direct military intervention against "internal subversion" i.e.
the left.3 Those were the days.
The IEA are more well known for
their work in the field of privatisation. It was they who commissioned
Stephen Littlechild in '81 to write the paper "Ten steps to denationalisation,"
Littlechild later became one of the four "regulators" who oversaw 20% of
the UK's GDP in the form of the four utilities Gas, Water, Electricity
and Telecommunications. The IEA also influenced the Tory Government's minimum
wage policy,4 promoted the racist notion that
"non-traditional" families (i.e. black and Asian) produce more delinquent
children5 and advocated that "student loans
should be charged at a higher rate of interest."6
Mrs Thatcher herself stated that
"What we have achieved could never
have been done without the leadership of the IEA."7
An IEA type influence on the SAC
can be discerned in CD&S, in the form of this politically biased managerialism.
'Administration' is a vehicle of political persuasion because it produces
an illusion of impartiality while striking at the heart at how the arts
are (and can be) funded and organised. Arts policy of the period tried
to develop forms of privatisation. The Arts Council was perceived as a
body, stemming from the post-war creation of the "welfare state," which
came under such assault (through privatisation) by the Tory party; itself
guided by the IEA.
These drives encouraged the assumption
that business is somehow apolitical. For instance: if we adopt the outline
given in CD&S, it follows that an exhibition sponsored by Shell and
ran by an organisation which contains executives from Shell, is the best
suited to promote the work of radical Nigerian writers whose work deals
with the activities of Shell in Nigeria.8
One can view the tendencies inherent in independent or indigenous or artist-run
projects as running counter to these notions because they lack faith in
what provisions they make for cultural freedom.
Going down under
CD&S says itself that it was
based on an Australian book written by Timothy Pascoe in 1979. His time
with the Australian Arts Council is viewed as a reactionary response to
media attacks on spending on the arts, which began as a minor part of the
campaign which saw the Whitlam Labor Government peremptorily dismissed
in '75. In politics a soft targets get easy answers. The new government
with its (highly publicised attitude of) 'financial accountability' towards
the arts, came at a time of newspaper headlines inveighing against 'subsidised
scribblers' similar to the orchestrated outcry over the Tate's 'piles of
bricks' in the UK. When the 1983 Labor Government re-took office (under
Bob Hawke) it did not replicate Whitlam's largesse; keeping to the reactionary
'financial accountability' position on the arts, suspiciously similar to
the arts paranoia being run now by the UK Labour party. The Australian
experience is a useful mirror of our own because it ran ahead during the
ugly craziness of UK Conservative control.
"By now the business men and women
were moving in and meeting government on its own terms. The Australian
Ballet went on strike over relations with management. In 1982 Timothy Pascoe,
arts business adviser and former director of the Liberal Party, became
executive chairman and set about 'restructuring' the Council."9
In 1983, Pascoe's "Excellence Isn't
Always", pretentiously outlined the 'negative effects' of the past government's
arts doctrine, as a preamble to justify cuts and the positive effects of
adherance to the new doctrine (potential funding!). Tim Rowse, a writer
on Australian arts, in his 1996 'Arguing the Arts' puts forward Pascoe's'
"He proposed that the Council formulate
a clearer definition of excellence, that it include innovation more prominently
in its criteria of the excellent and that it 'limit the number and value
of subsidies and programs relating to excellence'."10
The function of Pascoe's writing
was not as a statement of Council policy. It was to insinuate a new persistent
rhetoric to limit and exclude what arts organisations could do if they
expected their bread to be buttered. Some social Darwinism had just popped
into existence. According to Rowse:
"Into its uses are packed a number
of deeply felt assumptions about the relationship between Art and power.
'Excellence' reverberates with that bourgeois utopianism in which money
and political power are politely separated from and subordinated to the
higher things of life, such as Art. Excellence makes another implicit and
equally utopian appeal to its users; it implies the user has an authority
to make distinctions of quality and intelligence and to have those distinctions
accepted as authoritative throughout the nation. It implies a kind of sovereignty
of good taste. Excellence is a language of the powerful, which effaces
the social basis of that power."11
Katharine Brisbane's "The Arts and
the Pre-emptive Buckle" provides further inside assessment of Pascoe's
worth. An original member of the Australia Council, writing in 1999, she
speaks critically about the Faustian bargain whereby the larger organisations
had become the captives of their sponsors and subscribers, more 'mono-cultural'
and regressive than they were in the '50s and '60s.
She identifies Pascoe's pursuit
of bureaucratically contrived forms of 'excellence' in others, as a root
problem. The authors of CD&S viewed his work uncritically as the basis
for a solution. Brisbane categories the practical out-working of Pascoe's
policies as a period where the growth and career of the artist was left
out of the equation, with their working conditions suggesting that they
were seen as no more than "pabulum for production values". She criticises
those who have acquiesced to the climate of dependence, bounded by guidelines
which conspire against individual artists entering public controversy;
or revealing the reality of their lives. Guidelines which set at a premium
the young, the new and the correct while discounting everyone else in the
name of 'inclusion.'
"The ABC's John Cleary has coined
a phrase to describe this condition. He calls it the Pre-emptive Buckle.
The occasion was a discussion with Rev. Tim Costello about the rise of
gambling addiction in Victoria and his perception that the charities now
dealing with the problem had earlier failed to oppose government-supported
gambling for fear of losing their subsidies. It was, said Cleary, a pre-emptive
buckle. I believe that 30 years of subsidy has brought about a similar
genuflexion in the arts' way of thinking: I think it is time for a moratorium."12
As with the UK, the Australian Arts
Council was devised by bankers. Dr. Coombs, who retired as Chairman of
the Reserve Bank to form the Australia Council, was one of the iconic figures
in the history of fiscal policy not unlike Keynes. According to Brisbane--who
was appointed by Coombs--as Pascoe and the Australia Council moved in line
with the arts policy of the Federal Government:
"The changes lost sight of community,
of the reasons we once believed making the arts was important: that the
pursuit of excellence, by its nature, has divided the arts from everyday
life...In pursuit of 'professionalism' healthy amateur culture was discarded.
Subsidy to new competitors drove the commercial theatre to bankruptcy.
Early support for research and development sought from universities was
eroded by ill-run residencies and mutual distrust. The politics of subsidy
inevitably ensured that the product became the measure of progress, not
the arduous process of artistic development. No national cultural policy
was drawn up which took account of all the aspects of cultural life. No
industrial infrastructure was built to support the artist from youth to
Does this sound familiar? The Australia
Council's major problem related to Pascoe being accountable to government,
who will dogmatically want short-term visible results and be recalcitrant
towards long-term 'invisible' investment. Brisbane is an ex-colleague of
Pascoe's summing up his performance as chief executive. According to CD&S
"the chief executive...is the key
person in determining the success or failure of an organisation."
In Scotland, back in '86, the then
chairman of the SAC, little Timothy Mason (who had worked for the Australian
Arts Council from 77 to 80) and his acquaintance Paul Pia, who worked next
door to the SAC's Charlotte Square offices, took Pascoe's other work "Strengthening
the Covenant's of arts organisations" and used it as the basis for CD&S.14
Paul Pia puts pay to the Biblical
warning that 'no man can have many masters'. His interest in the SAC stems
from his use of 'culture' as a veil in his 'activities' as a middle-man
for multi-nationals. As a member of Scottish Council for Development and
Industry and Scottish Financial Enterprise he is in an envious position
to advise development agencies as to which multi-national should get the
cash and also while chairman of the Japan Society of Scotland and director
of the Scottish North American Business Council advise the "multi-national
companies on international trade and inward and outward investments." Ideally
the multi-national comes in, gets a grant from nice development agencies
and the profits go outward under the name of urban renewal or the latest
political slogan, then the multi-national goes away. During the process,
while they are waiting they may brush against some art.
According to his blurb what Pia
does is set up "appropriate corporate structures for international business;
international tax and transfer pricing; international contracts; international
protection of industrial property rights and issues of risk management."15
He is also a member of the Scottish
Oil Club (Scotland being the only country to discover oil and get poorer),
a legal firm W & J Burness and a fellow of the Institute of Directors.
Through acting for large numbers of businesses from North America, continental
Europe, the Far East and the Pacific Rim, Pia is used to dealing with companies
from different business and legal cultures, and indeed quasi-illegal cultures:
what is legal in one place may need more discretion in another.16
You should see what RTZ get away with.
Laurence Harbottle of the show-biz
law firm Harbottle & Lewis (who handle Richard Branson) are cited for
further legal advice and assistance with CD&S. Someone should contact
him and enquire whether he wants to be a witness for the prosecution or
the defence. In his article 'Do We Want An Arts Council?' published in
'99, Harbottle puts the Arts council on trial, focusing first on the Lottery:
"The modern Arts world has also
been seriously affected by the Lottery. It might have been a new dawn but
proved otherwise. We have lived through three stages: the first employing
a welter of consultancies saw the Lottery, having spent money lavishly
on its own organisation and a plethora of business plans, giving profligate
awards; the second saw the problem of matching funding absorbing private
and charitable funds which should have been spent more productively; the
third saw the Government robbing the bank in ill advised tribute to its
own distant origins."
Then he becomes a character witness
for the kind of people the Arts Council em...get to advise it:
"The Arts Council itself always
had difficulty in finding sufficient staff with sympathetic knowledge.
Multiplying Regional Arts Boards across the country makes the task ten
times more difficult. A new untrained Civil Service is the result and accordingly
instead of reacting to artistic initiative both Council and Boards take
refuge in formulae, using patterns to create pictures they can recognise
and then providing a limited number of stock reactions to fit the patterns
they have themselves created. Regional Boards which fail to accept any
Court of Appeal or even the superiority of the Arts Council, cause structural
rigidity. Inadequate provision, uncertainty about continuity, lack of funding
in adversity, capital funding without sustained support, untrained bureaucrats,
self reproducing oligarchies, the distancing of experienced practitioners
all provide a bitter inheritance."17
This is not exactly a testimony
for the defence. We should realise that in respect of CD&S many readers
will feel that the advice must cut both ways. The Arts Council is a "governing
body of arts organisations" itself: the target audience of CD&S. Is
it actually able to take the advice of its legal advisor? The reality of
the "bitter inheritance" identified by Harbottle is--yes, the situation
whereby the same people (DEMOS being the worst and himself included) advise,
administrate and run arts organisations for their own financial gain--but
also it is the effect it has on the lives of those who choose to be artists.
The criminal waste of lost opportunities. With his previous chairmanship
of the ICA, Harbottle is as guilty as anyone here.
How can experience be brought to
bear on an organisation which does not want to hear it? Harbottle's 'new
structures' will not emerge from feeble publications such as CD&S,
which he endorses, but which deliberately exclude and ignore. The meagre
legal advice given in CD&S states that you should 'seek advice'. One
also wonders why in the light of his criticisms the firm have let their
company name endorse bathetic statements like this from page 21 of CD&S:
"Lobbying for public grants and
donation. A board that fails to lobby vigorously for grants and donations
from public bodies is leaving its organisation at a competitive disadvantage
relative to other arts organisations and other community projects. It is
inappropriate to explore here the intricacies of lobbying. However, any
board that is unaware of how to go about it should quickly seek a board
member who does."
