:: Essays

Shock of the Open: A Politics of Verticality published 15/06/2021

Does this sense of detachment as I gaze down on the board in mid-flip suggest mastery or loss of control? Maybe this is what the Situationists meant by psychogeography, the invisible influence of the “terrain.” Guy Debord writes in “Theory of the Dérive,” “In a dérive, one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.” I find myself timing my snap to avoid the lines on the court.

An essay by Zack Anderson on skateboarding and the politics of free fall.

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The Trapdoor of Dark Academia published 08/06/2021

And thus will dark academia become another collection of dead images, nothing remaining but the husks of its erstwhile influence. Its proponents will grow up, move on, and maybe find a book or two they genuinely enjoy. But the schism between Old World and New World will remain, a schism that art broadly, and literature, in particular, is finding difficult to straddle. If it is true, as Vargas Llosa suggests, that images are replacing ideas, then literature has a new obstacle to surmount in its perpetual struggle to endure.

An essay by Elroy Rosenberg on the aesthetic of Dark Academia.

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Lived in Bars, Dreamt in Paint published 03/06/2021

When lockdown began, and the pictures of old men on stretchers appeared in the news, I remembered my father, who had died of pneumonia, following a long battle with cancer, a few years before. I thought of all the friends I would not see for some indefinite period. I thought of the pubs and people I had sought refuge in, in times before. Paintings of pubs became the refuge more intensely, now; I finished the larger paintings, in those first early weeks, aware as I did so that they now represented, accidentally, a whole new kind of nostalgia. They were everything I lost and longed for, those I loved.

Christiana Spens presents her upcoming exhibition in London.

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Our Desert Islands published 13/05/2021

And after all, what is earth if not a giant island floating in the sea of infinity? Are we not stuck on Buckminster Fuller’s ‘spaceship earth,’ in eternal orbit around Helios’s chariot? If we are formed by isolation, then we must ask ourselves what comes after isolation? As we emerge from the pandemic, we have to decide what kind of islands we will choose to live on in the future. The effects of the last year, this extended period of isolation, will have a profound effect on the world we will come to live in, but it is up to us what kind of world that will be.

An essay by Matt Bluemink on reimagining the future through desert islands.

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Living Memory published 06/05/2021

That is why the tomb into which we deposit life post-mortem is not the only tomb about which to speak. The autopsy, the burial, occurs in life itself, when we entomb living experience, when we carve meaning into pain.  Life is not possible if we do not bury the most significant parts of its experience. Meaning is the first “form” of this burial, in the service of which memory forms the borders of the tomb. In order to make real progress” in the form, we must force life to resolve there. To bear, we must bury. 

Liza Michaeli investigates memory.

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Secrets of the Universe in Remain in Light published 01/05/2021

But — and here’s the key — in addition to this new approach to the main vocal, using collage rather than character study, Remain in Light contains a secret weapon — its backing vocals. It is the use of backing vocals on the album that gives it the weight of truth, the veracity of human experience. They are the album’s Greek chorus, offering an alternative commentary to the main narrator. My contention is that, taken together, the vocals and backing vocals on Remain in Light contain nothing other than the secrets of the universe and, making such a huge claim, I’d like to look in some detail at how the backing vocals work.

Richard Skinner revisits Talking Heads‘ masterpiece.

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Model Unknown published 26/04/2021

To change things you have to examine them first; to deface them, all you need is a lick of paint. The black labourer – a portrait of an unknown model by a not-yet-known artist – was never much noticed to begin with, and now he has been blued out altogether. This knee-jerk attempt to cancel history in one go has nothing to do with anti-racism and everything to do with tokenism. Historical amnesia relies on people’s tendency to paint the exploited and their exploiters with the same brush.

Anna Aslanyan revisits an earlier piece written in lockdown.

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Correcting the Record published 10/04/2021

We can respect the private grief this death must bring and sympathise with that sadness. But that shouldn’t involve changing the record and distorting the proof. The most decent thing to do is to leave him as he chose to live his life, aloof and apart. Coronavirus has killed over 150,000 people in the UK alone in the past year. More than a million around the world. Every single one of those deaths is a tragedy. Prince Philip deserves no more public mourning than any of them. Not least because he’d got what he wanted. “In the event that I am reincarnated,” he famously said. “I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation”. That’s who he was.

By Sam Jordison.

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Pandemic Literature published 28/03/2021

We speak about the nightmarish imagery: lilacs out of the dead land, a heap of broken images, fear in a handful of dust. About World War One, the Industrial Revolution, modernism. Before long it is time to end the class, a lump in my throat, to thank everyone who’s joined in for their cooperation in using the new technology, for all our discussions in class up until now. It’s only when I’ve logged off that I wonder about a context for the poem that we didn’t discuss: the Spanish flu. The virus and the poem, three years apart. I’d never thought of the connection. Idly, I scroll through JSTOR, find a chapter on The Waste Land in a book by Elizabeth Outka called Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature. The miasmic residue of the pandemic experience, it argues, infuses every part of the poem, in ways we have been missing all along. Outka’s autopsy revealing the virus spread through the bronchioles of the poem. Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit. A poem burning with fever. Burning burning burning burning burning / O Lord thou pluckest me out. This fresh new pandemic sending us back towards a residue analysis. The cruellest month looming.

Tara McEvoy on The Road, The Waste Land and the pandemic.

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In Praise of Boring Books published 22/03/2021

Anyone reading The Radetsky March must also confront the issue of repetition. Like the military manoeuvres that it so tirelessly describes, the novel goes round and round the same situations again and again. This would never happen in a contemporary novel. As the novel progresses, the great Austrian Empire starts to collapse. These military men are losing the whole purpose of their existence, but they carry on just the same.

By Alice Jolly.

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