NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT!
receive the newsprint magazine in the post.
Donate financial support towards the continuance
Advertise in the Spring issue.
issue 36, Winter 2009
Front cover (pdf): In
the spirit of amended, reappropriated or subverted artworks,
a decade of culture-focused regeneration later, the forum was
invited to amend the caption of Robert Thompson’s Private
Eye cartoon, 2000 (also exhibited at ‘Protest & Survive’,
curated by Matthew Higgs & Paul Noble, Whitechapel Gallery,
2000). The ‘winner’ wished to remain anonymous.
People should not ask why, but
only say because.
Public submission to parliamentary committee discussions of Creative
Scotland and the Public Service Reform Bill, from Variant magazine. "The
bill’s proposals for Creative Scotland...represent an historic
revision and backward trend in cultural policy. ... Creative
Scotland’s mission appears to be more about ideological
engineering than economic necessity, improved service levels,
or the public good."
The Last Days of Jack
...is the latest film by Anja
Kirschner and David Panos, based on the inferred prison encounters
between the 18th Century criminal Jack Sheppard and Daniel Defoe,
the ghostwriter of Sheppard’s ‘autobiography’.
Set in the wake of the South Sea Bubble financial crisis of 1720,
the film explores the connections between representation, speculation
and the discourses of high and low culture that emerged in the
early 18th Century and remain relevant to the present day. Bringing
to bear a host of allegorical associations and narrative forms,
but re-fashioning them to create uneasy resolutions that probe
into the problems and possibilities of class politics, the boundaries
of different genre styles, the false division between high and
low art, and the vexed question of ‘political
art’, Neil Gray asked the film-makers to discuss their
Locus Of Control
"As Belfast continues to travel the seemingly inexorable
road toward ‘normality’, ‘stability’ and ‘peace’,
the past dies. Or, more accurately, it becomes delocated. Delocation
does not destroy the past but rather shifts it, sanitises it,
builds over it. ... And now, it can perhaps be said...the ancient
divisions have been overcome in an orgy of vulgar consumerism...
A future defined by the objects of intended acquisition or intangible ‘lifestyle
indicators’ such as ‘gym membership’, ‘time
shares’ or the accumulation of ‘air miles’.
... How can anything intrude into such a timeless zone? ... It
is here that art appears once again on the fringes of society’s
When and why did the Russian Revolution
Brian Pearce, with commentary by Terry Brotherstone
In November 2008, Brian Pearce died, aged 93, at his north
London home. One of Pearce’s last articles was a review of Simon
Pirani’s pioneering book, 'The Russian Revolution in Retreat
1920-1924: the Soviet workers and the new Communist elite', the
first fully to exploit the Russian archives to access the mentality
of workers in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution. The
subject was of close personal interest to the reviewer as he
reflected on his own life and the history he had lived through.
paupers & gangrels?
Interview with Edinburgh Coalition Against
Poverty & Edinburgh
A false division exists between those in work and those ‘out
of work’, and, despite the correlation between welfare and
work, there have been few effective movements to defend the unemployed
and low-wage workers collectively. However, with the unemployed
increasingly herded into a privatised workfare industry, and with
the onset of large-scale unemployment under recessionary conditions,
there lies the possibility of a convergence of interests and perspectives
between the unemployed, people in precarious work, and all those
who contribute to society outside of the wage-relation. In the
context of punitive Welfare restructuring there have been some
challenging community responses - ECAP and Edinburgh Claimants
are among those groups that are only too well aware of the implications.
Variant interviewed them, as building and strengthening coalitions
between people in low paid work and people on benefits is surely
more urgent than ever.
rhetoric & reality
Critiques of Capitals of Culture have tended to interrogate
the authoritative claims of the legacy of the event, its legitimacy
as a vehicle for urban re-structuring, or the consequences
of symbolic re-invention of ‘identity’ of bidding
or host cities. This article engages specifically with the
community involvement dimension of Liverpool’s European
Capital of Culture 2008. The Russian literary critic and socio-linguist
Mikhail Bakhtin defined ‘dialogism’ as “meaning
created through dialogue". Liverpool’s year as European
Capital of Culture presents the opportunity to enquire how
we might understand the event’s dialogic character -
particularly narratives about the aims for ‘creativity’,
not just for the City’s year as European Capital of Culture
2008 but for the broader re-assignment of Liverpool as a ‘Creative
City’, and the conditions of emergence that give rise
to alternative voices.