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition
And this is the problem with criticising
this book--it may be the product of the best minds we have had running things
in Scotland: but it is almost impossible to take seriously. The frightening
thing is that CD&S (unchanged for decades) is also touted in a SAC
Report on financial monitoring as one of the three things offered to assist
the four Scottish national companieswho have merged their administration--from
future (further) collapse:
"To assist boards, SAC funds a development
programme, produces a publication to assist new board members and trustees
to understand their responsibilities and duties, and encourages those with
an interest in the arts to become board members. Advice on the range of
skills represented on a board which an arts organisation is likely to find
beneficial in managing its affairs is also provided."18
Of course sound business sense these
days can mean sacking most of your employees and getting things done cheaper,
preferably in places where you can get away with murder. But even the consultants
for the above report observed an anomaly which underlines the impractical
nature of CD&S' long-term advocacy of simulating an idealised business
structure predicated on the profit motive:
"Companies supported by SAC are
encouraged to accumulate reserves and provisions, (General Conditions of
Grant), because of the lack of any initial capital sum it is extremely
difficult for any arts organisation, which is effectively prohibited from
generating profit by its charitable aims, to create sufficient contingency
against future losses or to make further investment."19
Fundamental criticisms of the Arts
Council also point to the organisational secrecy and unaccountability.
Although personal enmity motivated the exchange, this surfaced in the Scottish
Executive's questioning of the present chair of the SAC at Select Committee
on 16/12/97. Here the chairman is honest enough to state that a genuine
appeals procedure rather than the present sham would get in the way of
how the SAC does things and the government's immutable plans for the arts:
"[Mr McAllion] What kind of appeals
procedure is it that does not even allow the appellant to be present when
a decision about them is being taken? This appeals procedure which you
operate is honestly unparalleled throughout the whole of government in
this country. It would not be tolerated in any other area of government.
(Mr Linklater) If you do not mind me saying so, I think you are overstating
it. [Mr McAllion] Except the police. Maybe the police would be a parallel
but nobody else. (Mr Linklater) I would like to make this central point
which I think goes to the heart of what you were saying. If every time
The Arts Council either withdrew a grant, withheld a grant, or decided
that a revenue funded grant should not be renewed, if every time we took
that decisionand we take that kind of decision the whole time, it
is part of our duty and our joban organisation disagreed with that
(and of course they disagree, they all disagree with it, I know of no arts
organisation that has willingly said, "Thank you for taking away our grant,
we are delighted you took that decision", they all oppose it naturally)
and you then said that each of those decisions should be a matter for appeal
and that an outside independent body should then rule on it, we might as
well give up our strategy altogether."
That refers to the old strategy,
not the present one, or the new one. Later exchanges reveal that the ideas
behind the present restructuring of the SAC were pre-emptive of whatever
restructuring the new Scottish Executive would desire.
Care Diligence & Fascism
The Arts Council struggles with
the difficult pretence of implementing a government arts policy which the
government themselves stated should be judged on their performance directly
running the New Millenium Experience Company. I doubt very much that Timothy
Mason the director of the Museums and Galleries Commission--which advises
rich people on tax avoidance--who left when it was 're-structured' in 2000
(to be run by Lloyd Grossman), will be passing out copies of his CD&S
to help Museum directors with their present difficulties. According to
an article in the Evening Standard 30/10/00 the folly of government 'control'
will continue on grander scale. They had been leaked a confidential working
paper which said that:
"...the Prime Minister should appoint
the chairmen [sic] of such institutions as the National Gallery, the British
Museum, the Science and Natural History Museums and the National Portrait
Gallery. Under the proposals, the Culture Secretary would appoint their
trustees rather than allowing them to be elected by their own boards. The
proposals would have represented a huge concentration of political patronage....the
director of one major institution described the original circular as "an
absolutely straightforward attempt by central government to control what
have until now been independent bodies, and are successful and flourishing
because they have always been independent...As fascists have always done,
this government is using tidiness as the argument. It is a very totalitarian
notion of having power in the centre. It is extremely sinister that they
are putting this forward as primary legislation with which they could then
do what they wish, and that they are not allowing this consultation document
to be available publicly. The conference of National Museum Directors has
unanimously voted for it to be made public. The department has refused."
After promising to abandon the ideas
and lying to the Directors to shut them up, the Culture Secretary started
up the plan again. A Guardian report (23/12/00) states that Chris Smith
"take away the power of their trustees
to elect their own chairperson without consulting the government..."
The latest twist has Smith lying
to them again and the process being done through the back door. The good
old system of government appointees, political patronage is not discussed
Pluralism and relations of production
Ultimately government interference,
all the criteria and control, makes people reluctant to be honestly creative.
It is impersonal. It kills real art, real freedom of expression of the
reality of our lives: it makes people frightened to be creative.
CD&S perpetuates hierarchical
structures in the arts. It is predicated on the assumption that a form
of pluralism exists in the arts at best the book is tenuous and anachronistic.
Pluralism holds that power is distributed between labour, management and
capital (and sometimes customers and clients) and that there is no coercion.
A handy illusion which ignores social relations and the exercise of authority.
In art organisations pluralism is
rhetorical, while groups and interests dominate agendas behind the scenes.
The display of art is thought to advocate liberalism in itself, while the
organisational structure (at times secretly) reflects more authoritarian
principles the higher one looks. Looking at the arts generally, pluralism
is used to impute impartially upon a hierarchically co-ordinated social
organisation which is far from impartial. It is not that pluralism is suppressed;
pluralism is itself an illusion.
In CD&S all arts policy and
practice is supposed to find expression in one inaccurately defined, idealised
form of organisation. It is silent on the effect of this, silent on its
roots and silent on what forces impinged upon it. It censors and censures
awareness of different forms of co-operative or collective structures,
dismissing them as early as page 10. This has continued unnoticed for 14
years too many. What comment there is on 'other forms' is deviancy amplification;
distortion to magnify relatively minor patterns of stigmatisation, where
deviance is the 'unintended' consequence of control and the reaction to
stereotypes. CD&S' discourse becomes a ready-made way of thinking with
an effect similar to that of ideologyi.e. ruling out alternative ways
of thinking and hence preserving a particular distribution of power. In
other words discrimination and prejudice.
The government funding system is
now the main economy in the arts. No one believes it is democratic in form.
CD&S' re-publication comes at an interesting moment, with the Directors
of most of our leading artistic institutions now making the claim--the accusation--that
the state is undermining their authority with fascist means. They are exaggerating,
but at the same time the state's activities do concur with some of fascism's
defining characteristics. In the early '90s ex-SAC director Seona Ried
(who introduces CD&S) famously stated that the SAC was 'not a democracy'.
What is it then? One could easily say that the funding system attempts
to create a Malthusian form of organisation i.e. the capacity for reproduction
excels the rate at which subsistence can be increased; thus the artistic
population should be checked. Artistic poverty is the result of moral licence;
upper class moral licence is not a source of poverty.
Do funding bodies--with their systems
of political appointees and an ever changing criteria index--believe in
evolution? Is it social Darwinism we see? the formulation of laws purportedly
similar to natural laws to govern society with the unjust demand that these
should be underlying and be irresistible.
Less medicine is better
They say it is not insanity which
creates the need for asylums but rather asylums that create the need for
mad people. CD&S' diagnostic categories would seems to express, not
a neutral science, but a set of dominant values which stigmatise and are
of uncertain value. It puts forwards an imaginary 'total institution' which
can be defined as a number of like-situated individuals cut off from wider
society leading the reader towards a closed administrated existence. How
many arts organisation in the UK never mind Scotland have both paid "legal
advisers" and "company secretaries." Chief executives (which the book states
should not be someone with any knowledge of the arts) should be people
with "outstanding political and administrative skill." Then the book notes
that "many" (in fact it is most) organisations cannot offer enough money
to "attract adequate talentparticularly for administration." What
does that imply? Is that not something of an insult to practically every
It is only recently that paintings
and sculptures became more than commissioned tableaus of government ideology
and military conquest. Today, types of government sanction and subsidy,
how these are administrated and with what bias, have encouraged a 'gallery
system' highly ramified in approach and running parallel to (and becoming
little more than) private dealerships--an organisational form which itself
has remained largely unchanged for the last 100 years.
A hierarchy of (in descending order):
Museum, Modern museum, Contemporary Exhibition Space and then Independent
Exhibition Space has evolved to represent a traditional cycle of: hostility,
familiarisation, acceptance and absorption. The lower end of this circulation
is in many general respects becoming disciplined to reflect and confirm
the cultural agenda proscribed by interpenetrations of aspects of government,
private sector interest groups and the cultural 'gate keepers' of the day.
Unfortunately they are all bickering amongst themselves. Yes, they lack
Bureaucracies can embody vicious
circles of decreasing efficiency, groups of colleagues often attempt to
maximise their freedom of action by paying lip-service to the rules but
in reality bending them when they can. That has been how we have all got
by. Sociologists say limited information is available to decision-makers
regarding alternatives and consequences. This includes sub-ordinates withholding
or distorting information so that senior managers do not know exactly what
is going on. Senior managers know this so they create more rules to regulate
what goes on below them. Hi ho.
But what is needed are chances for
those of us who choose to inhabit these institutions (and who are only
interested in the money) to adapt and modify formal systems of bureaucratic
surveillance. The tactics of bypassing and altering the forces, the modes,
the relations of production won't be found in a handbook. The subject of
CD&S' helpful hints will be utterly unpersuasive if it says it is about
the arts but it offers no assistance to artists and then excludes and ignores
the fact that together artists have organised better exhibitions than heavily
funded organisations packed with administrators and arts council appointees.
Many artistic 'movements' seem to
start as groups of friends (and end as groups of enemies), some never grow
beyond that. The majority of 20th century artistic groups conform to this.
So would Zurich Dada have benefited if it had become Dada Ltd? Should Apollinaire
have went on a management course?
1. William Keegan, Mrs Thatcher's
Economic Experiment, Penguin 1984.
2. Ibid. Private Eye 1017 states
that the CPS were the architects of the privatisation of pensions and the
swindling of millions by those companies which supported and financed the
3. For an overview of the complexities
of the period see Smear! by Stephen Dorril & Robin Ramsay, 4th Estate,
1991, page 224 - 228. For the reference to Lord Harris see Free Agent by
Brian Crozier, Harper Collins, 1993, page 122. Peacock himself has connections
with the intelligence services through his tenure as an executive director
of the Economist Intelligence Unit from '77 to '84, which according to
Crozier and other authors had an extremely intimate relationship with MI6.
4. Sunday Times 19/2/95.
5. Financial Times 9/1/95
6. Financial Times 9/1/95. Hopefully
it can be seen from this that the IEA have a wide area of interest. Peacock
himself has written on "The Composer in the Market place" (1975), "Public
expenditure and government growth" (1985) and "Corporate take-overs and
the public interest" (1991).
7. Spectator 23/4/88
8. CD&S was initially sponsored
by IBM UK Holdings PLC, the board of which reads like a who's who of the
British State: including, Sir Edwin Nixon (Nat West Bank), Sir Robert Ball
(Legal & General), Sir Adrian Cadbury (Bank of England), Lord Chalfont
(VSEL), Lord Hunt of Tamworth (BNP, Prudential Corporation), Sir John Kingman
(Smithkline Beecham) and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (N.M. Rothschilds &
Sons). Ironically enough IBM threw out their old management practices of
vertical integration, when the company lost millions in the early nineties.
No business sponsorship has been found for the latest re-print.
