:: Essays archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

In the flicker published 27/04/2014

Look east along the Thames today and you see corporate glass stretching into the night sky, part of the new financial colonialism that has seen the Docklands redreamt as a privatized Shangri-la. It continues to radiate waves of gentrification through what were once the slums of East London: kebab shops swallowed by upmarket cafes, Brick Lane made safe for DJ bars and indie record stores, loft apartments seeding themselves in former sweatshops. Myths brawl for space here. Jack the Ripper and Cable Street, the young Lenin and the embryo of Communism, Old Nichol, Dickens’s London. This is Tower Hamlets, famous and infamous, a borough tangled together in 1963 from the crumbling backlots of Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney, its clumsy name – that jarring collision of rural yeomanry and the inner-city – somehow perfect for a heartland of pie-and-eels cockerney transformed into multicultural Kebabylon: minicabs jostling with microbars and art galleries, third-gen Hindus and Sikhs touting curries to thriftstore hipsters.

Transition and permanence in the city of eternal change, by Dale Lately.

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Shamans in the Creative City: An Autumn in Korea published 22/04/2014

It is a city that had grown from half a million to 18 million in 60 years. The 1960s mayor, Kim Hyeon-ok called it “aggressive construction”: the development of the Metro system; the sequenced opening up of areas to develop as the population grew; how attention was turned to south of the Han river in the 1970s; and the impact of both the 1988 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup. It also showed how the late 19th century opening up to being a cosmopolitan city was cut off before it started by the military take-over of the country by Japan during which many of Korea’s own historical buildings were destroyed. This made sense of another of the tangles of ultra-modernity and the past, the need to recreate facsimilies of much of what had been destroyed.

John Barker reports on art, architecture and modernity from the post-dictatorship International Business Zones of Seoul and ‘Dynamic Busan’.

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lana del rey’s lynchian noir published 18/04/2014

In Lynch’s Inland Empire Nikki Grace is stabbed by a woman with a screwdriver after an affair and at the moment of death she fantasises narratives of being a successful movie star, of a haunted movie project where infidelity, retribution and violence continue to multiply an interior world. Throughout she is being watched by her terrifying double. Lana del Rey sings songs out of the dark shapes of such fantasies. There is a sense of performative action in all this. Her sound draws attention to itself as a performance so each song claims fidelity to their escapist hopes and leaves us with the same sense of dread that pervades Lynch’s worlds.

Richard Marshall on the eerie sound of Lana del Rey.

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Resnais, Giacometti and Seductive Maniera published 10/04/2014

According to Badiou being able to seduce women is also a reason for using conversational French for your philosophy. Again he cites Descartes: ‘ Such a varied and complete knowledge of all is to be found not in some aged pedant who has spent many years in contemplation but in a young princess whose beauty and youth call to mind one of the Graces rather than grey-eyed Minerva or any of the Muses.’ Badiou suggests that the French have been turning philosophy into a pick-up line ever since. ‘This intention will be repeated by all the notable French philosophers, who comprise a significant anthology: Rousseau, and also in his own way Auguste Compte, and then Sartre, as well as Lacan. All of them wished to be heard and admired by women and knew that they mustn’t be courted in Latin nor in the language of pedants.’

Richard Marshall on the attractions of Seductive Maniera.

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Knot the bees! Woodrow, Deacon and the silence of sculpture published 21/03/2014


Bill Woodrow’s recent exhibition at the Royal Academy and Richard Deacon’s new exhibition at the Tate are events broached by a discussion between the two sculptors which took place on the 14th of February. During the discussion, Deacon spoke out against the title of William Tucker’s book The Language of Sculpture, intimating that this implied that sculpture is something which can be learnt and ‘spoken’ when in fact it is something which cannot be expressed. Both artists also spoke—what might seem on the surface paradoxically—about their interest in the idea of narrative; that narrative was something which was disdained by their teachers and by the sculptors immediately preceding them. These remarks, which shone through from their slightly awkward conversation, go a long way toward explicating how the two approach form and materials.

By Daniel Fraser.

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Dancing With Bolivar published 06/03/2014

To suggest that Simon Bolivar is a controversial figure is not, in itself, controversial. Even in his own time, this was true. How things have changed. Today he is glorified as the messianic figure who freed Latin America from the Spanish conquistadors, who bravely traversed the most unaccommodating of terrains in the name of liberating his people – and to deny him this would be to lie about the place in Latin American history he certainly deserves, a history which loves its heroes.

By Rodge Glass.

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Stefan Zweig’s pity in a modern setting published 05/03/2014

A close friend of mine gave me Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity over the summer saying it was a book by a “writer’s writer”. Hackneyed as that may sound, I cannot think of a better way to describe Zweig’s hyperconscious prose. The novel destroyed me in the best way possible. I experienced the rare feeling of being taken almost against my will as a reader to a dark familiar place, a place consciously evaded.

Elias Tezapsidis on Stefan Zweig‘s Beware of Pity

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Waterloo fragments published 04/03/2014

I watch the old Eurostar terminal creep in as I walk to the last carriage of the train. Sometimes, when I arrive a bit late, and jump on the first carriage available, I even get to capture it through a slow tracking shot. When this happens it is as if I am watching an uncanny film, one in which the main haunting is my own arrival twelve years ago. I know it is a matter of time until I even catch myself walking down the abandoned platform, carrying only a small bag, looking scruffy and skinny and a bit happier than lately. It will be eerie and humbling, I know. ‘However long you’ve been here,’ the abandoned platform will say that day, ‘you will always be still arriving.’

By Fernando Sdrigotti.

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Derek Jarman’s King’s Cross published 02/03/2014

In 1987 Derek Jarman filmed a promo in King’s Cross, creating footage that would be used by the dance music duo the Pet Shop Boys in the video for their song ‘Rent’ (released October 1987). The film features Rupert Adley (aka ‘Spring’, who also played in The Last of England) alongside an angelic-looking Pet Shop Boy, Chris Lowe. The shoot took place in the summer, in and around the underground station ticket hall – before the same station was devastated by fire in the evening rush hour on the 18th November 1987, killing 31 people; an event later commemorated with a humble plaque on the ticket hall wall.

Ben Campkin examines Derek Jarman‘s filmic footprint on 1980s King’s Cross.

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The Prophetic Silence of Bolaño’s ‘2666’ published

A proper understanding of existence is that we are not its purpose. Bolaño writes to that impressive fact. His esotericism is a matter of asserting this anti-providentialism. It results in a change of consciousness. Yet as an author there is a lingering requirement to order and structure that rejects happenstance. Bolaño’s writing knows that there is a creative imagination ordering and processing. But the new consciousness it springs out of is one that withdraws from saying what purpose it has, or if there is any.

Richard Marshall on Bolaño’s ‘2666’.

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