KPMG and the Accountancy Oligopoly
The ongoing Crunch-and-Squeeze precipitated by the over-valuation
of capitalist assets is making for all kinds of anger as its
impact on not-bankers and not-auditors is felt, and will be felt
for years to come. The intention of this investigation is to
help put the spotlight on the outrageous and shameless actions
of the auditor/tax avoidance oligopoly. It aims to show how the
oligopoly in general, and KPMG in particular – a worldwide
organisation with offices in 24 tax havens – has their
sticky fingers in so many areas of economic and political life,
in which everything it does is to the benefit of capital and
the individual rich. It also brings to light the elitism that
rationalizes both KPMG's highly lucrative government consultancy,
and its resistance to formal regulation which it does not control.
It is that form of anti-democratic elitism which says that only
the few who are in the know can understand the complexities of
finance and contracts, even when those in the know are self-interested.
The Space Merchants
Escaping the Iron Cage of Rationality by Rocket to Venus
'The Space Merchants' by Frederik Pohl
& C.M. Kornbluth was first published in 1953: “An overcrowded
world is dominated by giant corporations, who struggle violently
with each other. Mitch Courtenay, a Madison Avenue copywriter,
has been given the job of selling the idea of emigration to Venus.
He has rivals. Conflicts develop.” Pohl & Kornbluth, like
Orwell and Huxley, wrote about individual autonomy beleaguered
by totalitarian mass cultures. All were connoisseurs of contemporary
anxieties about modernity. 'The Space Merchants' shared themes
with the work of Herbert Marcuse who viewed technology and industrial
society primarily as instruments of domination and social control.
This was determinist stuff and 'The Space Merchants' was similarly
pessimistic on the question of future individual autonomy. Yet
the contours of Pohl & Kornbluth's
dystopia and Mitch Courtenay’s trials and tribulations remain,
in their own way, as compelling as those in '1984'
or 'Brave New World'. Near the end of 'Protestant Ethic and
the Spirit of Capitalism', the sociologist Max Weber struggled
to explain his theories about how the systems of modernity could
encroach upon human lives. The image he came up with was that of “the
iron cage of rationality”. Weber described the inmates of
this “iron cage” as specialists without spirit. To
illustrate his argument better, he referred his readers to Leo
Tolstoy’s 'The Death of Ivan Illyich', just as many writers
about 20th century modernity have done so using Orwell or Huxley.
Sometimes social theorists must cede to fiction, and to science
fiction, to explain their preoccupations...
The Ill-Health of the State
That “war is the health of the State” has proved
an enduring motif in critiques of Western government policy.
From World War II-era pacifism to the Cold War, and the Vietnam
debacle to contemporary global Wars on Drugs or Terror, governments
claim noble motives in justifying and organising themselves with
military metaphors and modus operandi, so that "war is the
health of the State" seems as apposite now as ever. Mainstream
current affairs coverage of the State’s monopoly over coercion,
meanwhile, still generally accepts at face value the protestations
of power, taking seriously only minor policy differences among
the ‘loyal opposition’. Fictional representations,
however, have more latitude – even in the mass media – and
this survey of english-language cinema and television narratives
related to the Iraq War assesses their performance in communicating
and negotiating the present health of the State in operations
at home and abroad...
|The Place of Artists' Cinema
Meave Connolly’s arguments in 'The Place of Artists’ Cinema'
"force us to think of ‘artists’ cinema’ as
a form or practice that raises interesting questions, for example,
about the nature of ‘place’, about the ‘market’ or ‘post-Fordist
capital’, about the notion of the ‘public space’,
about the status and scope of ‘events’... Connolly’s
passion, perhaps even advocacy, for the works she discusses comes
through strongly and the reader is left with the distinct impression
that while not simply a work of canonisation (a possibility or
danger Connolly herself acknowledges early on in the text), this
book is moved by a desire to praise rather than bury, and is
therefore critical in an affirmative and productive sense."