PascoeI believeis now a supporter of the Australian Earthwatch
Institute. Earthwatch's "unique role in educating the public" and "making
a significant contribution to the debate on sustainable development in
Australia" is in partnership with Rio Tinto Zinc and models deceptive propagandistic
co-operation between the corporate sector and the NGO sector. In 1999,
this formed into a partnership with Rio Tinto globally. It also engages
in 'partnerships' between the Shell Foundation and DuPont amongst many
other corporate funders. Cynics (and the relatives of those who died) will
wonder why global land rapists and polluters on the scale of RTZ and Shell
indulge organisation like the Earthwatch Institute. Is it to put a PR puff
on things such as RTZ's and the Oil companies infamous involvement in Indonesia
during probably the worst totalitarian regime the region has seen?
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library2/doc11/sacmr-01.asp 19. Ibid.
Tales of The
Starts out with a wee trail of what
looks like torn paper and glass shards at the bay-window. It's only seven
in the morning but I'm up, as usual, to get Mary roused and ready for school.
Thing is, Mary's away three months past, moved in with that lad Peety.
He's a trainee draughtsman, his parents are both lecturers in the college.
He seems like a nice lad right enough. Bastard.
So at first you would think this
is like the trail of a snail or a slug, a sort of shiny thick line, with
a wee roundish patch where the thing has turned about to go home. But the
living-room is one-up, and the pointing got done year before last, so how
them fellas is getting in here I don't know. I bend down and see it's not
really a snail-trail, but a scatter of broken glass, tiny pieces flattened
into the carpet. The carpet is damp right enough, and if I'm not mistaken
there's a smell too, a smell like fusty drink.
I don't drink upstairs. Never have.
She didn't like it, so I never did. No-one else uses this room. Mary barely
used it what with having her own telly and that, so I can't figure it at
all, and it bothers me the whole day.
That night is Christmas Eve, and
The Great Unwashed will be closed tomorrow, so it's a late one with just
a few of the lads. It wasn't the busiest of nights, but turned over a good
few bob right enough, so no harm treating Doghead, Halfpint and Elbow to
a few on the house.
Elbow is maudlin and girny, whining
about missed chances and lost loves. Halfpint tries to throw in the occasional
note of optimism, listing off his existing and imminent grandchildren and
great-grandchildren with impressive detail. Only Doghead remains silent,
content to savour the free drink in certain knowledge that it will not
come from my direction for at least another year.
So what about you anyway Jack? says
Halfpint, having exhausted all known statistics relating to his family
and desperate not to allow Elbow another shot on the time remaining.
I shrug, swallow the pale remnants
of the glass, then turn to pour another. My head is filled with soft pain,
the shifting of happy memories against the dismal void I now call future.
Another glass for Halfpint and Bobby
Elbow, but only a half lager for Joe, then I look up, meet Halfpint's red-rimmed
peepers, and it all comes out. I'm bone weary, sick and have nothing left
now that my girl has gone. First her mother, now her. I haven't a thing
left apart from this fucked-up pub, and that's nothing to be in love with,
nothing to get up for, nothing to take pictures of. There's nothing left
for me now, nothing at all, and even if my numbers come up, what would
I do now but give most to Mary, split a stack with the lads, and even then,
what's to do with whatever's left? No. It's all over.
If I would have had the imagination
when young, maybe, if I would have had the gall, maybe. But no. It's been
alright. Nothing more than that. It's been alright, and now it's time to
start making my way for the exit.
They stay silent. Halfpint nods.
Elbow's chin is vibrating, eyes moist. Doghead stares at his glass, oblivious
to it all. I've made them even more depressed. I turn, pour another for
myself only, then tell them of the stain on the carpet up in the living
room, how I can't figure it. It's meant to be a joke, a lightener, but
Elbow sparks up, soberish and keen, and asks for more detail. His questions
confuse and irk, so I grab a bottle of Black Bush from the gantry and beckon
them follow me upstairs.
I'm telling you Jack, says Elbow
as he gets back up from the carpet at the window, it's the wee folk.
The bottle is empty. Doghead has
collapsed into the sofa, but his pint remains lodged between his knees,
the whisky tumbler settled neatly at the bottom of the larger glass. Halfpint
stares out the window, focusing on the distant spot through the buildings
opposite to where he imagines home to be. But Elbow seems active and serious
now, pointing at the drying slime at the bay window.
That's them been having a party,
he says, it's them right enough.
Little people? No way. Never heard
any of that kind of talk for years, and even then, from the old dears,
it was ever a joke. Leprechauns? Bogles? Hobblyboids? I maybe drew the
old Rottenrows under the quilt of an evening if thoughts of those creatures
flitted over me, but never lost an hour of sleep on their account, not
the once. If you're prone to fright at such a thing you'd be as well surrendering
yourself to the Banshees as well, and for all the talk I've heard of them
there's never been one tailing my folk about anyway.
Nothing surer, says Elbow, upright,
with forefinger pointed at the heavens, it's the unmistakable detritus
of souls in limbo. So I do feel a sort of a shiver then, what with talk
of limbo and suchlike, and the shiver sort of stays on longer than a normal
shiver would when Halfpint emits a high-pitched wheeze. I turn to see him
scuttling behind Doghead's chair.
Elbow's eyes focus on a point somewhere
at the base of the window. Quiet now, says Elbow, slowly lowering himself
to the ground, and tying his legs in a way which he bids me ape. Unable
to accomplish the posture required, I sit on the deck, grip my knees close
to my face, then watch. Elbow has closed his eyes, and is nodding gently
at the floor-level juncture of the main and left-hand windows. Halfpint's
whimpering is the only sound apart from the distant throb of city-centre
I close my own eyes, for what seems
an instant, but when I open them again I see a black man, about a foot
or so in height, peeking from behind the curtain which is gathered at the
left-hand end of the bay. He is young, maybe thirty or so, and his expression
is delirious, teeth white and parted in silent laughter. I shut my eyes
and shake my brain, but when I look again the wee man has emerged from
the drapes and is standing, arms wide, directly in front of Bobby Elbow.
Although so small, he is well proportioned, if very thin-limbed, with thick
dark hair curled tight against his scalp. Even in the confusing light cast
by the indoor lamp and the amber outside, I can see his gown is brightest
sea-green-blue, and about the broad neckline of the garment gleaming copper
bells have been woven into the material. In his right fist is a thin short
stick. I strain to keep my eyes open as he moves, and it is a slow, deliberate
shift which brings his arms together, his stare all the time focused on
the inert Elbow directly before him.
Then he plays a tune on the stick,
but I can barely hear it. It is so high, so fine, that it is drowned by
the faraway traffic, but I know he is playing something wonderful by the
mould of his features, the crease of his brow, the drawing of breath beneath
the gown, and snatches of purest whistle which come to me when his little
elbows are joined and at their highest. Elbow remains inert, staring beyond
When the tune has ended, the man
taps the stick to his head three times, looks up at the comatose Elbow,
then turns to me.
Jack Doohihan! he cries, is this
I can't move my hands, fingers knotted
together to hold my knees. But something about my expression must confirm
my identity, Ôcause he strides closer and waves the flutestick up
If any man here does not care for
my tune, let him try to wipe his arse on a pebbledash gable and see how
he likes it!
The little man's face is crunched
with mirth as he nears me. I feel my breath suspend, my heart bang. He
points the stick at me again, then broadens his arms, throws his head back,
I am Danda. Danda! My name. True
word! My English is bad, but twenty years I am waiting. Twenty years!
Elbow looks to be asleep. Behind
me, the combined noises coming from Halfpint and Doghead form a sound somewhere
between a snore and a death rattle. It seems I am alone. The little man
nears. I have to crane forward to see his face.
You have some trouble mister! My
Mercedes is bigger than yours!
I start to speak, but words don't
form. He steps back again, looks at Elbow, then raises the flutestick to
his lips, preparing to play again. I'm sure I'm talking then, asking who
he is and what he wants but he does not hear or does not want to, and then,
as he slumps and lowers the stick to hang limp between his legs, his face
becomes so sad that I almost want to pick him up and comfort him. But before
I can even untwine my fingers he has gone back behind the curtain, and
when I next open my eyes it is with darkest blue sky, almost seven in the
morning, and I get up, as always, to ready Mary for school.
Halfpint won't take my call - Jeanie
says he got back awful late and made some noises, then she found him pishing
in the wardrobe and he's been in bed ever since. Then she hangs up on me.
Doghead is likewise unavailable, not having reported home at all - Sippy
Pat is just about to leave to search for him. And when I call Elbow it
is his daughter who answers - yes, he's in, no, he can't come to the
phone, but yes, he'll call me right back.
An hour passes. The Great Unwashed,
when quiet and dark, creaks and moans, as if recovering from the demands
made of it by regular custom. The floorboards and furniture stretch and
breathe - with the heating off, they get some peace. But I don't dally
in the bar. All is clean, all shutters shut, all taps turned off. I need
a snifter to calm the shakes, but prefer to take it upstairs, in that room.
A spell of sorts has been broken. Drink was taken there last night, and
no-one to voice objection, so I'll drink there again. Now.
Mary called early to say Happy Christmas,
and she'll be up to see me as soon as they get back from London. He's friends
down there who'll put them up, and they'll be staying, even for the Bells.
She knows I'm disgusted and knows I know she knows it, but we exchange
adult niceties and I hold my tongue. Fair do's.
But sitting in this chilly room now
is defiance. I defy the dark-skinned ghost to appear again. I defy the
disappearance of friends who were so happy to join my company only hours
ago, when the drink was free of charge and no bells would ring them off
the premises. I defy the losses I have suffered in this life. I'm still
here, in my pub, drinking good whisky honestly earned, at a time of year
when others of my age are running hither and yon at the command of upstart
youngsters. This is a free shop. Mine is a free life. I owe no-one. I will
continue. I will...
When I snap awake, he is standing
between my knees, his face mangled with anger.
You are Jack! he shouts, and I feel
the sudden shock of liquid on my thigh as my tumbler slips, but I cannot
move my eyes from his.
Mister Doohihan, I will do this job,
a very big job for you. I will go when I do it, and you will be thanking
Danda when he is gone. If there is anyone who does not know what my job
is, and why I do it, let him drink two pints of bad palm wine and see how
he likes it!
The little man moves away to the
bay window, towards the point where I first saw him, But now the drapes
are down, slung across the angled junctures of central and side outlooks.
He takes the flute-stick from somewhere inside his rough blue gown and
taps the skirting board.
In here! he shouts then, turning
briefly to raise the stick at me before once again tapping the upper ridge
of the long low panel. The noise is hollow and surprisingly loud.
They are in here now! he cries again,
and he's dropped the stick and his tiny fingers are gripped behind the
board at spaces where paint has not filled the warped skirting. He hauls
and heaves, soles prised against the board, but there isn't so much as
I shift forward in the armchair.
It is real enough. I am awake. Head spinning, sure, but awake. I slip off
the chair to my knees and crawl towards the window. The little man picks
up his flutestick and steps back as I near.
Danda starts to play as I fumble
in my pocket for the knife. It's a corkscrew, a folding one with small
blade for cutting wine-seals. It is only one long, hard swipe to cut the
seal of old paint layers which bind the board to the plaster and thickened
paper, and the little man jumps back as I haul the skirting from it's place
to lie face down on the carpet. There is a billow of dust, cobweb threads
flutter up towards me. Danda coughs.
