Five films about the world in the wake of nuclear devastation.
Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Sq, London, WC1H 0PD
6pm - Chris Marker, La Jetée, 1962
6.30pm - Peter Watkins, The War Game, 1965
7.30pm - Richard Lester, The Bed Sitting Room, 1969
Friday 28th March 2014
6pm - Alain Renais, Hiroshima Mon Amour, 1959
7.30pm - Konstantin Lopushansky, Dead Men’s Letters, 1987
-Come! Feel free to invite others / share-
7:22 am • 10 March 2014 • 2 notes
CAVE BEDROOMS OF PETERSBURG
Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, White Nights, 1922
Glaciers, mammoths, wildernesses. Pitch-dark, black rocks, somehow reminding one of houses; in the rocks-caves. And one cannot tell who trumpets of a night along the stony path amid the rocks and, sniffing his way, drives the white snow dust before him. It may be the grey-trunked mammoth; it may be the wind… One thing is clear: it is winter.
And one must clench one’s teeth as tight as possible, to prevent them from chattering; and cut wood with a stone axe; and each night move one’s fire from cave to cave, always deeper; and muffle oneself up in an always increasing number of shaggy hides.
Of a night, among the rocks where ages ago stood Petersburg, roamed the grey-trunked mammoth. And muffled up in hides, in coats, in blankets, in rags, -the cave-dwellers were constantly retreating from cave to cave. On the Ist October Martin Martinych and Masha barred up the study; on the 22nd they abandoned the dining-room and entrenched themselves in the bedroom. They had nowhere to retreat now; here they must hold out,-or die.
In this cave-bedroom of Petersburg things were like in Noah’s ark: clean and unclean creatures in ark-like promiscuity. Martin Martinych’s writing-desk; books; pancakes of the stone age looking like pottery; Scriabin, Opus. 74; a flat-iron; five lovingly whitewashed potatoes; nickelled bed-frames; an axe; a chest of drawers; a stack of wood. And in the middle of all this universe was its god: a short-legged, rusty-red squatting, greedy cave-god: the iron stove.
The god was humming powerfully in the dark cave-the great miracle of fire. The human creatures-Martin Martinych and Masha-were stretching out their hands to him piously, silently, gratefully. For one hour it was spring in the cave; for one hour hides, claws and tusks could be thrown aside; and through the frozen cortex of the brain showed green sprigs-thoughts.
From Evgeny Zamyatin, The Cave, 1922
6:50 am • 10 March 2014
SOLARIS, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972
12:06 pm • 6 March 2014 • 1 note
Effect an innovation in land ownership, recognising that the amount of land every single individual requires cannot be less than the total surface of Planet Earth.
Effect the exchange of labour and services by means of an exchange of heartbeats-the monetary unit of the future.
Instead of clothes, wear medieval armour.
Let factory chimneys awake and sing morning hymns to the rising sun, above the Seine as well as over Tokyo, over the Nile, and over Delhi
Adopt apes into the family of man and grant them selected rights of citizenship.
Regard capital cities as accumulations of dust at the nodes of standing waves.
Let air travel and wireless communication be the two legs humanity stands on. And lets see what the consequences will be.
Grow edible microscopic organisms in lakes. Every lake will become a kettle of soup. Contented people will lie on the shores.
Devise the art of waking from dreams.
Velimir Khlebnikov (1915)
Velimir Khlebnikov, Sheet of Drawings for Architectural Structures, 1920
11:00 am • 5 March 2014 • 1 note
MOVE OVER TO THE STARS
Gustave Flaubert’s plan for the ending of his unfinished novel Bouvardand Pécuchet (1880)
Pécuchet takes a gloomy view of the future of mankind.
Modern man had been diminished and has become a machine.
Final anarchy of the human race (Buchner, I, ii)
Impossibility of peace (id.)
Barbarity caused by excessive individualism and ravings of science.
Three hypotheses: 1. Pantheistic radicalism will break every link with the past, and inhuman despotism will result; 2. If thesistic absolutism triumphs, the liberalism which has pervaded mankind since the Reformation will collapse, everything is overturned; 3. If the convulsions existing since the Revolution of 1789 continue endlessly between two outcomes, these oscillations will carry us away with their own strength. There will be no more ideal religion, religion, morality.
America will have conquered the world.
Future of literature.
Universal vulgarity. There will be nothing left but a vast working-class spree.
