:: Reviews archive ( click for articles pre-2006)

A House Divided published 01/10/2014


Formally, Permission attempts to be a modern twist on the monologic epistolary novel, the strictly one-sided communication between a correspondent and a silent – in this case, non-responsive – recipient. The twist is that Chrostowska claims that the entire enterprise has been a real-life experiment; that she actually sent these emails under the disguise of a pseudonym to an unnamed individual.

Terry Pitts explores S.D. Chrostowska, Permission: A Novel.

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filters, modulators, magnetic tape published 29/09/2014


The wonderful, expansive strangeness of Krautrock was a product, then, of an implicitly political mission – to supplant a tonality synonymous with American cultural colonisation with a sound that was distinctly German. This was a nationalism that was entirely free of the taint of Hitlerite chauvinism: as Stubbs points out, Kraftwerk’s celebration of the German motorway system in Autobahn might have had sinister overtones to 1970s observers mired in atavistic Germanophobia, but in fact it reprised traditions that predated Nazism and had nothing to do with it – German expressionism, and the unity of art and technology that was a cornerstone of Bauhaus.

Houman Barekat reviews David StubbsFuture Days.

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“Not Just Self- but Social-Realization”: On John Cage’s “Diary” published 25/09/2014

The randomized program of John Cage’s “Diary” attempts, to use Deleuzian phrasing, becoming-zero, becoming-hole. What “Diary” stages is a way to live in silence, to listen and respond, to produce affect through exteriority, and locate the otherness within the self by putting one in conversation not only with other humans but with non-humanness, the flips of coins, chance operations. Cage writes: “Home begins outside. Shelter’s inside.” The chance-determined numbers that provide the program of the “Diary” function as a way out of that shelter, dropped breadcrumbs back to the home of the world.

Chris Robinson on John Cage‘s “Diary”

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Cortázar’s glass trap published 21/09/2014

Cortázar writes to create traps that lead us in but lie about having an exit. There is no exit. Because of this we’re always wondering about the nature of the relationship being developed. In ‘One Step Forward, One Step Backward’ he tells the story of the fly who finds she can pass through glass but then finds out glass is a trap. A Hungarian scientist has invented a one-way process whereby the fly can’t get back out via the glass through which it entered. It’s a picture of how he works his fictions. His stories are made out of one way glass.

Richard Marshall on Cortázar’s Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires. An Attainable Utopia.

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the audience’s identification with the actor is really an identification with the camera published 10/09/2014

Benjamin’s appeal to “tradition” in defending the aura of authentic works of art against banalisation is regressive and conservative. Indeed, his entire overall championing of aura appears to be placed in opposition to the putative agenda of the ‘masses’, who are implicitly equated with the proletariat. This position, counter-intuitive to a Marxist, suggests the inevitable intellectual tension facing the bourgeois cultural theorist who espouses a leftist political position.

In the second of a three part series examining Walter Benjamin today, Jim Fearnley dissects The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

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Worlds Without End published 09/09/2014

Unknown to us, we have hyper-identical “brother-stars” in a host of star systems. This is not the only place where a Plautus contrived Manaechmi and a Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. This is not the only place where a Kardashian girl married a Kanye, a U.S. Secretary of State is outflanked in a brutalized Near East, and your alter-ego is now scanning the words “your alter-ego is now scanning the words” in 3:AM Magazine.

David van Dusen on Louis-Auguste Blanqui‘s Eternity by the Stars

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chasing mirages: Anaïs Nin’s unexpurgated diaries published 01/09/2014

“Today I am quietly sad. Mirages. Mirages.” Nin uses the word “mirages” throughout her diary as a kind of monastic chant, a linguistic rolling of prayer beads to ease the pain of her reality via ablution of the now mere “illusionary.” The idea of the mirage becomes an escape for Nin, so the world doesn’t have to be real when she doesn’t want it to be.

Callie Hitchcock on the dream and the mirage in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin 1939-1947.

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The Rottweiler’s Guide to the Dog Owner published 29/08/2014

Poetry that is about the yearning for a moment you missed and couldn’t ruin, poetry that goes to an imagined community of real people who rightly fear the known, poetry that reverses justice, becoming the carrot with the stick taken out, poetry that comes out of bars as philosophy, that never forgets nor forgives Eliot, that is taller, that from afar can be mistaken for tomorrow and from a distance yesterday and from here neither yesterday nor tomorrow nor either proven until false nor shown to be true, poetry that is always losing the connecting verb, that arrives incognito by mistake, that, given a presupposition of well-being and confidence, resists opinions and clings instead to Werner Herzog, Bowie’s ‘Heathen’/’Reality’/’Outside’, leaving a recorded message because it’s caught in traffic wanderlust or some indeterminate clause… the binaries all left undone and untidy.

Richard Marshall on S.J. Fowler‘s The Rottweiller’s Guide to the Dog Owner.

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Twenty Pound Spectacle: Brett Bailey (Exhibit B) published 27/08/2014

Exhibit B is reminiscent of South Africa past and present. It opens up a space for thinking about cultural institutions in London and their relationship to histories of slavery, colonialism, and contemporary forms of racism.

Yvette Greslé on Exhibit B by Brett Bailey.

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Phantamasgoric Capitalism: Benjamin’s Arcades Today published 25/08/2014

Velocity runs through any consideration of capitalist development, from the carrier birds used to share information that Benjamin mentions were in use in the 19th century, to the edge provided by hyper-fast fibre optic cabling used for high-speed transactions (HSTs) in the current period. Further speed is added by the use of software algorithms for financial market decisions, eliminating time wasted on human hesitation and reflection. Conversely, in the sphere of consumption, time spent on purchase is reduced by the replacement of barter, arguably a social interaction. Whatever its purpose, to barter has a social dimension missing from, e.g., making an automated purchase in a supermarket.

In the first of a three part series examining the relevance of Walter Benjamin today, Jim Fearnley deliberates over the timeless Arcades Project.

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