They are in there ! Be rid of them
Jack, they are no good for you. They want to eat the world!
I lower my face to the floor. The
stoor lines my nostrils, sends me back to childhood nights when I stayed
up late watching the dark sea roar while sucking on old lace curtain. I
hear Danda snort behind me as I peer into the recess.
There, in the dusty space, on antique
floorboard, amidst scuttling slaters and the shifting of a scrawny white
spider, three figures no bigger than my thumb face me. They are dressed
in grey, perhaps once white, and tiny sparkles about their hands and neck
betray the presence of cheap and tired jewellery. They are moving, but
eyes are closed, hands clasped over their ears. I know I've seen them before,
but the shock of seeing them here must be evident in whatever noise it
is that I emit. I sit up, draw the blade close on the tool, and feel my
Them is heeby-jeeby fellas to cause
you trouble! Maybe your missus called them to here, but the missus is away
now. They stay! Always they stay. They want to eat the world!
Of course, it is them. I put my head
down to have another look, and they've not moved, although their hips still
sway, their tiny expressions jerk, their mouths gape and close in perfect
unison. It is the Bee Gees, no doubt about it.
I tolerated them during those years
when Mary's Mum pined to be out jigging and making merry, those same years
I confined her to toil behind the bar downstairs. I hated them as much
as she loved them, and our love and hate of them grew as did our fight
for dominance. When we knew Mary was on the way, it calmed, but I still
recall sweating, panicking during post-Old-Firm-rush, when she was heavy
with our lass but could not help out, snatches of Stayin' Alive and More
than a Woman reaching me from the upstairs bedroom, the falsetto harmonies
screaming a protest of enjoyment lost, freedom stolen.
My body spasms with fright as the
shattering volume of the phone fills the room. A movement to my side, Danda
is heading for the right hand drape, his brilliant blue gown swirling and
billowing, and by the time I look back into the dimness below the bay,
more dust has been raised by the panicked Gibb brothers. I squint and strain
to make out any trace, and fancy I see a lightly bearded face disappear
at the point where floorboard meets masonry.
Elbow is apologetic and enthusiastic
in equal measure. He double-checked with his Aunt, and yes, she agrees
that it's likely the wee people. Yes, he'll check out Danda in the books,
and yes, he knows now what to do about it all. He'll be with me before
midnight. I get back in the armchair, stare at the spot where the trio
had been performing, and knot my fingers to stop them reaching for the
Bushmills. Bobby is good to his word, and I've a generous measure down
my neck between his ringing the bell and me opening the door to him. He
raises a stern and open palm when I lift the bottle afront his pale face,
and asks me to take him to the kitchen. He scouts about in the cupboards
and oven, then drags out the biggest pot, the heavy-based wing-handled
affair we use for the soup. He passes me the lid, tells me not to ask,
so I don't.
Now then, where's this Danda fellow?
he asks, so we venture back upstairs. Elbow drags a hard-backed stool over
beside my armchair, settles the giant pot in front of him, folds his jacket
into a rough cushion, settles his arse, rolls a cigarette, and then accepts
a dram. I replenish mine. All is quiet.
He wants out, says Elbow, the wee
man wants out. He's a fictional character from a novel by a Nigerian lad
called Nwankwo. It was published way back, early sixties or such, so he
might've been here for a while.
Twenty years, I say then, recalling
the wee man's words. He said twenty years he's been waiting.
Well then, says Elbow, that's at
least twenty years worth of wee folk you've got creeping about. Likelihood
is the place got cleaned out regular before then, but since you've been
here they've been building up. You could have all sorts in the stonework,
in the cellar, the attic. There's nowhere they can't call home, so we'd
best be about it and get the decks cleared.
Where did he come from? I ask then,
and Elbow shakes his head, grim faced but loving it.
Someone put him in here, but it's
you wants him out. That's why he's asking you. I can't see him, so he's
asking you to help him get out.
Me? I pour another one and very much
want to cry. I tell Elbow about the Bee Gees being behind the skirting,
and he smiles and nods. It's par for the course, he says, but it's not
usual to find them in there. More often it's likes of behind a boiler or
a radiator, anywhere there's a wee bit extra heat. They like the warmth.
Sometimes they go under the sink if there's hot water on the go a lot,
but they can make a right mess of the pipework with them teeth. Aye, you're
best rid of them right enough.
And then it all happens. Danda appears,
arms flailing, from behind Elbow's chair. I steady myself, Bobby notices
my face, follows my stare, but registers nothing.
He's back, I say, and Elbow drags
the heavy steel lid from the pot.
Danda runs for the door, and I follow,
Bobby close behind with the pot swinging from one arm, the lid from the
other. Danda halts on the landing, checks back to see how close we are,
then starts banging with open palms on the door of the Glory Hole, a long
thin room crammed with all manner of shite accumulated these past two decades.
Heeby Jeeby fellas in here now! shouts
Danda, so I haul the door open, and in we go.
Suitcases crammed with old photo
albums and diaries, boxes of Mary's schoolbooks and jotters, three sets
of golf clubs Doghead turned up with one night, a primitive television
set, the top half of a standard lamp that used to have pride of place in
the Snug, all are thrown out onto the landing before Danda screams and
points his flutestick - right there at the base of an old Calor gas
heater, arms wide in panic, his feet flitting with fear, there is the middle
of the brothers, forget his name, the one with the baldy patch, and I snatch
him up and pass him to Elbow.
Bobby stares at me as if I have lost
it, but then I remember he cannot see the wee man.
That's one, I assure him, and lower
the creature into the giant pot. Elbow slides the lid back over as I strain
to see where Danda has now gone.
Half an hour later, we have them.
The oldest one, the one with the big hair, he made a decent fist of it
and tried to bite as I lifted him, but the other one came quietly enough,
no doubt pining for his siblings. But Danda isn't done - he climbs
on, over the stacked boxes, to a recess of the hole which has not been
visited for many years. These are Mary's baby clothes and toys, carefully
newspapered, preserved for her adulthood, for her own children. But they
too are shifted roughly in the search. My back is glowing with pain, sweat
running like tears as I haul the boxes aside, following the angle of Danda's
flute. A crate of her Mum's records and tapes gets in the way as well,
but once that's out the road you can see a small shape shivering, the wee
head buried into its belly, and when I lift it up it moans low and mean,
like a scared cat. It is no bigger than a newborn kitten as well, and I
don't much like the feel of it, cold and grimy as it is, but when I put
it into the pot and it slides down the cusp of the steel base to settle
against the cowered forms of the unprotesting Bee Gees, it uncurls itself
and leaps up towards the rim of the pot with a despairing howl, eyes wide,
teeth bared. Even in the dim light, the moustachioed face is instantly
familiar, and I realise that I have just captured a middle-aged Omar Sharif.
Danda climbs and searches further,
delving into spaces and patches of darkness whose contents I cannot even
begin to recall. The weight of objects denies me access, so I'm relieved
when, after much tapping and scraping and growling, Danda emerges, every
bit as frantic as before, runs from the Glory Hole and starts leaping down
the stairs one at a time, his gown filling with each jump.
Now they are running! Danda shouts
as we follow him down to the bar.
By the scuffling and scraping you
can tell that we've cornered a good stack of them in the recess where the
puggy and juke-box stand. Bobby lays down the pot and stands a three-legged
stool atop to keep the lid firm as we shift the furniture, then we set
about the panelling. It comes away with a surprising ease I make a mental
note of - that was Doghead's work. But when the final pins pop and
the plywood sheet gives, there's twenty or more of them huddled against
the plasterwork - most of them I don't recognise, but there's a young
Michael Parkinson, Tina Turner before she got the big wigs on her, Charlton
Heston in his Dynasty outfit, Johnny and the Self Abusers, frilly Prince
when he was purple-daft, the starving wean with the tin your man McCullin
took a picture of, and they're all like backing up against each other,
faces front as I pluck them off and plop them in the pot. Some do get away.
Danda does his best to shepherd them my direction with his flutestick,
but Bobby Elbow is no use in this regard.
By the time we have moved, under
Danda's instructions, to the Snug, Elbow is white and tiring.
I don't know if I can take much more,
he says, and I look at Danda, who nods his agreement.
The ones will stay who want the most
to stay, Danda says, and then he starts tapping half-heartedly on the base
of the corner-piece sofa which was here before I even clapped eyes on the
There's a sound of things unsticking
themselves when we pull the unit from the wall. Danda has gone up onto
the thing, and is flaked out, exhausted. Bobby backs off, sits on the pot-lid,
then cradles his head in his palms.
I peek behind the detached unit.
A grimy fork, a red-striped straw, bright orange isosceles of carpet mimicking
the brown everyday version. Nothing untoward there. I bend down to pick
up the rough line of coins which have dropped through the arse-end of the
furniture - a good few tens and twenties, even a nugget and a couple
of fifties, and I'm stretching to reach another pound when the arms shoot
out from the darkness and grab my wrist, a matted hairy head is upon my
forearm biting deep and hard, and I haul myself back upright with the thing
snarling and coughing like a forty-a-day pit-bull.
I'm on my back then, the thing flung
high and hard overhead, and when I get up it's Danda who has it cornered
at the Fire-Exit. I step hesitantly towards the door. Elbow drags the pot
across, one hand firmly about the handle, the other keeping the lid down
as Sharif and his more vocal co-prisoners continue to bang and holler.
I can hear my own panicked breath as I focus on the dim figure who now
beckons us nearer with clawed fingers - this creature is much bigger
than all the others, and when I make out who it is I know I shouldn't be
surprised. It's a substantial Rod Stewart, perhaps sizes with Danda, but
mean and drunk and still traces of acne about him. It's a young one, fit
and ready to scrap.
Elbow looks at me, unknowing, but
trusting still. I don't fancy tackling the thing. But Danda has the stick
to his lips, and then, as soft and high as human ear can hear, the strains
of Sailing flow about the lounge. It was ever a favourite of Mary as well
as her Mum. Danda even crouches as he plays, intent on the tune as the
shaking Rod calms, then lends his world-weary voice to the tune. Danda
nods in approval. Even Sharif's protests are quieted as the second verse
ends, and by the time the final lament is mid-way, even I can see that
Stewart is spent, chest heaving, tears streaming, and he is hoisted into
the pot with no great protest to join the swaying chorus of little people.
It is as happy an ending as could be hoped for. When we open again for
Boxing Day, all are happy to partake of the Festive Broth. It's a simple
lentil concoction, but with a French bread roll on the side and a wee red
napkin, it's a nice present to all the regulars and newcomers alike. It's
all done by tea-time, and I make a point of washing the pot myself.
It wasn't pleasant filling the thing
with the water, and even less pleasant having to hold the bastarding lid
down as they made their final protests. But as Elbow's Aunt told him, it's
the only way to be sure. Only Danda was happy to climb in with the others.
If any man does not like his life,
let him try the life of another and see how he likes it! Now I can taste
real palm wine again!
We put another smaller pot of water
on top to seal it, then waited, and it was another half bottle was done
by the time the steam pulsed the end and we could go to the lounge to watch
the box and try to start to forget it all. Some folk leave their dreams
behind them, despite them, traces that won't be killed when events swamp.
Mary must have done that, in her young way, as her mother did in hers.
And mine were there too, as well as those of the many folk who lived and
died here before us.