End of the world because heat runs out.
Bouvard takes rosy view of future of mankind. Modern man is progressing.
Europe will be regenerated by Asia. The law of history being that civilization goes from East to West – role of China – two branches of mankind will finally be merged.
Future inventions; means of travel. Balloon. Submarine boats with windows; always in calm waters, as the sea is only disturbed on the surgace – It will be possible to see fish go by and landscapes at the bottom of the ocean. – Animals tamed – All kinds of cultivation. Future of literature (other side of industrial literature).
Future sciences – Control magnetic pull.
Paris is a winter garden – fruit espaliers on the boulevards.
The Seine filtered and warm – abundance of artificial precious stones – lavish gilding – house lighting – light will be stored, because certain bodies have this property, like sugar, the flesh of ceratin molluscs and Bologna phosphorous. House facades will be compulsorily painted with the phosphorescent substance and their radiation will light up the streets.
Evil will disappear as want disappears, Philosophy will be a religion.
Communion of all peoples. Public holidays.
There will be travel to the stars – and when the earth is used up mankind will move over to the stars.
5:37 pm • 4 March 2014 • 1 note
Sergei Parajanov, Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (Тіні забутих предків) 1964
9:22 am • 4 March 2014 • 4 notes
EVERYDAY LIFE AND THE CULTURE OF THE THING
In the city of skyscrapers, of underground and overground metropolitan transit, of mechanized material connections between things, where a thousand transmission apparatuses replace labour-in such a city the inability to manage the thing would mean the total impossibility of existence. The new world of Things, which gave rise to a new image of a person as a psycho-physiological individual, dictated forms of gesticulation, movement, and activity. It created a particular regimen of physical culture. The psyche also evolved, becoming more and more thinglike in its associative structure. The purely formal, immaterial, stylized perception of Things disappeared as the latest industry revolutionized the forms that objects could take, laying bare their constructive essence.
… The mechanism of a thing, the connection between the elements of a thing and its purpose, were now transparent, compelling people practically, and thus also psychologically, to reckon with them, and only with them. Form as a ready-made pattern could no longer be considered here. Coordination with form ceded its place to coordination with a thing’s function and its methods of construction. The thing was dynamized. Collapsible furniture, moving sidewalks, revolving doors, escalators, automat restaurants, reversible outfits, and so on constituted a new stage in the evolution of material culture. The Thing became something functional and active, connected like a co-worker with human practice. Mechanization + dynamization led to the machine-ization of the thing, to its transformation into a working instrument…
The concept of “americanism” includes both a positive side-“Thing-ness”- and a negative one-alienation from nature. The contemporary industrial city, with its everyday isolating of nature from the place of production, and the place of production from the place of organizing activity-this city that is completely, to the last inch, fettered by matter that has been transformed by humanity until the last faint resemblance to its spontaneous source has disappeared-creates a relation to the Thing as if to a self-sufficient form that is retired within itself. Its dynamic-laboring structure and its living force are never simultaneously present; thus both become “soulless.” This leads to capitalism’s characteristic thirst for nature as if for something that, in contrast to the thing, seems to be alive.
from Boris Arvatov, ‘Everyday Life and the Culture of the Thing (Towards a Formulation of the Question)’, trans by Christina Kiaer, October, Vol. 81 (Summer, 1997), pp. 119-128.
11:57 am • 1 March 2014
it is also very important to note that these eruptions and repeated retreats were not at all slow and did not all take place gradually. On the contrary, most of the catastrophes which brought them on have been sudden. This is especially easy to demonstrate for the last of these catastrophes, which by a double movement inundated and later left dry our present continents or at least a great part of the land which forms them today. That catastrophe also left in the northern countries the cadavers of great quadrupeds locked in ice, preserved right up to our time with their skin, hair, and flesh. If they had not been frozen as soon as they were killed, decay would have caused them to decompose. On the other hand, this permanent freezing was not a factor previously in the places where these animals were trapped. For they would not have been able to live in such a temperature. Hence the same instant which killed the animals froze the country where they lived.
