Literal ramblings, as I’ve spent the past few weeks reading too much about all this, and I want to write things down where things stand in my head today 27/06/16, before the actual future happens
Whoever becomes our next un-elected prime-minister is mandated to trigger Article 50, and undoubtedly also trigger being recorded by history as a short-lived leader whose one memorable act was one of devastation: the loss of Scotland and N.Ireland from the union, years and years of economic turbulence with further austerity [upon the social grades D & E, as a thankyou fuck-you], and a potential domino-effect across the continent’s grand ambitious project that was never going to be perfect, but is better than what came before, and will be better than what comes after if it were to fall in the current climate. Leave have already had to renege on campaign promises, unsurprisingly: if they really wanted to direct that (comparatively – UK GDP and budget is HUGE) paltry £350million a week (or which we received about half back immediately, and the rest was an investment that allowed us to generate a ton more money through trade etc) to the NHS etc, they would have already. But we’ll likely end up paying into the EU anyway to access the markets, but without any rebates or influence, so it’s all moot. If you want to change immigration policies, then firstly you must understand not to conflate EU and non-EU immigration laws in any discussion. If you prevent EU free-movement, then you forgo all realistic chances of negotiating access to the single-market – pulling up the drawbridge was never on the cards; the idea of retroactively trying to apply the points-based-system that already exists for non-EU migrants onto the current and future EU migrants whilst maintaining a semblance of stability is a nightmare in itself, and that is just one of many huge issues [4 decades of being intertwined with Europe], that now stands before them [and us] as it becomes realised that Thing we thought we wanted isn’t really that Thing after-all. But we’ve got to accept that Thing as everyone’s looking at us [and they really have to punish us to stop the rest following], so we got to chisel away at the Thing and make it like what we had before, whilst accepting that many things will be a lot shittier for a while – maybe a long while – because of it. There’s a chance we could reject the Thing, but I Don’t Know and They Don’t Know. No-one really knows anything as no-one ever really believe the Thing would happen. Massive government study papers released in Feb/March 2016 tried to apply various models to post-Brexit UK, and the general conclusion was: “not much will work, mate”. There is literally no plan, all either side ever wrote was how to withdraw, and what the risks were.
Labour’s decided to shoot itself in the thigh in response to everyone else shooting themselves in the foot; because it’s more important to still cover-up for Blair than look to the future. Maybe they know they’re fucked either-way after Chilcot. If Corbyn can weather this final pu(t)s(c)h then we may be able to have a Labour Party that’s not tainted by Tony’s mocking smile; but this will take time and now more than ever: stability is required to oppose an un-elected premiership.
Behind the tears, there may yet still be a crocodile; Dave’s noble sacrifice for all his pals. The Tories can unite over a referendum result that warms their s(k)eptic hearts – their positions in the initial debate were mostly born of expedience; their battle now lies in a leadership contest and a decision about pressing the Big Red Button. Beyond that, they’ve secured themselves the powers to re-write the country in their own interests, and managed to fracture the electorate in a perfectly orchestrated game of Divide & Conquer that transcends traditional demographic allegiances, and sees the emboldening of racists who now seem to feel they’ve a free-pass to vocalise their disdain towards those of non-British origin or descent, because the vote-result is seen to legitimise this.
52% of 72% eligible voters = 37% of overall electorate, and 26% of overall population. Scary.
People are angry, and confused. I acknowledged prior to the referendum that it would be depressingly close, but I was in denial that a Leave vote would win; the bile spilling out of the mouths of Farage and Boris seemed too ridiculous for anyone to believe, and it all just seemed that the whole playground had been sucked into a stupid gang-war [some really hate maths. They think by getting the teacher sacked, they’ll be free] that only some of Blue Gang and their hangers-on cared about, whilst most of that sort had already joined the Purple Gang who no-one liked anyway. Red Gang hid in a classroom and hung a banner in the window telling us they disagreed with Purple Gang and the troublesome Blue gangers and that we can join them in there, but the room was a bit cramped and someone had let off a stink-bomb in there in relation to some other in-fight that had happened years before to do with some guy who’s not even at the school any more.
Remember when DC said: “The Conservatives’ slogan ‘We’re all in this together’ is ‘not a cry for help, but a call to arms’“? Can we not détourn this? Part of me wants to believe that this is the UK’s first step to anarchism [the good kind, not the tabloid media definition]. Many of the Leave voters want to reject the perceived un-elected ruling hierarchies in Brussels. Many of the Remain voters are Eurosceptics that are even more skeptical about giving Tories unmitigated powers to redistribute wealth between themselves, re-write our laws: the bloated corpse of the Dirty Old Man of Europe will fart out the national anthem as it watches the world burn. We’ve received a vote of no-confidence in what people perceive is the Now. I/we underestimated the anger, and the poison that Westminster and tabloids had fed people about EU and immigration for years. The anger of the powerless and those that were effectively disenfranchised for decades: the establishment deflects the arrows that ought to have been solely aimed at them. We’ve had right-wing governments continuously since 1979, yet the cause of disease was declared as: Europe. People rejected arguments appealing to authority, as they’re so often logical fallacies. People rejected what was patronizing ‘facts’ because how people debate and think about things is often almost an entirely different language. People shouted over one another, there wasn’t enough actual debate, but as everyone was so sick of the shouting, then they didn’t want to spend their time reading dry academic articles about it after work, right? I’m guilty of not engaging enough (“I”: a white British person, educated and employed), and most discussion I had took place within my own echo-chamber of those with similar political views. Let’s have a nuanced discussion with one-another, with our neighbours. Let’s not eat one-another in this grave, but dig ourselves out. Shit happened – this is real, and things are changing. Let’s not pretend that ‘Lexit’ can ever happen without changing things on our own soil first. Let’s not blame those manipulated. Let’s not hate.
Upperthorpe is a hobby horse.