I suppose I cheated. Before Danda
had finished the vodka he claimed to remind him of his beloved palm wine,
and before Elbow had got back from the bog, I got on the oven glove, slid
the lid over, and drew out the young Tina. She kicked, I let her go. She
scampered across the worktop and behind the microwave before I even had
the lid back in place. Sometimes now, when the place is quiet, when rain
isn't lashing and wind isn't battering and shitehawks aren't screaming
their get-up calls, on nights when I'm wondering about Mary and her Mum
and all the what-ifs and the maybes and the what-to-nows, sometimes I catch
a snatch of Nutbush from somewhere next door, in that front room, and I
allow my uncovered Rottenrows to tap along.
The public (including artists)
are not allowed to interject at the Scottish Arts Council's public meetings.
They are not allowed to say anything at all. It is an Athenian Democracy
but everyone must be gagged. No wonder then that the SAC has not motivated
public attendance for these muted shows. Yet, in spite of their stiltedness,
insights into the SAC's shadowing of Cultural Policy and indications of
subsequent shifts can be gathered there, for those who do attend. The question
still has to be asked, is this the state of affairs everyone wants?
In contrast, recent artist-run
events in Scotland have encouraged debate on a wide range of issues affecting
artists. Events such as the series of panel discussions accompanying PLANO
XXI (an artist-curated event of Portuguese contemporary art and music at
venues across Glasgow) and I Love Alternative Spaces (organised by the
'artist-led' Collective Gallery in Edinburgh). Noticeably, the participants
at these events took up the task of exploring the socio-economic conditions
in which artists live and work. Far from 'moaning and whining', these events
had an air of urgency about them.
Drawing from these events and
a swathe of Cultural Policy material, this article is an attempt to position
current influences on artists and artist-run projects; to question the
authenticity of artists' alleged 'independent' status, and to speculate
on the wider implications for artists and artist-run projects in the face
of the current political re-organisation and exploitation of Culture.
The received wisdom amongst artists
is of the vitality and independence of the Contemporary Visual Arts in
Scotland, that they are "self-sustaining." In contradiction to this asserted
potency, another all too common assertion (often in the same breath) is
that contemporary artists' networks in Scotland are lacking "a market."
While certain aspects of the visual
arts' infrastructure in Scotland has been publicly funded by the Scottish
Arts Council's Visual Arts Department--which is not to claim a democracy
of allocation--there is no domestic private dealership system which ultimately
supports this type of work. Yet the public funding mechanisms have functioned
in absence of this dealership, supporting a concept of work that is fundamentally
premised on its circulation as a unique commodity and, in tandem with the
art schools, abetted in internalising the narrow view of such an individualistic
system's 'reward capacity'.
As a consequence of this market
hyperbole, private dealers stake a minor amount of capital in the contemporary
visual arts in the UK yet hold a dominant position in the minds of the
majority of artists and public funders. The lack of such an explicit dealership
body resident in Scotland is peddled--by public funders and artists alike--as
an obstruction to greater access to a mythologised 'free' market. As if
the existence and localisation of private finance capital inclined to speculate
in the contemporary visual arts somehow finalise a greater Cultural maturity.
The deception is of a direct correlation
between the artist's symbolic value accrued in the public sector and a
monetary value within the private sector. That the symbolic value of the
artist and work can immediately translate into monetary reward. It is an
attempt at legitimising public spending on cultural production on the back
of a particular economic mechanism, one which documents artist-led activity
as nothing other than a feeder system for the private sector.
But public funding is not only to
legislate as a research-and-development instrument for the benefit of an
allegedly remote market. The Visual Arts Department at the SAC also have
the task of coercing artists and arts organisations to conjure both a domestic
and international market for the purpose of gradually superseding aspects
of the SAC's own role. A surrogate commercial sphere will be created, therefore
marketisation is necessary and will be instilled through a managerial discourse
imposed on the public sector.
The Visual Arts Department needs
no help in condemning its own existence, and more broadly that of the SAC's--in
campaigning for the market exploitation of culture it (mis)aligns freedom
of expression with the 'free' market. It contrasts the private sector as
a disinterested unrestricted space where 'anything goes', against public
money's rationed resources and creatively prohibitive criteria. Sadly,
private finance does not work that way. It is conservatively speculative.
Seeking to appeal to the largest common denominator it reinforces orthodoxy.
Far from being innovative it is self-replicating in mimicking tried-and-tested
'formulae for success'. If the Visual Arts Department look to commercial
qualities as principle indicators of worth, they will cease to fund 'cultural
activity' that is distinguishable from a broader marketisation and circulation
of products already in existence.
The public funding system has helped
sustain (if not wholly understood) the social world of the economy of the
contemporary visual arts--rather than supporting an infrastructure which
tackles deficiencies in the relations of production and enables access
to the means of production and distribution. Supposedly it uses private
capital (in the form of taxes) to offset disproportionate distribution
of opportunity and representation. But the system has been given over to
enhancing concentrations of wealth and their influence.
Commercial sponsorship often seeks
to associate with the 'social world' aspect of conspicuous consumption,
which is taken to be as equally important as any capacity for production--the
cliche: "you don't sell a product, you sell a life-style." Central to this
is a quasi-version of a concept of art that celebrates individualism by
means of the idea of the self-motivating and self-creating artist who embodies
a heightened and highly valued subjectivity.
Within the artist-lead sector the
social-scene--the circulation of fashion in clothing, music, etc.--has become
increasingly foregrounded to the point of stylistic association and accumulation
not just acting to re-inforce the social structure but becoming the very
work. Accompanying this turn in practice has been a return to a notion
of the modernist autonomous art object--not that anyone remembers it going
away. Locked in its white walled cell seemingly arrested from any external
distraction or stimuli, its ambiguousness is mitigated by a belief in the
power of the work to express itself, of the transparency of high culture.
This 'return' can be understood in part as a reaction to increasingly exclusionary
public funding criteria, the seemingly economic impoverishment of the public
sector, and an internalisation of an agenda of macho self-reliance and
a fantasy of freedom from social constraint. 'Independent' and 'alternative'
as banded around the artist-led scenes relate less, if at all, to the ideological
basis of the work but more to the economic impoverishment of the practitioners.
The breakers' yard
Having asserted the key role that
the public funding bodies play for the arts in Scotland, the explicit shift
in these bodies has been from one of an image of an advocate of cultural
space based on democratic freedoms and rights, residually open to further
development and radicalisation, to one of a more explicit 'cultural broker'.
With yet another rear-garde adoption of enterprise rhetoric, the Visual
Arts Department at the SAC has started making claims to being a 'development
agency', advocating a role in brokering relations between public and private
monies using leverage of public funds as inducement for arts organisations.
It would seem both arts organisations'
and correlatively the Visual Arts Department's 'public accountability'
is to be measured by the SAC, and in turn the Scottish Executive, in organisations'
ability to gratify the private sector in a diminishing of the Department's
role as a funding body in what were its established areas of support--for
aspects of the arts to become primarily dependent on and channelled by
private sources. In explicitly aligning Culture with commercial values
in this way, the SAC has (supposedly unproblematically) substituted a cultural
prerogative for a more conspicuous commercial competitiveness. To participate
in pronouncements of "self-sustainability" is effectively to allude to
and reinforce the compounding of the public sphere with the commercial,
a stripping-back and commodification of the properties of the public sector
"When they hear the word Culture,
they reach for their management tools."
There is another strand of pressure
currently being brought to bear on public funding bodies such as the Scottish
Arts Council and Local Authorities--the 'issues of purpose' of public money
are to be more explicitly allied with the government's fancies of social
policing. This has manifested primarily through the Scottish Executive's
National Cultural Strategy, itself an adjunct of the government's Social
All cultural production has a political
existence in that it either challenges or supports the dominant myths a
culture calls 'truths', it participates in the circulation of relative
values and meanings, and there is an unacknowledged struggle over who determines
this or these 'truths'. Cultural practices and institutions that make meaning,
where symbolic communication is the main purpose, are being brought to
heel through pressure exerted via public funding mechanisms. The public
funding mechanisms themselves are being steadily reeled in by government
with the objective of their 'issues of purpose' augmenting other areas
of government policy, such as 'education', 'urban regeneration' and whatever
else takes their fancy.
Art--more broadly Culture--is now
to serve highly prescriptive social and economic ends, and, as a medium
of making sense of the world, exploited to influence the perception of
weaker state responsibility as unavoidable. This aligning of arts' funding
priorities to other fields of government policy--and their financial resources--could
be interpreted as what is meant by 'joined-up government'.
For the SAC, claiming to be working
"with greater flexibility and effectiveness" means contorting itself to
best fit the uncomfortable mould of its new task masters.
The free Market is compulsory
'Culture' is seen as constituting
a particular field of government, on which there is heightened emphasis
with new-Labour. Its vague yet viral promotion of a 'Culture Industry'
can be understood as a PR distraction, the surrogate for an economy based
on manufacturing. New-Labour poses state intervention for a 'new economy'
as seeking to influence the public perception on which it hazards this
phantasmagoric 'new' economy to be contingent. With the constitutionally
limited remit of the Scottish Executive this is even more exposed.
Within an ideology of 'governing
by influencing cultures of behaviour' Culture is treated as one instrument
of social influence. Government's means of enshrining and invoking market
values through the public sphere--its Third Way melange. In what is a standardising
of its subject audience within a delimited culture of 'Common Purpose',
Culture is to be re-organised on custodial grounds of 'moral supervision',
intimately related to perverted versions of self-reliance and free enterprise.
It is to abet in confirming rather than contesting 'free' market authority.
The spin is: the 'socialisation' of those as seen as outside of the labour
market via the reinforcement of an image of self-esteem through a work-ethic--an
expansion of 'training programmes' targeting the unemployed, single-parents,
and now pivotally children and young people. As a means to exert influence
over 'cultures of behaviour' on target sections of the population, Culture
has become the polite and less alarming synonym for Society.
Under the guise of inclusiveness,
there is a tension between a commitment to free access to public museums
and galleries with their new task of improving the social fabric of society
in the form of an accentuated individual responsibility, and market principles
that require the generation of private income as a leisure attraction.
Pressure is on arts organisations to become magically self-sustaining by
creating and increasing their private proportion of income whilst demonstrating
a cathartic educational function. (The fact is that this has been going
on long enough for everyone to conclude that this is not going to happen.)
As a result the programming of these venues is required to appeal to a
construct of the widest possible audience (yet paradoxically specifically
for the young) and for it to be repositioned in terms of a consumer base
contained within a pseudo-populist rhetoric of moral renewal.
Oiling the wheels of the new moral
In ratifying 'marketisation', artists
are also being demoted to a client group (fodder) for an ascending private
training/ administrative/ commissioning sector. This is a consequence of
outsourcing from the public to the private sector and the naturalisation
(or at least tacit acceptance) of a perception of a necessity for art to
be complicit with state propaganda amongst this professional managerial
class. With new-Labour soliciting a ménage à trois between
government, the voluntary and private sectors, public funding is ceded
in the form of a financial exchange, with virtual set briefs of their 'priorities'
appearing as projects up for tender.