This event was sudden, instantaneous, without any gradual development. What is so clearly demonstrated for this most recent catastrophe is hardly less so for the earlier ones. The tearing, rearranging, and overturning of more ancient layers leaves no doubt that sudden and violent causes placed them in the state in which we see them. The very force of the movements which the bodies of water experienced is still attested to by the mountain of remains and rounded pebbles interposed in many places between the solid layers. Life on this earth has hence often been troubled by dreadful events. Innumerable living beings have been victims of these catastrophes. Some, inhabitants of dry land, have seen themselves swallowed up by floods; others, living in the ocean depths, were abruptly placed on dry land when the bottom of the sea suddenly rose. Their very races were extinguished for ever, leaving behind nothing in the world but some hardly recognizable debris for the naturalist.
Such are the conclusions to which the objects we meet at every step necessarily lead and that we can verify at every instant in almost every country. These huge and terrible events are clearly printed everywhere for the eye that knows how to read the story of their monuments. But what is even more astonishing and what is no less certain is that life has not always existed on the earth and that it is easy for the observer to recognize the point where life began to deposit her productions.
Georges Cuvier, Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals of the Surface of the Globe and on the Changes which They Have Produced in the Animal Kingdom (1825)
7:51 am • 19 February 2014 • 1 note
DINOSAURS IN SUBURBIA
On New Year’s Eve, 1853 a group of 21 naturalists were invited to dine in the stomach of a concrete dinosaur.
The replica iguandon had been created by the artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who was commissioned by paleontologist Richard Owen to build the first life-size sculptures of dinosaurs for the Great Exhibition in 1851. The hybrid technique that Hawkins used to build the dinosaurs - with iron skeletons - recalled the architecture of the Crystal Palace itself.
The ancient appears as the new - prehistory as modernity.
Convolute F of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project is dedicated to iron construction. He notes the following development in iron’s architectural use:
'The first structures made of iron served transitory purposes: covered markets, railroad stations, exhibitions. Iron is thus immediately allied with functional moments in the life of the economy. What was once functional and transitory, however, begins today, at an altered tempo, to seem formal and stable.' [F2,9]
Dinosaurs might have been extinct, their existence on earth transitory, but Hawkins hoped that his monuments would evoke the stability of nature, expressing his belief that “one primary pattern was created and fixed by the Almighty Architect in the beginning, and persistently adhered to through all time to the present day.” (A Comparative View of the Human and Animal Frame (1860))
When the exhibition was transferred from Hyde Park to Sydenham the sculptures were taken along.
Just as the Crystal Palace constructed an image of human history at a moment when Britain was at the height of its imperial powers, so Hawkins hoped to create a sculpture park that would allow visitors to take a walk through prehistoric time - the existence of the latter serving to bolster the stable and organic appearance of the former.
The Grade I listed dinosaurs still stand in Sydenham, their inaccurate anatomies a strange monument to the disavowed instability of scientific knowledge.
This is from Adorno’s Minima Moralia (74):
Mammoth. – Some years ago, the report circulated in American newspapers about the discovery of a well-preserved dinosaur in the state of Utah. It was emphasized that the specimen in question had outlived its species and was a million years younger than any hitherto known. Such reports, like the repulsively humorous craze for the Loch Ness monster and the King Kong film, are collective projections of the monstrous total state. One prepares for its horrors by getting used to giant images. In the absurd willingness to accept these, a humanity mired in powerlessness makes the desperate attempt to grasp the experience of what makes a mockery of every experience. But this does not exhaust the notion that prehistoric animals are still alive or at least went extinct just a few million years ago. The hope excited by the presence of what is most ancient, is that animal creation might survive the injustice done to them by human beings, if not humanity itself, and bring forth a better species, which finally succeeds. Zoological gardens originated from the same hope. They are laid out on the model of Noah’s ark, for ever since they have existed, the bourgeois class has been waiting for the Biblical flood. The use of zoos for entertainment and instruction seems to be a thin pretext. They are allegories of the possibility that a specimen or a pair can defy the doom which befalls the species as a species. That is why the all too richly outfitted zoological gardens of major European cities seem like signs of decline: anything more than two elephants, two giraffes, and a hippopotamus is a bad sign…The more that civilization preserves and transplants unspoiled nature, the more implacably the latter is controlled… Only the irrationality of culture itself, the nooks and crannies of the city, in which the walls, towers and bastions of zoos are crammed, are capable of preserving nature. The rationalization of culture, which opens a window to nature, thereby completely absorbs it and abolishes along with difference also the principle of culture, the possibility of reconciliation.
3:05 pm • 18 February 2014
Stalinist fashion - All Union House of Prototypes, 1954
7:09 am • 18 February 2014