“Dada is ‘yes, yes’ in Rumanian, ‘rocking horse’ and ‘hobby horse’ in French. For Germans it is a sign of foolish naiveté, joy in procreation, and preoccupation with the baby carriage” – Hugo Ball
I cycled through Upperthorpe this morning on a daring expedition to receive a free shower from the rain. Just around the corner from the bottom of Blake Street, at the fringes of Upperthorpe, someone had placed a child’s hobby horse, presumably for refuse collection. The dead eyes of this forlorn sodden creature, the stoic, the joker, the whore – told me I was in Upperthorpe now – it is both the punctum and the studium of the scene. I’d been in Upperthorpe ever since I’d turned onto Blake Street and held onto my brakes as I hoped my bike wouldn’t decide to aqua-plane down Sheffield’s steepest hill and propel me into the foreboding brick wall that lies at the end; but when going down there my eyes were diverted toward looking across the entirety of the city of Sheffield, and when you’re looking at the whole world – who the hell cares where your feet are?
I am entirely indifferent as to geographical boundaries that signify where a place ‘is’. To name a place is to signify a limit of the area that it envelops, but it wholly ignores pervasive ambiance. To define a place is arbitrary, for nature has no limits but those we impose upon it – and to fester in anthropocentric buttressing is only to challenge nothing but progress. Boundaries get shifted to concentrate political views – it’s all just Walkley ward anyway – Upperthorpe simply inhabits the same space that I am myself right now. The heritage of a place comes under the title of a name, but that is all still just human stuff anyway. Upperthorpe is not human. Sure, it has a name, and it has a face in the form of a slowly rotting hobby horse, but I ain’t gonna stifle myself with trying to tame the place in such a way – even the hobby horse wants to play Buckaroo. If I take the view that Upperthorpe is an area north-west of the city centre of Sheffield, and one can find the location by knowing that adjacent to the borders are Kelham Island, Woodside, Hillfoot, Langsett, Walkley, Birkendale, Crookesmoor, Netherthorpe, and Philadelphia, then I can deduce the location. Umberto Eco states that “in any system, whether geopolitical or chromatic or lexical, units are defined not in themselves but in terms of opposition and position in relation to other units. There can be no units within a system” (“How Culture Conditions the Colours We See”).
Upperthorpe does not exist.
If I take the view then that Upperthorpe is what lies between and borders all the above places, then I become aware of how I feel as a flâneur in the area I am aware is not the above places, but that void that exists between them. I know how I feel psychologically when I think I’m walking around the above named places, which are themselves defined by them not being the places they border. The names – as far as the individual is concerned – only change when they feel as though they have entered a new district. I admittedly have a massive fetish for maps, but I simultaneously like to be lost – hence Debord’s ideas of the dérive and psychogeography are things that’ve always appealed to me – I’d rather found a new system of cartography wherein we define boundaries by ambiances than pretend I’m in two places at once when one foot steps across an invisible boundary as defined on a council map.
“Art is a parrot word replaced by DADA” (Tzara). If dada is the hobby horse, then Upperthorpe is already producing anti-art by itself. Anything I can do is superfluous, and anything I designate as art before it is ‘done’ is merely to mis-label what I perceive as future fun. Art can surely only be labelled as such by one who is not the creator of said art – and even then – how does one gauge their sincerity? Thoughts and words can be disconnected, and perhaps the finesse of their lie is more artful than any action the not-artist has taken in the name of creation. I don’t want to do anything for or against the community as I don’t want to be a patronising cunt – I wanna be neutral. Sure, I live on the cusp of the area, and I lived in Upperthorpe itself for 1 year of my life, but I feel as though I have no real right to actively attempt to mould it – and I’m fully aware that anything I do that changes the place in any way could be potentially ‘damaging’, despite however good any intentions are. I like to use space creatively, and I like Upperthorpe as a space because I’ve become so familiar with it over the past 5 or so years – it’s refreshing to approach it with a different perspective. Practices of Space (de Certeau text link) because it happens to be that it is space that can be used. Rather than be stricken in the headlights of responsibility though and ‘do nothing’, then my preference is to do ‘something’ with no intention for it to have a defined effect outside itself. Meaninglessness is beautiful, but music is the best
Some true facts about Upperthorpe in Sheffield: it is 3 miles away from Wales and it used to have a train station:
They may be facts about the Upperthorpe in Killamarsh, near Rother Valley Country Park, and Wales may be the small village to the north-east of it.
Hegel’s lectures on history were lectures to extrapolate the definition of geist. Can one discover the geist of Upperthorpe from the history? Hegel also says “history is not the soil in which happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of history”; so perhaps it’s prudent to design a multitude of Upperthorpe interventions that disrupt any sense of harmony of the area to ensure that there is continuously an antithesis to provide an opposition to the thesis that is Upperthorpe at present and uphold the dialectic – it’s all well and good to ensure a preservation of naive joy toward the unknown, but it’s also to stagnate the unfolding of Spirit in time; and Hell, if everything’s to be teleological and deterministic anyway, then whatever interventions we deign to invoke in Upperthorpe are ultimately ‘right’ anyway.
The above paragraph was unnecessary posturing. I could pepper (litter?) this post with a lot of references to some names of intelligent theorists and philosophers who have books that I can see the spines of on my bookshelf, and then shoehorn their ideas into my perceptions of Upperthorpe, and then end it by wrapping it up with a lengthy treatise on how our sense can never know the noumenal Upperthorpe, and Upperthorpe is the supplement of the city, or some such yarbles. The Upperthorpe Project as différance. Hegel, Derrida, Foucault, Barthes, Eco, Kant, Debord, Badiou, Sartre, de Certeau, Kristeva, Lacan, Freud, Popper, Plato, Baudrillard, Neitzche, Brecht, Borges, Wittgenstein, blah, blah, blah. There you go, they’re all referred to now, and I don’t feel the need to quote them any more. I can see de Sade books lying around too, but I figure that convoluted metaphors about liberating Upperthorpe through sodomising it aren’t entirely appropriate. The only truly relevant book for this on my bookshelf is the Pevsner Architectural Guide to Sheffield, which contains a few pages dedicated to Upperthorpe.