Under the guise of public funds
being publicly accountable, there is a bovine bureaucratic migration towards
the view that artists are in need of administering, guiding, training,
mentoring, advising, re-skilling so as to be equipped to pay lip service
to other fields of government policy. Helpfully this will also provide
the subjugated mass for the expanding private managerial trade itself,
with a vague objective of artists becoming trainers, mentors, advisors,
re-skillers of the job-less themselves in a kind of cycle of abuse in job-creation
This is a coercive attempt at a
redesignation of the locus of aesthetic practice, announced as an attempt
to make art 'useful', and superimpose a correlative 'publicly accountable'
end product. Culture itself is to be the aggressive conditioning influence
on the 'wayward' segments of society--there is to be no room for discontent
within culture, for a critique of power relations which implies a struggle
with hegemonic powers. For this would bring to light the ideas which underlie
and represent the vested interests of retarding independent progression
Dispensing with distance
Much of what now constitutes the
domain of the contemporary visual arts is an effect of other kinds of forces
and relations of power, of a ruinous and opportunistic alignment of arts
funding to other areas of government policy by government--to the extent
of the Scottish Executive commanding direct jurisdiction over projects
such as the highly suspect programme of 'Cultural Co-ordinators in Schools',
announced as part of the National Cultural Strategy. Concern raised within
the SAC is that the programme looks set to avoid its influence altogether,
more importantly this would totally evade the vestigial political disclaimer
of the Arts Council's "arms length" adage. The concerted force of influence
is made explicit with the recent clarification from the Department of Culture
Media & Sport in England that where the Scottish Executive ordains
SAC involvement in delivering the priorities of the National Cultural Strategy,
SAC can now explicitly solicit organisations. Moreover, in the event of
those prioritised activities not being undertaken by any existing organisation,
SAC can now concoct one with the explicit function of condoning the National
Cultural Strategy--the erroneous assumption being it is in the interests
of its own survival to do so. (These revised solicitation processes were
announced and then agreed by Council in November 2000.)
With the SAC being reeled-in to
become more of a direct apparatus of government--another threat of a "bonfire
of the Quangos" hanging over them, the increasing "integration of Lottery
and voted funds work", and Lottery still centrally defined from London--its
function is not to encourage but explicitly intervene and impose what is
espoused as legitimate cultural activity. The implications for policing
and censorship are obvious. There will be very little resistance: in effect
the funding system of reinforcement and reward has already been sufficiently
internalised, and on the rare occasion when broached, too readily dismissed
as nothing more than a survival tactic for artists and organisations alike.
Intellectual honesty is not required.
Far from their pro-active independent
image, many arts organisations are re-inventing themselves in a subservient
supply and demand relationship to public funding criteria. With revenue
funding for smaller organisations in question (especially within the Visual
Arts) and private capital a figment of someone's sick imagination, 'educational
workshops' for which funding is available are considered a justifiable
survival tool for the rest of the artistic programme. It may just be out
of such false realism that artists and organisations are participating
(if colluding is too strong) in the integration of their more overt regulation.
"Their spiritual make-up has
become elastic enough to make the constant doubt about their own pursuits
part of their quest for survival. They know what they do, but they do it
because, in the short run, the objective situation and the instinct for
self-preservation speak the same language and tell them it must be so.
Others would do it anyway, perhaps worse."
Peter Sloterdijk, Cynicism--The
Twilight of False Consciousness
'Innovative' or 'marginal' cultural
practices are being lost sight of in the interpretations and implementations
by public funding agencies of overarching cultural policy directives--directives
once claimed to come from 'consultation' with 'The Sector' itself. Consistently,
what pass as alleged consultative and policy informing events are little
more than one area of government (to varying degrees of power) talking
to another in their various guises, re-inforcing the agenda of the day,
re-affirming the message that is denied as being anything other than apolitical
"[T]hat a political party or
movement becomes hegemonic when it succeeds in normalising (or naturalising)
its conception of the world--in making its world-view part of the cultural
and political common sense, while simultaneously discrediting alternative
Jacinda Swanson; Self help: Clinton,
Blair and the politics of personal responsibility, 'Radical Philosophy'
Absolute codes of behaviour based
on adherence to work-ethic priorities, consensus and central regulation
abound as bureaucratic policy makers try to dictate the very terms of support
and arts officers in turn interpret and peddle this cultural governance.
Far from challenging this set of events, artists and artists' organisations
in speculating in a competition for funding (wittingly or not) act to reinforce
the tenuous grounds on which its allocation is based. Who remembers the
initial moral flurry when the Lottery was first introduced as a potential
means of additional funding, and how many now even question the extent
of its overtly prescriptive criteria? The atomising of funding--the advent
of deterministic funding streams for specified areas of activity, and one-off
project funding--has peculiarly been allowed to act as the means of greater
influence and closer regulation over those gaining receipt. A kind of amnesia,
or self-denial, has set in as organisations continuously re-invent and
re-align themselves to annual, schizophrenic alludings to 'prioritisations'.
For those that the current 'prioritisations'--cunningly devised fables--may
in fact appear to benefit, there again seems to be little questioning of
the structural conditions that spawned them, a disinterested "eat, drink
and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
Acceptance of short-termism is to
the detriment and exclusion of others despite all the redemptive claims.
When resources are presented as scarce and competition for them high--a
self-interested 'get it while you can' mentality proliferates. (Meanwhile
there's more money sloshing around the coffers than ever before.) What
real independence is fostered in the 'independent sector', when all policy
towards it must reinforce the dumb acceptance of this system of 'cultural
rationing'--gently explaining that there can only be room for x,y or z and
that it is perfectly acceptable for independence to be explicitly excluded
by government--in the name of cultural diversity and inclusion.
There appears to be little resistance
to being over determined by relations that fix artists and artists' organisations
as always-ever affectively subordinate to an externally devised and politically
rigid agenda. The Year of the Artist is perhaps a prime example, where
the discourses of the artists (those that survive the system of vetting)
are allowed to exist: but only if safely contained within the primary narrative
of the Year of the Artist's pan-promotionalism.
The mantras of managerial efficiency,
entreprenurialism, and individual responsibility have over-run the public
sphere and been consolidated under the new-Labour government's Third Way
aberration. At the bottom end of this, the Visual Arts Sector, we see an
illusion of sustenance by a mix of private patronage (spurred on by the
state conducting itself like some tawdry cheerleader) and public patronage
in the guise of a 'culturally generative force'.
Propaganda of Individualism
Within the art schools the charismatic
artists' 'do-it-yourself' rhetoric acts to conflate the existing sets of
relations between the various speculating agents in the field of cultural
production, neglecting the cumulative effects that have, and persist to
cause, cultural capital to attract cultural capital, sustained by unquestioned
notions of individualism. It has become a conventional and convenient facade
that tends to obscure the relations of power while suggesting that everyone
may simply choose to participate once equipped with the correct inclinations.
"[F]ocusing on individual agency
and responsibility, such economic common sense plays an important ideological
function in diverting attention away from structural conditions and differential
power relations. Instead it blames bad economic conditions on the vice
[failure] of individuals... The language of personal responsibility thereby
reinforces a de-politicised conception of the economy... locating the solution
to economic and social problems in the reform of individuals' character
and not in government or community efforts to alter structural conditions
Jacinda Swanson; Self help: Clinton,
Blair and the politics of personal responsibility, 'Radical Philosophy'
Public funding is increasingly cut
according to unproven government theories whilst simultaneously shifting
the attention of solving structural problems away from government and onto
individuals without the resources. Social and economic problems are re-conceived
as problems of the individual, including their causes and solutions. The
visual arts in Scotland are not an autonomous entity of their own devising
but comprise of sites of interconnection and contestation between various
bodies: local/ regional/ central government funding mechanisms (with all
the shifting 'prioritisations' and 'issues of purpose' they carry with
them); the corporate/ private sector; the Scottish Art Schools; workshop
providers; individual artists and artists' networks. We must then view
that which manifests as The Visual Arts in relation to the social/ political/
economic environment that exerts influence over its production and dissemination.
One outcome of the demands placed
on artists' spaces through the public funding mechanisms to 'professionalise'
their 'casual' labour structures has been their recent embracing of New
Deal work experience placements. Surrounding such 'training opportunities'
is the illusion of successful trainees gaining a toe-hold in the labour
market. Needless to say such work experience programmes do not actually
create any jobs. Rather, in re-articulating a surplus of subsidised labour
they--ironically--act to arrest any such occasion, providing the foundation
for a high turn over of labour generally within the field, exacerbating
competitiveness for existing jobs. So, while New Deal is opportunistically
seen by arts organisations as another funding stream their actions are
complicit in adding to the broader illusion of progression in the labour
market. The same thing will happen on a wider scale to organisations.
It has been argued that artists'
self-determination and individual agency was in part a critical project
in its own right--exposing and circumventing unequal power relations; questioning
assumptions of disabilitating models of what constitutes 'the centre' and
'the periphery'; challenging the values associated to legitimate modes
and courses of dissemination; entering into and propelling alternate fields
Much of what passes as artist-run
is being made to fixate on success and value as adjudicated via a pseudo-economic
relation of profit making ability. This is defined by a weak and experimental
formulation of market integration: in reality government deception towards
individualising political problems. Increasingly self-censoring in adherence
to these funding priorities, has resulted in an arresting of the imagination
of what can constitute the politics of independent practice. This generalised
submission to government/market jurisdiction (where perhaps there was a
self-consciousness; an idealism of alteriety; or at least a more self-aware,
critical relationship before) has been a recuperation of a model of independent
artist-led activity (personal responsibility) into a government propaganda
model that exculpates flexible yet weak and insecure conceptions of employer
and government responsibility.
It is hard to believe that historically
this alignment was the aim of artist-run spaces, that subservience and
not independence was the goal. There is need to position this debate within
the context of the larger neo-conservative political agenda, but there
is also need to investigate the social and ideological positions taken
up by artists and arts administrators so as not to absolve them--us--of responsibility
for the situations we find ourselves in.
20 reviews 20
Mr Tayto & Mr Tayto
Vivre sa merde, Transmission.
Centrally situated in city, on main
bus route, towards the end of winter. Simply the best in high quality blends
of stylish intelligent French design and value for money, in an expensive
demi-monde. The dream of total theatre, is still a dream.
Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe
have proceeded like men of experience in this business, and taken the natural
road to undermine most with their big videos, very shiny shoes and long
expanses of boredom.
Sticky Carpet, Project Room.
This whole matter of boozy underfelt
gives the rank conception, or migrating sensation of a potato-faced man
clad in a toga of servile retribution. The Devil! Pooh!
Anomalous Phenomena, Free Gallery.
We started cracking open the champagne,
fell into a bottle and stayed there. We were absolutely smashed. There
was an eeriness, a strange panic and hushed desperation, evident on the
faces of the devoted before we woke up the next morning with our first
hangovers since 1994. But we couldn't believe our bleary eyes when stunning
Suzi snubbed our advances.
Mandelson of Rio, Gallery Charisma.
Describing the horrendous anthropocentrism
of the '50s interests us enormously, but not as much as the old habits
of rabid and bigoted partisanship.
The TuckShop, Intermedia.
You use a glass mirror to see your
face; we use fresh and vivid beauty to see our soles.
Alison Watt: Sheet Folder, The
High tech sex and filth intertwining
doctrine and method from the air guitarist of horny duvet sets and hospital
corners. Put this one on your wedding list for a few jejune points.
The Schaffhausen Videonale 20001,
The curators of this years Videonale
somehow seem to have settled for nothing less than a celebration of polysemy
single channel Cornwallisation. Billy Chapel is one of many up and coming
video nasties (by far the best). His installation 'The Wurst is yet to
come' involves a video projection of a sausage on a plate being eaten.
This seems a little old fashioned and some might say (Oasis) outdated,
but Chapel's uniqueness has not yet been revealed and the fact he audaciously
made the video projector sit inside a 6ft long (2ft diameter) block displays
potential. Personally I didn't need to see the small sign saying 'do not
eat the sausage'.
Supernatural Behaviour for the
Festive Season, Fly Gallery.
A shark adventure to really get
your teeth into, the ultimate rat-on-the-wall 'will they won't they?' rockumentary
for mumbling apostles of the moderne.
'It is not the society that seems
ridiculous to me, it is mankind', Sebastian Coe gallery, Southampton.
Five times this year, shows have
existed. Sebastian shows himself to have emotive language, providing philistinism
that confronts middle class cinnamon protocol.
The Umpire Strikes Bach, Collective
Smooth blend of undetermined cricket,
baroque music and profoundly big backlit hair.
Astroturf Castles, Protayto Academy.
Witness my death to vanity. Less
ornamental 'action', more talk depending on a further auxiliary language.
Waco 2: the comebach
Too Close for Comfort, Fruitmarket
Two heads are better than none.
Art as a partisan of agrarian reform, a bear-leader friskily celebrating
the appellation of the bird of paradise.
Nicotine Patch, Inverleith House.
The table in the middle of the floor
was as big as a house and the chairs around it were as high as trees.
Archibald Campbell and Harley
WS Photography Prize, Stills.
There's nothing quite so horrific
as man's inhumanity to man, and whenever an unusual historical tale comes
to light, Archibald Campbell and his intrepid assistant Harley WS will
be there to investigate.
Difficile est saturam non scribere,
It's difficult not to write satire.
Maybe it was me, Limosine Bull,
'Crazy' artist Toni Davies has researched
the history of the gallery building, finding out that his own father used
to torture dwarves and freaks on site with croquet mallet interventions.
These works shamefully pander to the society of the spectacle, but never-the-less
we loved looking at his sordid documentation.
Live and Let Die, Cornerhouse,
A farcical stinking mass of stones
and lime and dung scab and hunger.
Ethnic Rug Thug, Terrance Donovan
Tayto never seen scene like this.
Terrance illustrates the sixth zeal of Koresh. Koresh for all his bad press/faith
is actually correct. Terrance made Tayto smile with what he did, excluding
his own vanity and tendency to make love sex gestures at Tayto wife.
Masters of the Universe, Delfina
Project Space, Croydon.
What is it with you about rock music,
every time a 'pun' concerning Iron Maiden, MOR and what-have-you crops
up, you seem to slag them off. An example here is the Satan project. We
don't know what makes you think that rock bands write about the Devil all
the time, 'cos none of the records we listen to do anything of the sort.
And if you think Iron Maiden are a 'crappy heavy metal' group, then perhaps
you'd like to explain why No Prayer For The Dying has gone straight in
at Number Two?
Best Before, Matthew Higgs' Fridge,
As Hollywood gave us stability,
Jeremy Deller and Jim Carey got busy in the icebox.
Bring back Working Practice, The
Annual Programme, Manchester.
Bring back working practice is an
exhibition held at Clive Sinclair's first studio in sixteen years, based
in a schemie (non-context specific) metal grill fronted 7Up outlet just
east of brick Lane (pool table and soft drinks with posters on ceiling
only) and the (Pheonix Specific) Pheonix pub in Broughton St, Edinburgh.
The work seems to benefit from a hands-on application which derives from
being tried out in the studio first. Conceptually it seems to deal with
issues such as Hitchcock, and modern urban life, including sport (which
takes place inside the touch lines only).
One Liner Designer, institute
of myopic research, Dundee.
Lucas van Valkenborch provides interest
but fucks up by concentrating largely on the glamour of institutionalised
peripheral activity through a critique of the suggested relationship between
science and washing powder (Radion).
White Van Man, Ormeau Baths,
Virgins under hedges and scarlet
whores confront the multi-national networked economy with a tower of traumatic
mince (and pies).
Mongrel Tate Website, Tate Modern,
Morning boys! Once-in-a-lifetime
chance to invite dissent. Capitalism will be over soon, unfortunately.
Steamy Windows, Anthony Wilkinson,
If Madonna has the time, she really
must pick up a few sartorial tips on cowboy gear from future Turner Prize
nominee Nicky Hirst.
Common Culture, Gaswerk, London.
Nothing was at stake except perhaps
the truth. In private, we had contended that we didn't like Common Culture
but that they were the real thing, which was the view pretty generally
held at the time. I remember that Mr Tayto about '90, '91 asked me, "You
don't really think about common culture do you?" He was for Common Culture,
but for him and others Common Culture did something else, it wasn't good.
You could see it, those beautiful hands, all that stuff. By the time Common
Culture were discovered though, he had lost their stuff. They went over
well though. I thought when I wrote that, they had lost it, that I was
asserting the truth, protecting the truth, establishing the truth, re-establishing
it, I thought that's what I had to do. Mr Tayto himself knew it was bullshit,
but he was ready to accept any explanation for what they did, because they
were hard up for words.
In for a penny, in for a pound,
Dundee Contemporary Arts, London.
By transforming the 'white triangle'
into a Cockney bookmakers, Carey Young makes her name appear in front of
our eyes as we enter a coma.
WAR-U-LIKE, Walker Art Centre,
Being fond of the ladies tends to
obstruct and neutralise critique of the less significant cultural realignments
at stake, excluding copious lyrical passages that have narrower parallels
in culture, weaving tangled webs of mostly doomed but interesting insects.
Mr Tayto and Mr Tayto are associated
convienience snack manufacturers, based in Eire and Northern Ireland respectively.
Manuel Rafael Mancillas
The land belongs to those who
Maclovio Rojas was a very special
young man of strong convictions and faith. He died as he walked in the
corridor of power. I had a photograph of him, well, I thought it was, and
I wanted to "rescue his image." I had never heard of an Indian from Oaxaca,
other than two of our presidents, Juárez and Díaz, to have
a community named after him/her. I spoke to the other members of the Border
Arts Workshop (BAW) and we decided to visit the community and talk to the
residents about painting a mural of Maclovio's image in their community
Jaime Cota is a labor right's organizer
in Tijuana and member of the Frente Zapatista de Liberación Nacional
(FZLN) the civilian support group of the EZLN. Members and sympathizers
of the FZLN were the people who had built the original structure of the
Aguascalientes in the Poblado Maclovio Rojas. The small structure and makeshift
stage built out of garage doors and recycled wood, stood in the middle
of the community. We approached Jaime Cota about doing the mural of Maclovio
and he then took us to the Poblado and introduced us to Hortensia Hernández
and Artemio Osuna.
The relationship began as Hortensia
Hernández, leader and president of the base committee, was looking
at the tiny 35 mm slide trying to figure out the person in the image. She
liked the image and agreed with me that it looked like Maclovio Rojas.
She was not sure, but she was sure that the person standing next to him
was his brother. We had a long conversation about Maclovio Rojas and about
the legal problems they were facing in the community. As she spoke, she
pointed behind her at row upon row of stacked cargo containers, built by
Hyundai Precision Co. and explained that the Korean maquiladora was encroaching
on them and threatening to take the rest of their land. Three years before,
Hyundai had relocated one of their manufacturing plants to Tijuana, as
part of a Korean-México negotiation agreement, that ex-President
Salinas de Górtari had signed to attract Asian investment into the
In 1993, Hyundai appropriated for
free 100 hectares for storage and parking of their cargo containers establishing
the second largest cargo container manufacturing plant in the world. The
real estate surrounding this industrial park, once located on the outskirts
and marginal areas of Tijuana was transformed through a Baja California
State-sponsored development of the industrial-commercial infrastructure
of the adjacent area to the Poblado Maclovio Rojas, and became highly coveted
by land speculators.
An officially stamped invoice dated
in 1991, issued by the federal Agrarian Reform Department is pasted on
the wall of the Poblado's assembly hall. The document is proof that the
Unión de Posesionarios del Poblado Maclovio Rojas Márquez,
A.C., paid the government for the disputed 197 hectares. The Poblado has
been steadily growing as additional families move in to the community and
parcels are sub-divided into single-family 336 sq. ft. lots. The majority
of the houses are built with discarded garage doors and wood pallets, many
houses, however, are now being built out of cinder block and mortar. The
development of the commercial area next to the Hyundai storage area and
the main highway now includes 2 PEMEX gas stations, mini-market and truck
stop, a new furniture assembly maquiladora plant, and the former municipal
slaughterhouse has now been turned into the Tijuana Police Academy. No
The receipt shows that on 8/3/95
the Pobladores of Maclovio Rojas paid $1,892.78 dollars, the value the
federal agency had appraised at the time. Currently, the state officials
have appraised the real estate at $10.00 a square meter, making the 197
hectares polygon, currently occupied by the Maclovianos, worth 197 million
The image on the slide, although
great in composition, had a dark shadow around the eyes caused by the rim
of the hat. Unable to clear it electronically, we needed another photograph
to get a better definition of his eyes. We came across Maclovio's brother,
Lucio Rojas, during presidential candidate Cuahtémoc Cárdenas
presentation at Cal State University at San Marcos. The organizers of the
event presented Lucio as one of the main catalysts of the organization
of Mixteco-Zapoteca migrant farmworkers in San Diego's North County. When
we approached him, he told us that his family was still living in San Quintín,
and that he was going to travel there during the following Fourth of July
holiday. We decided to visit and interview the Rojas family members to
get an insight on Maclovio life and to secure a better photograph.
Travelling on the transpeninsular
highway the 200 miles from the border south to San Quintín valley
along the scenic Baja California coast, is both beautiful and treacherous.
The valley began developing high yielding agro-industrial farming for export
in 1980. As the Southern California suburban land rush was displacing farmland
to the south, the fertile San Quintín valley became the yearlong
supplier of vegetables to the north. This agricultural expansion required
cheap farm labor. Mixteca Indians being expelled by poverty from their
homelands in the state of Oaxaca, quickly met this demand. In 1985 almost
80,000 farmworkers were working in these tomato maquiladoras, while living
in labor camps inside the grower's property. Maclovio's family had immigrated
here in 1980, he joined them in 1984. By 1986, he had become a leader and
president of the CIOAC, a national organization that was organizing a campaign
to unionize the farmworkers. As many leaders before him, he was faced with
an enormous task, there has never been an independent union of farmworkers
in México, Maclovio gave his life for this cause. He was ran over
by a truck as he crossed the highway, the murder was ordered by a grower,
a rival Mixteca leader carried out the killing. He was killed on the 4th
of July 1987.
We arrived two days after the 9th
anniversary of his death and interviewed the family. They invited us to
the unveiling of the community's museum and celebration. As I was presenting
the enlarged and framed photograph to his older brother Jose, he paused
for what seemed an hour. Trying to find words, he politely thanked me for
my good intentions and said that, unfortunately, it was not a picture of
his brother Maclovio, but it was instead his uncle Fausto. And indeed,
the other person in the photograph was his brother Lucio. The embarrassment
was eased when they kindly provided us with the only photograph they had
of Maclovio, a photo taken on the day of his marriage.
Hyundai and the struggle for independent
We decided to extend our original
idea of painting the mural of Maclovio's image, that we needed to explore
the idea of a long-term project with both the San Quintín communities
as well as in Tijuana.