I should scour the library’s local archives and get some useful history, which I would probably do if I was a more thorough disciple to the discipline I have a BA in. Anyway:
“Royal Infirmary was the first hospital in Sheffield and located in the fields when opened in 1797. It closed in the 1980s and, stripped of many later additions, was converted to office use in 1990. The remainder of the site has been used for a supermarket and the presence of this with its ‘Crystal Palace’ atrium and attendant car park diminishes the appearance of the surviving buildings”” (Pevsner)
“Building in the area began in the late Georgian period, from which the former infirmary (now offices) and a few houses survive. Construction continued, with many large Victorian houses and a car-free late-20th-century housing estate surviving. The Kelvin Flats were a landmark in the area, of similar design to now listed Park Hill, but were demolished in the early 1990s. The area is served by the Infirmary Road Sheffield Supertram stop” (Wiki)
So, there, succinctly, is the accepted narrative history of the ‘main’ bit of Upperthorpe where most people are likely to visit, for either a trip to Tesco, Zest’s swimming pool, or even a takeaway on their way home from town to Hillsborough or Walkley. Aside from those venturing to play folk music at the Gardener’s Rest pub, no-one wants to write about those creeping through the Upperthorpe that’s north of the tramlines as it’s all hookers and Johns, and then we’re back to de Sade.
We can glean that the ‘history’ of Upperthorpe begins somewhere in the late 1700s, and prior to that it’s all a bit of a void. The predominant ‘history’ of the area seems to be that Kelvin Flats existed there for 30 years and have the same volume of individual’s folk tales just as the more notorious (yet surviving) Park Hill – which is all well and good if you have a fetish for romanticising voyeuristic ‘poor’-gazing, or something; but it still puts one in a dilemma about what tales to pick and choose from to ‘represent’ the ‘authentic’ experience and whatnot. Then there’s the terrible Scarborough Arms (1867) baby incident, but that’s nasty – a ‘wound’ within the predominant contemporary narrative of the area. Plus there’s stuff like the Infirmary being there for a long time, and myriad businesses in Neepsend – such as Stanley’s Tools and Ward’s Brewery. E.H.Carr (in “What Is History?” (1961)) writes of how millions have crossed the Rubicon, yet history only remembers Caesar doing it – history is a series of accepted judgements, existing just as much for the present as the past – and historical facts are merely just a tiny proportion of all possible ‘facts’, and the rest were left to decay in limbo alongside myriad other potential facts that weren’t chosen for the canon. History as what historians choose and write; Upperthorpe as how we choose to define it. Manufactured blind faith. Kurt Schwitters made awesome Merz art from any old crap he found lying on the streets. Dada finds nothing to be objectively more important than anything else.
There’s something like 4.5 billion years of history of the earth prior to that. Can one presume that, since the hospital was built in 1797, just 6 years after the Enclosure Act 1791, that what is now ‘Upperthorpe consisted of some of the 6000 acres of Sheffield land that was previously common land for the use of the people of Sheffield? The area was definitely known previously as ‘Upperthorpe Meadows’ before being built upon (see (1) below). Sure, it wasn’t gonna be ‘naturally wild’ uninhabited land, as it woulda been managed for agricultural production or whatnot (just as Peak District landscapes are pedantically managed), but at some point there was a point where the area did transition from being wild to being shaped by human wills – before the area was seen as ‘useful’ for the population and an onset of sterility was imposed upon the area’s biodiversity as ‘wild’ness gave way to monocultural agriculture which gave way to tarmac and the smog of industry which gave way to whatever you/I/we think it is now.
. See (2) below for the actual geology of the area – as you can see, the central, prosperous area of Upperthorpe is alluvium, whilst the areas north of the tramlines are predominantly sandstone and coal. My environmental MSc dissertation research mostly revolves around cultural heritage in the environment, but the more I ponder the subject, the less I care about preserving tiny human snapshots in nature – as if we really matter – when everything about it has always been in total flux anyway. The early 90s compounded the difference between the 2 geological sides of Upperthorpe when the Supertram network was built, and presumably Infirmary Road and Penistone Road became widened over the years too to cope with the volumes of traffic since they’re 2 of the main routes out of Sheffield. Thus a rupture was created in Upperthorpe – a scar and divide as the south side sits pretty basking in the 24/7 lighting from Tesco, whilst the north becomes ‘that old Sheffield industrial area’.
Buildings of note still remaining:
– Public Baths – 1895, Upperthorpe Public Library – 1874, 22 Blake Grove Road – 1830, Madico-Legal Centre 1975, Infirmary Road – some 1850s shops/houses, Bedford Street – late 1800s stables/coach houses/workshops/stalls for Joseph Tomlinson, Bath Steel Works, Philidelphia Steam Corn Mill building – 1843. What buildings do people notice now? Probably the plethora of dominating tall buildings full of flats built 1959 – 1961, towering above Upperthorpe and scattered liberally around the Ponderosa –
What does the council plan to do to develop the area? See the relevant sections of the UDP ( for the map of land plan designations, see the map in (3) below) – and for the words of the plans from the UDP documents, see (4) below)
Where do I come from? The Rough Rock of Dada and the Situationist International. Mostly. No art, no truth, no beauty (Dada) (“beauty will save the world” (Dostoevsky/Solzhenitsyn); but I ain’t no savior). Nothing. Dada. No distinction between life and art – ride the hobby-horse into battle – it’ll be fun.
[edit: 2-days-after-original-post addendum:] When my friend Adam read this post, he suggested Upperthorpe as Tarkovsky’s “Zone” (from the film ‘Stalker’) – an area of danger and ambiguity where people venture to have their wishes fulfilled in the ‘Room’ at the centre. Yes! Coupla links of info about the film/Zone: 1, 2. Or, y’know, watch it as it’s awesome.
(1) – this was from 1917 – http://youle.info/history/fh_material/Making_of_Sheffield/11-SUBURB.TXT
“Sixty years ago, Walkley was delightful. It was all gardens, trees, and fields, with ferns, hills, and rocks, and Mr. Charles Hobson, in the Town Planning review, told the story of it. About 1865, social reformers in the town made an effort to help the artisans who lived there to a betterment of their conditions. As a rule, so far as was possible, they lived near the works, and the effort was to take them to the swelling hills and beauties of Walkley side. The fields abutting on Upperthorpe, Langsett Road, and the old Turnpike of Lower Walkley were secured, until a full dozen Land Societies had been established there, with about 3,000 members, each a holder of a plot of land, for which he paid a certain monthly contribution.
The land so dealt with covered an area of no less than 292 acres. The plots were of various sizes from 300 to 1,200 square yards, and the price from one shilling to two shillings per square yard, the latter being the maximum, plus the bonus for choice of plot, ranging from £1 to £50. To that had to be added cost of road making, management, legal and other charges, usually resulting in the £30 plot becoming £50, and the £60 plot £120. How great was the attraction, a natural one in a town where practically every workman had a love for gardening, was quickly seen. Hardly had the separating stakes been driven in, than the owners were busy digging and fencing, till very soon the rough ground became lovely gardens, and the little freeholder had been given a fresh inspiration.
Soon, detached houses, many of them very scanty in accommodation, had been built, and so Walkley became the workers’ West End. Some of the societies met with disaster, but nothing was so serious as the Corporation’s exorbitant demands for road making. Mr. Hobson cited instances, how a 600 yards plot cost £90, but the Corporation’s charges were £45 more, and, as a result, a number of the freeholders tried to get rid of their plots.
One offered his plot free if he was relieved of his liability; another sold what had cost him £100 for £25, and there were many other cases in the same proportion got rid of because of the Corporation’s demands.
Dreams faded away and the scheme, once so promising, resulted in very many cases in the comparative ruin of the freeholders, and in them being
once again faced by one of two things, either accepting the ramshackle brick row buildings which were so quickly erected, or going into the smoky town once more, where were no gardens, and the only sign of beauty a plant pot in the window”.
(2) (click picture for full size)
(click picture for full-size)
(4) Sheffield UDP 17 – Putting the Plan into Action: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/planning-and-city-development/planning-documents/udp.html?showdetails=Show&uuid=af2fe4ab-a120-4e4b-9fd9-ecbf67fc5185
PRIORITY REGENERATION AREAS
Future action and investment will be targeted in those areas of the City where there is greatest need, opportunity or both. They will be known as Priority Regeneration Areas.
TheCity Council will concentrate its regeneration activities in these areas,improving the environment, co-ordinating and promoting development and meeting the needs of the local communities. It will also actively encourage private investment, partnership ventures and funding from out sidesources in these areas.
15 areas are proposed (with numbers in brackets shown on Map 26, facing page 304)
Upper Don -Upperthorpe -Netherthorpe (I I)
The Priority Regeneration Areas will be reviewed from time to time. New areas may be added as
opportunities or problems arise. And existing areas may be taken out as intensive action brings about improvements.
A high quality environment in the City Centre, including improved pedestrian areas, new paving, lighting, seating, signposts, litter bins and tree planting.
Similar improvements in older housing areas, especially Darnall, Norfolk Park, Shiregreen, Burngreave, Sharrow, North West Inner-City Action Area and in the Manor redevelopment.
Improvements to District Shopping Centres including Firth Park, Spital Hill and Darnall.
Transformation of derelict or run-down industrial and commercial areas, through land reclamation, planting, new lighting, improvements to walls and fences and new paving, to take place as resources permit in:
(HTML for re-posting: blog )
Disclaimer: this post is basically just a load of notes of thoughts. It’s not meant to be nicely written and well structured. Sorry. Rick.
2016 update: she got less interesting in terms of all the art theory crap about a year after writing this. Disappointing.
I’ll exorcise this in one go. I’m well aware my obsession with Lady Gaga is fairly at-odds with the rest of my music taste – which most of the time is atonal classical, free jazz, extreme metal, and avant-prog – http://rateyourmusic.com/~richeym
Theory. OK, I’m aware I’ve set up a pretentious blog, but I’m also aware of my own limitations when it comes to writing concisely about theory stuff in a way that makes sense, is interesting, and is articulate. I’m fine with writing prose fiction, as I just write stuff that’s meant to be hella confused/confusing anyway. Anyway, this blog is one of my favourite sites on the whole internet – Gaga Stigmata – http://gagajournal.blogspot.com/ – a bunch of academics writing about Gaga and utilising a load of postmodern art theory and philosophy. Makes me very happy. This here blog post of my own is basically just an introduction; go scour that site for the genuinely interesting Gaga analysis. Roland Barthes, Guy Debord, and Jean Baudrillard would probably have interesting things to say about her.
Anyway, without boring too much with too much text…. Gaga is a brilliant Situationist spectacle, living life as revolutionary art; a fantastic collage of references and theories and detournments, and some of the most genuinely fascinating stuff I’ve ever seen in music – yet all the while maintaining her position as one of, if not the biggest pop-star in the whole world – sure, her ideas aren’t the most profound things ever by a long stretch, but when you consider the medium through which she does it all (mega-celebrity electronic-dance-popstar – as one of the Gaga Stigmata editors writes: “That may be her one entirely new thing. Warhol brought pop into the museum; Gaga is bringing high art into pop culture”) it’s hella impressive. Intriguingly convoluted performance-art. I’m pretty sure half the world, and indeed most of her fans, see just a fun dance-pop star who wears ridiculous clothing and who says some things they think are a bit pretentious sometimes. Most times I ever hear people mention her it’s in conversations debating whether she’s ‘hot’ or not, or whether she’s got a penis. I myself was totally uninterested in her until February 2011, when I bothered actually listening to her music and paying attention to what she was doing instead of presuming she was yet another plastic celebrity making vaguely fun pop. Gesamtkunstwerk. OK, sure, she’s flawed – hell, she’s 2 weeks younger than I am, yet she’s achieved all this – some aspects of her career-performance aren’t as strong as others and she says/does some seemingly stupid/crap things at times, and if she rehashes various sentiments ad nauseum on the campaign/publicity trail, but it’s still awesome. She’s almost the heir to the great Frank Zappa’s role in the music/fame machine, as Dada-Situationist undermining the spectacle from within. Zappa mostly played weird outsider-music, however, whereas Gaga’s position as pop-superstar allows her more freedom, and the freedom to propagate the sorta ideas usually done by theorist most of the world ignores is awesome. Visually, she’s the manifestation of Bakhtin’s ideas – the carnivalesque monster. Hell, in terms of gender, her ideas are clearly rooted in stuff like Judith Butler and Julia Kristeva; and to see that being bandied around in the mainstream is ace.
The Manifesto of Little Monsters – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-QiIqlNXKI –
“There’s something heroic about the way my fans operate their cameras. So precisely and intricately, so proudly, and so methodically. Like Kings writing the history of their people. It’s their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as the “kingdom.” So, the real truth about Lady Gaga fans lies in this sentiment: They are the kings. They are the queens. They write the history of the kingdom, while I am something of a devoted Jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond. Or, the lie, I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be, or rather to become, in the future. When you’re lonely, I’ll be lonely too. And this is the fame.Love and art. 12-18 1974. Lady Gaga”
Compare: ” This is why it is absurd to hear the new writing condemned in the name of a humanism which hypocritically appoints itself the champion of the reader’s rights. The reader has never been the concern of classical criticism; for it, there is no other man in literature but the one who writes. We are now beginning to be the dupes no longer of such antiphrases, by which our society proudly champions precisely what it dismisses, ignores, smothers or destroys; we know that to restore to writing its future, we must reverse its myth: the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the Death of the Author” (Roland Barthes, 1968)
In similar veins, also see:
– Vomit Interlude – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDmP07MfEU8
– For Mugler – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVrSx9-LqCE
– The Fame: Part One – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd4x-_iL85s – “Pop music will never be low brow” (from 2008 before she was at all famous – meta-popstar portfolio).
– Gagavision transmissions
– Crevettes Films
“Have you ever loved something so much, you told a tiny little lie, a negative truth. And you believe and you love your new invention so deeply you would kill to make it true. Your visualization, your futurization, your self-masturbation is all you have – so honor it. Some say that Lady Gaga is a lie – and they are right. I am a lie and everyday I kill to make it true”
“What I’ve discovered is that in art, as in music, there’s a lot of truth-and then there’s a lie. The artist is essentially creating his work to make this lie a truth, but he slides it in amongst all the others. The tiny little lie is the moment I live for, my moment. It’s the moment that the audience falls in love”
” “When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time”
And her column in V magazine, that I’m not going to copy-paste here as there’s a load of it, and much of it’s good, and strays away from her more familiar vacuous/silly public persona, and actually talks about her theory more – click here for a full archive – The Transformation Issue (No. 72, Fall Preview 2011) is a good ‘un, at the very least. The lie of Gaga is what makes her brilliant. Most other popstars get broken down by the media in their personal lives (Britney Spears and Michael Jackson are particularly notable examples), but to to know Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta would be to kill Lady Gaga – and as far as I’m concerned she’s a fantastic fictional creation that I don’t want to be too spoiled by knowing the person beneath – all I need to know is that Stefani is a clever actress (practically every move she makes seems to be Brechtian gest) and a creative talented musician who works hard, and seems to like art and peace and love and equality and sex. I don’t want to know how much Gaga is the main one putting in creative ideas, or how much is the Haus of Gaga or even a record company – the spectacle itself is brilliant regardless of who’s pulling the strings. She’s a meta-celebrity, a chameleon (ala Bob Dylan: see “I’m Not There“) and a monster; to achieve The Fame was a project she performed impeccably, and once in that position she evolved the project steadily into something much bigger – where every move is subversive deconstruction. There was something of Roland Barthes about her Fame project:
“Will I really write a Novel? I’ll answer this and only this. I’ll proceed as if I were going to write one I’ll install myself within this as if: this lecture course could have been called “As if”” (Roland Barthes, 1979)… “It was a propitiatory ritual, a deliberate exercise in simulation. Simulating a reality to make it appear. He was well aware, of course, that what he desired was ‘fantasized and probably impossible’, but he would act as if it was possible, and might even learn something about writing in the process.” (frieze magazine, 2011)
Tattoo on her arm; from Rainer Maria Rilke’s very awesome collection of Letters to a Young Poet. Read them here – ‘In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?’
Behind the piano, she’s like a pop Diamanda Galas. Her one-off/TV performances seem of a generally more consistent high quality than her Monster Ball shows (which makes sense as one-off appearances normally aren’t 2 hours of exertion for her, and she doesn’t have to cater so much to a bunch of little pop-kids in the audience). Anyway, here’s a selection of some of what I think are the best of her live recorded performances.
***Paparazzi [MTV 2009]*** – 100% perfect, both as performance art and a music performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19cCYFxGy8s – this is genuinely one of my favourite performances of anything, by anyone, ever. “I imagine that my pop career could be quite long and people will wonder for a very long time what my demise will look like, so why don’t we show them?”
***Brown Eyes [Jonathon Ross 2010]*** – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBDOyJ70Leo – in particular, 3:35 – 5:20 are vocally perfect.
***Poker Face [acoustic) [Japan 2009]*** – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eWOtIMge9s – Kawaii Gaga. Awkward language-barrier post-performance interview too.
***Telephone (piano/vocal version) and Dance in the Dark [Brits 2010]*** – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPFwPazLCdE – just tranformin’ my big Beyonce-dance-pop hit into some nice ballads, and then playing with my new instrument, y’know.
***Edge of Glory (acoustic/piano) [Howard Stern 2011]*** – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_GMgkcc2KM – brilliant piano/vocal rendition of the song.
***Born This Way (acoustic) [Columbus OH, 2011]*** – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xr68wHdLb-4 – song made more powerful than usual in this format.
***It’s Been Very Hard [with Yoko Ono 2010]*** – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AimU35Qoceg – Gaga proves herself a better improvising musician than Yoko
Here is a secret:
Rick In Opposition is also Lord Dada
Actually, it’s not really a secret, and you don’t really care either, as neither Rick In Opposition nor Lord Dada have any hint of fame. Ignoring all the possible avenues I could go down in terms of the linguistic naming of things and identity, let me explain who Lord Dada is:
The Dadasophers – https://www.facebook.com/dadasophers?sk=info (hey hey! Click this, then click ‘like’, hey hey!) – a project I formed whimsically. The Facebook page is kinda vague (but look at it anyway to see details about influences, etc), and so is this blog post.
Forged in the headache of the memories of the Cabaret Voltaire, The Dadasophers are an improvising collective curated by the eponymous Lord Dada. Suffered a chance formation involving the passive channelling of Sartre and Hegel to the soundtrack of Jünde Szkøro’s guitar strings jerking him like a marionette as panpipes plundered.
It happened just like that. WZD entered the room as it was occurring and suggested that it became a thing. And thus it became a (no)thing.
To give a bit of more honest insight: it’s something I devised in order to allow me another outlet to shout a lot. I’m already a member of anti-choir Juxtavoices – http://www.discus-music.co.uk/juxtavoices.htm – but I’m clearly an unrepentant narcissist who couldn’t hack being just one voice amongst 25 or so, and had to place myself on a soapbox, not least because I’m 5’7 and the soapbox adds a good few inches. I like shouting. And screaming. They’re fun. I’d fucking love to sing in a pleasant way and have some sort of real talent in that area, but as my physical body seems to have decided to shut off that avenue to me, I’ll suffice with abrasively vocalising in hopefully interesting ways instead.
This is something I want to curate for as long as I’m interested in shouting and Dada, and as long as my voice is physically capable of such things. The beauty of it is that wherever I am, I can transplant the project there immediately as soon as I source musicians that can improvise in ways that I find aesthetically appealing. I never want any of the music attached to the project to be rehearsed or ‘written’ in any way wherein it could be performed in the same way again and again. If anything is to be written, it is just to be guidelines for chances. For example, when playing with ideas with Jünde Szkøro, we played around with the writing of riffs using dice-rolls to determine which notes on the fretboard of the guitar are allowed to be utilised in that performance.
The name? The Dadasophers. Lord Dada is the Dadasopher, and the concept originally comes from Raoul Hausmann (whose dadasophy was founded on the notion of destruction as an act of creation). Why Lord Dada? Male counter-part to Lady Gaga, of course – http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/128762-to-gaga-is-to-dada – the greatest Situationist of this era!
Improvised chance readings of old Dada texts/manifestos over improvised chance (musical?) noises. This is a détournement of what was recuperated.
This album, planned moreso than it is recorded, contains my vocalisations of texts sourced from old Dada writers, but readings arenot rehearsed. Music fully improvised and/or using chance methods in their composition.
Wanna hear something? Here’s the first recorded song:
_Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit_
Live performance piece of an original Situationist-Dada opera utilising Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre techniques
In comparison to this, Plagiarist Revolution is merely a bit of fun. This is my little baby. I originally intended to perform this as part of P A N D E M I C, but the scale of the project evolved into something bigger than anticipated, and I was swamped with bouts of flu that rendered me unable to perform anyway, so it didn’t get completed and organised within the 6 weeks or so I’d originally anticipated.
I love the concept of Gesamkunstwerk: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gesamtkunstwerk – the synthesis of many art mediums to create a total work of art. The Dadaists were obsessed with the idea, as was Richard Wagner. Wagner’s Ring Cycle is one of my favourite pieces of music of all time, and the 15 or so hour piece is ridiculously powerful. But, Wagner is grand, almost traditional. I don’t want to emulate classical and romantic-era.
Harry Partch was a fascinating character – a bum who made his own instruments, his whole unique system of music, and a loada weird music. He’s not someone I listen to often as whilst his music is cool, my knowledge of music theory isn’t good enough to really understand the technicalities of what he did, and from my perspective as listener I much prefer to listen to Frank Zappa – who was influenced by Partch and whose music is Partch-esque but more enjoyable to my ears. Nevertheless, Parch was also interested in Gesamkunstwerk, and this page is fairly good at discussing his attitudes: http://www.nietzschecircle.com/hyperion087.html
– “[I want to] be aware of the total potential of any human involvement. The musician as dancer, the dancer as ditch-digger, the ditch-digger as physicist, the physicist as hobo, the hobo as messiah, the messiah as criminal, or any other conceivable metamorphosis. “….
– “,I believe in a total integration of factors, not as separate and sealed specialties in the artificially divorced departments of universities, but of sound and sight, the visually dynamic and dramatic, all channeled into a single, wholly fused, and purposeful direction. All. “
However, whilst Partch designed things with an idea of creating this holistic work, he also made it very difficult for anyone to be able to perform it – the demands on the musicians involved were immense, as they had to be highly skilled across multiple art mediums, and also learn his entire notational system. He wanted perfection. I want to be surprised, I want a Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella. Many years ago, in my teens, I used to be obsessed with the technicality of music, with bands like Dream Theater – who appealed to me due to their high level of very controlled musicianship (ie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhedP71N9gQ [The Dance of Eternity]). Nowadays, in terms of live music most especially – I prefer material that’s a lot looser in composition, and generally more focused upon textures and atmospheres, and I love the way that with improvised music the listener has no realistic expectations – the musicians can’t anticipate what the others are going to try and steer the music toward, and it can create snatches of moments of genius, little moments that can never really be repeated – and to me, that’s more valuable than something that’s a mirror image of something written in the past. Dada. I’m not a trained musician, I can compose only vague structures and cues, and my writing extends to words and ideas. I don’t want to design a piece that can be endlessly repeated, ad nauseum, a mirror image of one another. Spontaneity and risk shall be electrifying.
Back to Dada, Kurt Schwitters, too, was obsessed with the concept, and he realised his method through the art of collage, and combined it all under MERZ (psychological collage). (note, for anyone interested, the song I made to contribute to the WASW album was partially named after Schwitters, you can hear it here: http://wasw.bandcamp.com/track/strategies-against-archeo-w-a-s-w-brained-by-the-falling-masonry-of-the-merzbau).
“Whatever the reason, it is clear that the discovery of collage was an absolute revelation to Schwitters. In its capacity to create a whole from fragments, collage could represent Schwitters’ ever-present desire to unify the fragmented, to rebuild something that had been destroyed, and to control his shattered surroundings… Taking what was essentially rubbish – bits of paper, bus tickets, postage stamps, newspaper cuttings and advertisements – he assembled these cast-off materials into new forms, creating a new kind of order and new relationships within the self-contained surfaces of his collages”. (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/english/graduate/issue/5/html/Clare_ODowd.htm)
Like any audio recording of Wagner or Partch, it can not simulate the full performance, nor convey it to the listener. The text I have put up on RYM elaborates on this for a coupla paragraphs, here: http://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/the_dadasophers/ex_nihilo_nihil_fit/
– What is this? A (digital recording of a live performance of a semi-improvised) Situationist-Dada opera utilising Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre techniques (audience were present and correct: now dead).
– What is this? Sound.
– What is this sound? Nothing.
– What is nothing? DADA
– “We want to change the world with nothing.” —Richard Huelsenbeck
Language is brilliant, in all guises. Semiotics, words on a page, anything else. I find people like Roland Barthes and Ludwig Wittgenstein endlessly fascinating. I want an opera to have a meaning that is what is NOT spoken, but delivered through both Brechtian gest, and an inherent dialectic with the audience that forces them to create their own synthesis of meaning. Libretto is essentially a meta performance of ideas inherent in the audio of the piece that it intends to convey – it is a pedagogy, but a pedagogy that informs the listener that they must dismiss everything it teaches them. Vocals sound meaningless, but have a meaning that only highlights that it really is meaningless. Witgensteinian notions of intent. thought – intent – speech; language as clothes for a meaning.The fast pace of words and ideas and stage visuals shall inundate audience in the same way that Guy Debord’s film version of Society of the Spectacle did. I want to play with naivete, I want to infuriate and confuse and challenge. I want the audience to be the performance that I watch. I shall distort pronunciation into unrecognisability, and whilst words shall be present, they both are and aren’t linked. There’s probably some Derrida-supplement crap to shove in right about here, but I can’t be bothered trying to write that. The text in the performance will have a load of Situationist International ideas within it, as well as stage-directions, plus the vocals shall have a loada total meaninglessness that correlate to no present text to add to the confusion of what is real.
Meaningless has meaning and that meaning is DADA. I fucking love the ludic.
Bertolt Brecht. A lovely mind. I first encountered him through his music, both his politicalised street-songs that he made with Hanns Eisler (ie. Song of a German Mother – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDVHXqdqlis), and his larger-form political cabaret and musical theatre pieces that he made with Kurt Weill (ie. The Threepenny Opera – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3_2zbZwDlM). Anyway, it was reading a book of his collected writings (Brecht on Theatre) that first sparked my mind into wanting to create what would become Ex Nihilo…. I was sat on a bus, reading it, and then almost jumped up to shout ‘Eureka”, but since the only other passenger was an angry-looking chav, I figured I’d restrain myself. The Epic Theatre (http://www.usq.edu.au/artsworx/schoolresources/goodwomanofszechwan/dramaticvsepic) is full of awesome scraps of theory for performances, and in the notes for the performance I’m designing, I’m attempting to mash in as much as possible.
Why is it an opera? Opera just has to be drama + music + libretto.Conventions include costumes, acting and staging opera through-composed compositional methods to be used musically (durchkomponiert). different music for each stanza of lyrics. It won’t sound like ‘opera’ – it’ll be noisy free improv, most likely. The musicians I trip over in my life become my bricolage, and dada leitmotifs vaguely hold the music together. Music as ignorant of the text – if they know not the content of the words, then they cannot taint the music with their own connotations. Separation of music from the theatre is a part of the epic theatre.
Anyway, I could write a lot more about this, and give away all the ideas behind it, and post all of my notes regarding what the performance involves. But I’m not gonna. I’ve missed out a lot of stuff that would probably give you (who?) a clearer impression of my intent, but, y’know, fuck spoilers. There’s a lot more Brecht, language-stuff, and Situationism than I want to reveal (plus it’d make this post about 3x longer than it already is), I’m aware that what I have written is liable to make me just seem confused and vague, and as if I’m without a real grasp on the ideas I’m playing with and it’s probably all badly explained. One day….
– Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user1795691
– Bandcamp: http://dadasophers.bandcamp.com/
As I’m starting off this blog properly for the first time, here’s an explanation of what I’m doing with it – weekly compilations of interesting texts/films/music/art/thoughts I’ve had in the preceding week. Posts will come at some point across a weekend, usually. Don’t forget to scroll down to read the big ol’ Dadasophers post I made yesterday too, as it’s probably much more interesting than this, and I’ve got more personal investment in the subject matter.
Jacques Lacan’s writing on Poe’s Purloined Letter.
I studied this story at A-level. We definitely didn’t wander into Lacan’s territory.
Roland Barthes’ Pleasure of the Text
This is word porn. I literally love Barthes’ mind, how he sees and analyses the world, and the way in which he articulates his thoughts.
Reading Blonsky’s ‘On Signs’. You can read most/all of it here for free too, thanks to Google.
It’s full of pretentious people wrting pretentiously about semiotics, so it makes me happy. I had intended to read Hegel’s ‘Phenemonology of Spirit’ for the past coupla weeks, but I got distracted after the introduction. Must delve back into that again.
Robin Collingwood was an interesting thinker:
History and philosophy, innit.
Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher
As a portrayal of kink in a popular medium, I thought this was pretty damn awesome. I love Haneke as a director anyway, but I thought he handled this one particularly well – well-made film with good pacing and storyline, albeit with typical ‘extreme’ Haneke characters. A shit-ton better than the over-rated ”Secretary’ film. For some reason on New Years Eve, at a party, a load of us were conversing about kink, and someone mentioned how to reconcile such acts with a generally anarchist belief system of anti-kyriarchy, and I nerded up the conversation by using Hegel’s ‘Lordship and Bondage‘ (master-slave dialectic) to purport that the slave is always on top. I think Sartre classed all human relationships as sadomasochistic anyway, so I figure BDSM issues are probably relevant to all, however interested in that sorta thing they are or not. I should probably get around to reading Deleuze’s writings on such thing properly at some point.
Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Heath Ledger died part-way through filming (very sadly), and his character is continued by being played by 3 other actors – Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell – however, due to my absolutely atrocious facial recognition skills – they pretty much all looked the same to me. I really wish I could become familiar with faces quicker so I could differentiate easier, it’s really fucking irritating😀. It’s like the time I was was watching a film with housemates starring De Niro – who kept changing appearance due to flashbacks (ie. different clothes/hair/make-up), and to me he was literally unrecognisable all the time – so I flipped open my laptop and did an internet facial recognition test (and ultimately did terribly, obviously) – http://www.faceblind.org/facetests/ff/ff_intro.php – and my housemate looked over my shoulder and saw me click that I didn’t recognise De Niro’s face in the test, even though I’d just spent an hour looking at it on TV😀
Music! Oh, oh! Anyway, as anyone reading this probably knows, I document new musical discoveries on my RYM, here – http://rateyourmusic.com/~richeym – sometimes with added little comments/reviews, but mostly in the form of star-ratings out of 5, which is a fairly arbitrary and geeky way to digest music, but, eh, I find it useful and fun. Been mostly exploring avant-classical stuff; no new artists (to me), just works I ain’t heard before. Particularly interesting have been:
Horațiu Rădulescu’s _Inner Time II, for seven B-flat clarinets (Angster, clarinet system)_ – which genuinely made me fear I was going to get tinnitus from listening to it, as the first half hour of the piece made my ear-drum vibrate a lot and make weird noises inside my head. I imagine being at the performance of this woulda been hella intense – the clarinetists encircled the audience and blasted them with this high-frequency spectral torture. Awesome.
Kinothek Percussion Ensemble – _Industry!_ This was quite disappointing – I’m quite a fan of the Futurist manifesto of The Art of Noises – http://www.unknown.nu/futurism/noises.html – I’ve even written an anti-choir composition based on it to be performed by around two-dozen voices (Juxtavoices), heh. And so here we have Russolo’s ideas put into effect with the noises of the machine orchestra. Pretty well-made and composed, but not as exciting (nor abrasive) as I’d hoped, and it feels somewhat underdeveloped and repetitive in places. Underwhelming, long, and a tad dull – but still fairly cool due to the source of the sonic palate – worth hearing a few tracks, for sure.
Karlheinz Stockhausen – Klavierstück I-XI [Kontarsky] – I’m not going to add anything more than this link that you can click on and read about how these pieces were ‘composed’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klavierst%C3%BCcke_%28Stockhausen%29
Per Norgård – Expanding Space Vol 1 Vol. 2 – Norgard’s forays into electro-acoustics dark ambient, but still utilising his atonal serialist and infinity series composition style. Fascinating. I love Norgard’s Infinity Series anyway – I love how he creates such emotively powerful sounds out of what is a very mechanised mathematical foundation: http://pernoergaard.dk/eng/strukturer/uendelig/uindhold.html and http://unsungsymphonies.blogspot.com/2010/08/master-of-infinite-series-nrgards.html
Not really been perusing much art this week. See the Occursus blog for some cool Upperthorpe photos though in conjunction with the project.
I’ll write some interesting thoughts next time.
According to my RateYourMusic account, last year I rated just over 1000 releases that I was hearing for the first time in 2011. That’s almost 3 new releases, on average, per day, plus all the listens to all the music that I’ve already heard/rated in the past. Shit, that’s a lot of music.
I should have done something with this blog long ago. To compound the regret, I actually started the same blog on blogspot in March ’10 (http://rick-in-opposition.blogspot.com/), and didn’t do anything with it there either. Whoops. In hindsight, I could have developed a really interesting blog if I had began systematically posting weekly compilations of interesting links/ideas/media I’ve encountered. Oh well. I’ll start doing that soon, instead. And supplement it with links/ideas/media that I encountered in the past few years too, that I find interesting and want to talk about.
Here is a profile.
Music: Avant-garde, experimental, jazz, fusion, classical, opera, progressive, extreme metal (black/death), folk, punk, noise, drone, doom, EBM, IDM, ambient, psychedelic, industrial, post-rock, hip-hop, art-pop, etc. See: http://rateyourmusic.com/~richeym
9 absolute favourites would include: The Legendary Pink Dots, Swans, Kayo Dot, Lady Gaga, Morton Feldman, Diamanda Galas, Van Der Graaf Generator, Frank Zappa, Current 93
Film: Almodóvar, Ghibli, Buñuel, Bergman, von Trier, Lynch, Gilliam, Kieslowski, Herzog, Hitchcock, Jarman, Charlie Kaufman, Svankmajer, and Tarkovsky
Words: In terms of fiction I like intellectually stimulating things with creative uses of language. I also like various dense chunks of philosophy and psychology. Poetry’s awesome. So is history and art. Social/political/art/linguistic/postmodern theory is ace, and semiotics and all that jazz is fun. I’m also writing a convoluted bildungsroman prose-poem novel of my own, and no, I’m not showing you the drafts.
Random: Art, (not a smug Dawkins-worshipping) Atheist, Badminton, Bass guitar, Board games, Camping, Charity shops, Coffee, Comedy, Cycling, Dada, Environment, Experience, Films, Gigs, Hiking, Hippy, History, Internets, Knowledge, Left-wing politics (anarchy, sorta-mostly. No kyriarchy plz), Literature, Long hair, MSc, Music, Nature, Peak District, Philosophy, Psychedelic, Psychology, Psychogeography, Radio 3, Reading, Real-ale, Sarcasm, Situationism, Surrealism, Swimming, Tea, Whisky, Words, Writing
Rock in Opposition:
Nontraditional, artistically uncompromising, aesthetic freedom, no genre, intricate, dissonant, innovative, independent.
Rick in Opposition shall attempt to cover art and ideas that meets such conditions.
If I fail to ever use this site, then it probably just means I’ve forgotten, but I’m continuing to rate music and write 1-line useless reviews here – http://rateyourmusic.com/~richeym – and you should go look at that instead.