We travelled to the Hyundai plant
near the Poblado Maclovio Rojas to witness the initiation ceremony of an
independent union of the workers. Months before, there had been a workers'
initiative to organize in plants that were subcontracting to Hyundai. The
movement had been squashed and the leaders fired. The meeting was held
in a half-built structure adjacent to the main Hyundai plant, about 20
workers pledged and signed the union cards. Unbeknown to all of us present
at this meeting, Hortensia, Artemio and Juan Regalado were arrested by
Baja California State Judicial police on their way to the meeting. The
police laid-in-wait, and were actually waiting for Hortensia to leave the
community to apprehend her on trumped up charges of illegal possession
of property and damages to private property. The next day the radio newscasts
were reporting their arrest as we began another chapter in our collaborative
We immediately travelled to Tijuana's
state government offices to document the protest by the residents of Maclovio
and supporters from other communities, and several of Tijuana's labor and
human rights activists. The protesters were hoping that the issue of the
arrests of the community's leaders would be resolved in Tijuana, thus avoiding
the need to travel to the State's capital in Mexicali 120 miles away to
deal with their freedom. The local representatives of the governor of Baja
California failed to resolve the issue, the leadership then resolved to
march to Mexicali on September 4, 1996 to demand the freedom of the three
compa - eros.
La Marcha por la Libertad
Wednesday morning, September 4,
1996. The main plaza of the Poblado Maclovio Rojas was full of people.
Women and children milling around, painting banners and signs, preparing
their bodies and souls for the road ahead, packing food, water, and hydrolyzed
serum donated by supporters. Their resolve was strong: they would march
to meet face to face with the governor of Baja California. Highway 2 will
take the marchers through the 5,500 feet Sierra Juárez pass, down
the Rumorosa grade to the Laguna Salada 110 feet below sea level, where
temperatures can climb to 115 degrees at midday.
Over 300 people began the march,
the corridor of power waited for no one, not even freedom marchers. The
madness grew intense, impatient horns blasted through the morning sun;
a massive traffic jam backed up for miles. Dirt and smoke filtered the
colors flying in the sky.
One marcher, Rubén Hernández
died while crossing the desert. The Maclovianos pledged to return a year
later to the place where he died, and erected a monument in his honor and
These events--the arrests of the
leadership and the protest march, transformed the collaborative process
from the networking phase of exchanging information, to a coordinating
phase in which our inter-activities were considerably altered. BAW participated
in the march, providing direct support to the marchers and by video documenting
the event. BAW contacted support groups and several NGOs in San Diego,
primarily the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and their local
US-México Border Program, who then contacted others in the network
of transborder social justice and solidarity groups in the region.
A marcher died of dehydration in
the sweltering heat of the Mexicali desert; Hortensia Hernández
spent 3 months in the infamous La Mesa State Penitentiary as a political
prisoner; these events transformed the new symbols for BAW's aesthetic
Out of Line and Beyond Borders
The Support Committee of Maquiladora
Workers (SCMW) a non-profit NGO based in San Diego began seeking support
from the national network via alerts and developed a letter writing campaign
to demand from the Baja California and México City governments the
freedom of the compa - eros.
The SCMW has, for many years solicited
resources to maintain full time organizers in Tijuana, financial resources
were provided to the compa - eros in Maclovio Rojas to support their
legal defense fund. The SCMW kept providing direct support by organizing
fundraising NAFTA tours in the Poblado. Busloads of activists from the
Southern California region visited Maclovio for lunch and fact finding
activities to discover the effects of NAFTA in the border region. Currently,
the SCMW continues to have close ties with the AFL-CIO and other US labor
organizations that have opposed NAFTA.
An article by Julio Laboy published
in the front page of the Wall Street Journal (California section) in 2/2/97,
detailed the "friends within the belly of the monster," that have supported
the struggle in Maclovio Rojas. The image of Hortensia Hernández
also appeared on the front page, with a caption referring to her as Sub-Comandante
Hortensia. The reference to the EZLN made Hyundai corporate officers and
Susan Golding San Diego's Republican mayor quite nervous. The local representative
of Hyundai expressed concern about doing business in a hostile environment
and the possibility of relocating the plant that produces $50 million dollars
a year. The article, although important for getting the attention of the
corporate investors by pointing out the strong support from within the
US, misleads the reader by making a reference to Hernández as being
part of the political arm of the EZLN. The week after the article was published
both Hortensia Hernández, the Poblado's committee and Hyundai's
officers corrected the article in the local newspapers. In a press conference
conducted in the Poblado, Hernández made it clear--the residents
of Maclovio Rojas support and identify with the struggle being waged by
the EZLN and the indigenous communities in Chiapas. The Poblado's organization,
however, does not represent the political arm of the Zapatistas, in fact
there is no official "political arm" of the EZLN.
Hyundai also conducted a press conference
to deny any attempts by the corporation to take over any of the land belonging
to Maclovio. After the Wall Street Journal article, the cargo containers
that were stored, stacked three-high next to the Poblado, were removed
and only a couple of hundred of them still remain in the lot.
The SCMW turned its attention to
supporting the efforts of the Han Young (a subsidiary of Hyundai) workers
working to organize an independent union. Several of the original leaders
of the Han Young workers who began the organizing effort were residents
of the Poblado Maclovio Rojas. There is ample documentation of the Han
Young worker's struggle, it has reached worldwide renown through many publications,
specifically Z Magazine and articles by free-lance writer David Bacon.
Engagement and Cooperation
During this time, BAW was constructing
its annual "Border Realities XI" installation at the Centro Cultural de
la Raza, in San Diego. This depicted the resistance and struggle of Maclovio
Rojas. Members of the base committee of the Poblado were invited to the
opening and spoke at the event, the following week we were invited by Artemio
Osuna to meet and begin discussions concerning our community engagement
project in Maclovio.
BAW was invited to participate in
inSite '97 a triennial transborder public art festival. By securing funding,
first from a grant from Installation Gallery, we were able to transform
the collaborative relationship into a cooperation phase and commit to a
long-term project. The inSite triennial festivals are funded by several
institutional governmental sources that are funnelled through Installation
Gallery. The festivals are organized with the participation of many of
the regional IGOs and NGOs including corporate, social and political, also
the regional galleries and museums. BAW then obtained a grant from the
US/México Fund for Culture that enabled us to extend the terms of
our project and to move beyond the initial phase that was funded for the
inSite '97 Festival.
BAW began negotiations with the
community's leadership as to the nature and context of our participation
in the community, which asked for more frequent visits. We requested an
area in the community to build a storage space in order to keep materials
and equipment. A decision was made to provide a space in the area of the
Aguascalientes. Artemio Osuna explained that the Aguascalientes' area of
the community was intended to house regional organizations so they could
establish their outreach offices. BAW presented a design of a two-story
building made out of discarded wooden garage doors. The base committee
decided to build with cinder block, to insure longevity and security. The
wooden garage doors originally acquired to build the center were used to
line the perimeter of the area and were painted with murals depicting the
community's struggle and history. Included in the murals was our original
intent to paint the image of Maclovio Rojas at the top of the stage area.
It took the Workshop exactly one year from the time of the initial negotiations
with the base committee to finish the construction of the center. The Aguascalientes
was inaugurated on July 4, 1998, to commemorate the 11th anniversary of
Maclovio Rojas' death.
The Artist as a Vehicle for Community
The Aguascalientes in the Poblado
Maclovio Rojas was built in the spirit of the EZLN's Aguascalientes. Currently,
there are five Aguascalientes in Chiapas. The insurgent army built the
Aguascalientes with the mission to serve as a place to develop a culture
of resistance, and to serve as the actual links to the outside civil society.
La sociedad civil: Indigenous peoples, students, workers, community associations,
gays and lesbians, barzonistas (bankrupt native mid-range commerce and
industrial entrepreneurs that got hit by the Peso financial crisis), old
school leftists and new age rock stars, housewives, scholars, linking a
global consciousness to a local and national democratic movement.
The Aguascalientes in Oventic, one
of the Zapatista's autonomous municipalities in Chiapas, is being built
through a collaborative project between the Oventic community and San Diegans
for Peace with Dignity in México. Peter Brown, one of the organizers
of this group, a long time border activist and school teacher was deported
last year by Mexican immigration officials for violating sovereignty laws.
He continues to organize caravans of delegations from San Diego to Chiapas.
The EZLN conducted a National Consultation
campaign during March 1999, 5000 indigenous militants mobilized and travelled
from their Chiapas communities throughout the entire scope of the Mexican
country seeking feedback from the civil society. The EZLN militants surveyed
the population on questions of indigenous rights and their opinion concerning
the implementation of the San Andrés Larrainzar Accords. The militants
also asked for support to end the war of extermination being waged by the
government against their people. The government has refused to comply to
their agreement with the EZLN. Such Accords called for the Regional Autonomy
and the Self-Governance of the Indigenous peoples throughout México.
During the campaign a delegation of EZLN militants met with the Maclovio
Rojas community in the Aguascalientes and established mutual concerns in
their particular struggles.
A delegation of 19 members visited
the Tijuana-Tecate Border region and a highly significant event and piece
of border art happened during the visit to the region. The EZLN organized
the campaign by sending an equal number of women and men, in Tijuana 9
couples and one child, visited and met with a wide array of groups. Events
were organized by a transborder coordinating committee that brought together
organizations and constituencies that usually don't work together. The
delegation listened to speakers dealing with regional issues and received
solidarity declarations from organizations throughout Southern California.
For obvious security reasons, the
delegation could not obtain visas or otherwise to cross the border, so
a demonstration event was organized along the 12 foot fence, in an area
where the transborder NAFTA train has a crossing gate. Scaffolding was
set up to install a platform high enough so that supporters on the other
side of the fence could see and hear the EZLN speakers.
The role of the artist
BAWs role in this community, as
artists and cultural workers, is continuously redefined. The initial role
was to link the community's struggle to the outside by documenting and
producing work to create a public consciousness and to prevent a violent
removal of the pobladores by government forces. The last government attempt
to forcefully evict them happened on February 28, 1998.
Through BAW's network in Southern
California we are able to create alerts and mobilize support. The leadership
of the Poblado wants to develop formal transborder alliances, that would
include community activists from the Orange County Friends of Maclovio
Rojas, the Green Party, CISPES in Los Angeles, and other activists and
grassroots organizations, and BAW acting in the role of transborder inside/outside
BAW facilitates solidarity and working
delegations to the Poblado. The Orange County Friends of Maclovio Rojas
through fundraising purchased a towing trailer to transport garage doors
and building materials. The American Friends Service Committee sends annual
delegations from their youth program for a week-long stay for community
work projects. Global Exchange also brings a youth program. Recently, two
French scholars spent a 6 week long residency in the center producing a
documentary for French TV. An Australian graduate student is working on
a performance-based research project; and a Brazilian artist is developing
a summer-long residency and community event planned for this year, for
the inSite 2000 Festival.
Long Term Commitment
Through the 12 years the Maclovio
Rojas have kept alive their movement and struggle for the land and the
development of their community, they have increased their potential and
capacity for self-governing having taken up their own plans for their families
In spite of it all--jails, attacks,
threats and divisive actions taken by the government against their organization--the
Maclovianos realize that it's up to them to develop the infrastructure
of the Poblado.
A longer version of this article
together with a web project documenting the BAW project can be found at: