Category Archives: anger

Fuck the Creative Industries

Fuck them first and foremost for their exclusiveness, for drawing a line between them and you and putting themselves on the creative side of it. Fuck them for saying that what they do counts and what you do doesn’t. Fuck them for the over-inflated notion of their own ‘creativity’.

Fuck them next because what they actually do create is awful. Acres of anxiety-inducing advertising, tedious dadrock and festering beehives of migrainous office blocks. Because it’s cancer before it’s even left the drawing board. Because they treat housing as sculpture, text like pictures and everything they do as an excuse to invite celebrities to a party.

Fuck them then because they really are an industry, an ugly, landscape-scarring, mind-polluting industry, treating talent like a mine and inspiration like dirty fuel. Fuck them again because of the frequency with which they demand subsidy and succour for their industry when they decide it’s an art. An entrepreneur wearing a t-shirt of a band you like is still an entrepreneur. And an entrepreneur is just a small maggot who wants to be a fat maggot.  One day, he’ll grow up to be a fly and shit in your food.

Fuck the creative industries because they promise to bring change, innovation and ‘disruption’ to the table before serving the same old bitter vinegar in impractically-shaped new bottles. People who think that product design ‘shapes the way we live’ should be permanently rehoused on a Midlands sink estate and mugged repeatedly until they develop better theories about the relationship between aesthetics and social formation.

An office with distressed plaster walls is still an office
An office full of folding bicycles is still an office
An office with a ping-pong table, pool table or football table in it is still an office
… and the people working in it are still drones.

Fuck them because they flood our eyes and ears with media like a backed-up sewer. Their whip pans, crash zooms and tedious electronics soundtracks are the vectors of a deadly, suffocating cholera of distraction. Their synchronised escalator adverts are a Nuremberg rally of the imagination.

Fuck their unshakeable faith in the importance of what they do. Talking to a graphic designer shouldn’t feel like talking to a Moonie. And fuck their “communities”, an insect-hive circle-jerk, a babbling repetition of the same meaningless cliches.

Fuck their ant-like colonisation of our intellectual culture. The only idea in the ‘business idea’ is the business of persuading people there’s an idea when there isn’t even a clue. They waste trees like an illegal Amazonian logger and  they waste our time as if it belonged to them: they are the windbags of superficial change.

When they call marketing poetry, they piss all over poetry
When they call conferences playful, they shit on play
They are lipstick on the mouth of a corpse

Fuck them because they think they are life, and they are only life’s dull echo.

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Off the list

Yesterday I was offered my column in Sight and Sound back. Nick James wrote:

Dear Danny

I’m glad to say that the position apropos your column has changed. I did over-react on this issue, but I want to take this opportunity to explain my reasoning.

Carefully argued criticism of the BFI is one thing, one-line uncontextualised personal sniping is another. It is the latter that is alien to Sight & Sound’s ethos, and that’s why we felt there was a problem of association.

However, you didn’t write the one-liner in Sight & Sound, and I agree that the issue of freedom of speech is too important to be affected by a one-line jibe, so I’m happy to offer you your column back, should you decide to accept it, along with a personal apology from me for the anxiety caused.

Nick

I won’t say much else except that the future of the BFI is indeed a matter for careful and serious, not to mention open and honest, argument.

Thank you to everyone who offered support, both publicly and privately, not just for me, but for S&S‘s editorial integrity. Sight and Sound‘s a great magazine and I’m delighted to still be writing for it.

On being blacklisted

I used to write a column called ‘Downloads’ for Sight and Sound, about online movies. It wasn’t a very big or important column, it was tucked away at the back of the magazine in the reviews section, but I enjoyed writing it, and some of the people who read it told me that they enjoyed reading it.

On Friday I got the following email from the editor, Nick James:

Dear Danny

I have some not good news for you, so I’ll get straight to business.

Since your call for Amanda to resign – something I’m sure you know she took very personally – your column, fine as it is, has become more trouble to me than it’s worth. To have someone who is on very public record of having called for her head as a regular contributor to S&S makes it look like we tacitly agree with you. We can’t do that.

The upshot is that we will pay you for the latest instalment, though it will not appear, and I’m afraid that will be that.

I’ll save any further obsequies for when I next see you.

Nick

My hurt feelings and anger aside, there are several things about this that are rather disturbing for anyone concerned about the general state of paranoia inside the BFI and the state of Sight and Sound itself.

The “very public” denunciation James is referring to is a jokey new year’s post I made on this blog at the beginning of this year. Now, I read the stats, so I know just how few people read what’s written here. Until today, the post that refers to Nevill has been read (rather pathetically) just 24 times. That’s a lot fewer people than I’ve personally had conversations in the pub with about Amanda Nevill (including Nick James) during the same time period. If you were to do the strictest, most suspicious Google search you could, that is, my name and Amanda Nevill’s name together, you wouldn’t find the post that James refers to. Contrary to her assertion in the Evening Standard, it seems that Nevill doesn’t have much of a sense of humour if two dozen other people have heard the joke.

I very much doubt that James, or even Nevill, found or read the post themselves: I suspect that someone has been on a fishing mission both inside and outside the BFI, and decided to make a point now of sacrificing someone. It seems likely when you consider the chronology. The post in question was published on the 3rd January this year. I was first asked to write the Downloads column a month later, in February 2007 for the April 2007 issue of Sight and Sound. Not once between February and now has James or any member of Sight and Sound staff indicated in any way to me that what I write on my personal blog might be an issue that affects the magazine. James’ letter on Friday afternoon (the BFI’s favourite time for delivering bad news) was the first I’d heard of it.

How does it feel to be blacklisted? Not big and important, because there are certainly people who have said more and worse about Nevill than me who continue to curate, write and programme for the BFI. Which is as it should be: an organisation with the BFI’s national importance, subject to inevitable controversy, should hardly be restricting its activities to working only with people who unequivocally personally support the director.

What I wrote about for Sight and Sound is completely unrelated to matters of the management of the BFI. I’ve probably got a few opinions about Romanian film that James wouldn’t like to condone, but they’re hardly relevant to a column that’s mostly about YouTube. What’s really worrying for anyone who cares about the BFI (as bizarrely enough I, and perhaps some of the twenty-four of you, still do) is the insane paranoia of the BFI’s current management and the very negative implications for the editorial independence and journalistic integrity of the seventy-five-year-old journal of record that is Sight and Sound.

The ineluctable beauty of the tube strike

Legions of the lost: like moles above ground, Londoners flood through the streets clutching A-Zs, trying to navigate their way between tube stations, slowly solving the jigsaw of London in their heads.

The slight tinge of fear I imagine I can hear under the contempt in John Humphreys’ voice when he mentions Bob Crow’s name.

Red-faced twats who work in accounting explain their frustration to the television cameras. It’s so difficult, so hard to get to work. They need to get to work. They will be late for work. They all look like people who work makes miserable. One day the contradiction in their heads will either liberate or kill them.

Walking through the park to Victoria, hundreds of people. Treading new paths across the grass.

BE REALISTIC, ASK FOR TUBE STRIKES!

BENEATH THE PAVING STONES – THE TUBE STRIKE!

IN A SOCIETY THAT HAS ABOLISHED ALL ADVENTURES, THE ONLY ADVENTURE LEFT IS THE TUBE STRIKE!

THE TUBE STRIKE IS UNBELIEVABLE BECAUSE IT’S REAL!

I TAKE THE TUBE STRIKE FOR REALITY BECAUSE I RECOGNISE THE REALITY OF THE TUBE STRIKE!

THE POINT IS NOT TO PUT POETRY AT THE SERVICE OF THE TUBE STRIKE, BUT TO PUT THE TUBE STRIKE AT THE SERVICE OF POETRY!

Invocation of my Demon Granddad

Scorpio Rising
What do you call this stuff, anyhow? Avant-garde doesn’t really work: avant-gardes are historically defined, and this is mostly contemporary work. Artists’ Film and Video is good, though it privileges Art over filmmaking, and to hear some people tell it, artists only began to notice moving image in the 01970s. Will likes the term underground film which is good, but can refer to emerging conventional & commercial film-makers as well as artists. Overall, I prefer Experimental Cinema, emphasising both the medium (and excluding if anything, gallery pieces) and the practice of formal experimentation.

I’m treating myself to the LFF‘s Experimenta Avant-Garde Weekend (I guess that settles it), the festival’s regular & long-standing slot for new & archival experimental work. I’ve got the same seat booked in NFT3 for the whole weekend (in the only session for which I have a different seat, I have to make Anita Pallenberg get out of it first), and there’s the added pleasure of bumping into old friends and colleagues like Julia, and Lucy from the Lux, who are also here to stuff their eyes with goodies.

I say goodies… I saw The Ipcress File in NFT3 last year, and during the scene in which Caine’s Harry Palmer is being subjected to mental reprogramming in a white cube full of flashing lights and colours, I thought “I’ve paid good money to see films just like that in this very cinema,” and Ken Jacob‘s films are those films. Turning his Nervous System live projections into single prints, Jacobs conjures queasy movement out of alternation rather than progression, creating hypnotic strobe effects. With an intensely rhythmic soundtrack by Steve Reich, Let There Be Whistleblowers takes found footage of a train passing through a tunnel and vibrates it, inverts it, loops it, turns it upside down and violently flickers it: less a phantom ride than an epileptic rollercoaster. Krypton is Doomed is even more extreme: over thirty four minutes, the soundtrack of an early Superman radio play is broken up into segments buffered by silence, while a patch of light and colour constantly throbs, admitting at times the possibility, and only the possibility, of a recognisable image. The programme notes make it clear that it is we who are doomed.

There is more playful stuff: Shannon Plumb’s Olympics 2005 Track and Field is Riefenstahl re-performed as colour-saturated slapstick Sherman, and Ben Rivers’ This is My Land, shot on self-developed 16mm shows the continuing possibilities of non-sync sound. To create Blocking, Pablo Marin took a subtitled trailer for High Fidelity, submerged it in water, and then dried it in the sun (all the things you’re not supposed to do if you want to preserve film). The result is a glimpse of John Cusack’s face and a few words in Spanish amid a flurry of bubbles and pools, fields of bacteria, rods and cones: the patterns you see on the inside of your eyelids when you press your fingers against them. Faster, happier and less studied than Decasia.

It’s not all aestheticism: Bill Brown’s The Other Side combines stunningly gorgeous static landscape footage of the American southwest with faux-naif commentary on a voyage through the politics of US-Mexican border, taking in the border wall on which the Berlin Wall-style graffiti is on the ‘wrong’ (ie Mexican) side, and the efforts of people who maintain barrels of water in the desert to try to save the lives of the many ‘illegal’ migrants who die of thirst on their way across the border.

Sunday morning brings what Mark Webber calls the ‘very core of cinema’, some tough watching, beginning with an entirely silent Nathaniel Dorsky in which I can see only a few moments of beauty: jet beads suddenly reflect the light like holes in the film; a telegraph pole is somehow mesmerising. Mark LaPore‘s Kolkata, with the non-sync soundtrack of a babbling bazaar, consists of long tracking shots sideways through the marketplaces of Kolkata, and a few astonishing static moments: a child smiling as long as he can, a reflection in a store window that makes a smoker out of a mannequin.

But the highlight and delight of the weekend is two programmes of films by and about Kenneth Anger, and a personal appearance from the man himself. Before the first programme of 35mm preservations of Fireworks, Rabbit’s Moon, Scorpio Rising and Kustom Kar Kommandos, Anger appears onstage. At seventy-six, he’s wearing Cuban-heeled boots, PVC trousers and an outsize football shirt with the letters A-N-G-E-R emblazoned at an angle. He gives the audience a big thumbs-up and a broad grin. For a man who it’s rumoured will out a curse on you if you cross him, he’s unexpectedly charming and garrulous. I think I’d like him to be my granddad.

After the preservations (which are excellent, and though the sadomasochistic gents’ fantasy and rocket-cock of Fireworks don’t quite do it for me, I think that for about thirty seconds in the middle of Scorpio Rising I actually turn gay) we get a special treat in Mouse Heaven‘s delirious adoration of pre-Fantasia model Mickeys with their pacman eyes and genuine clockwork wanking action. I can’t get over the Proclaimers being on the soundtrack, and how well it works. Anger re-emerges to tell some stories (he was commissioned to make a cricket film with Jack Cardiff for Paul Getty just before he died), pass some judgements (Bruce Byron “was deluded, but he’s dead now”; Marianne Faithfull was “powdering her face with heroin”), and lay down the law on found footage (“we have a principle of fair use: it’s fair to me if I want to use it”). He even promises us that he has Hollywood Babylon 3 ready to go and is just waiting for the lawyers to finish with it.

The picture is completed with Elio Gelimini’s Anger Me, which after a short intro by Jonas Mekas consists of Anger’s talking head (on what’s visible of his torso he’s wearing a chunky-knit red sweater with ‘ANGER’ again subtly indented on the front) against a freeform background of clips and other scenes, reminiscing and telling stories. The motorbike death at the end of Scorpio Rising was real, captured by accident, and the religious film intercut with the party sequence was meant for a Sunday school nearby and delivered to Anger by mistake. Anger’s there for this screening too, still answering everybody’s questions. He tells us that 13 of his bipolar friends have died at their own hands, including Donald Cammell (the Pallenberg connection). He talks about preferring his representations of sexuality to be “in the shadows”.

Between the archive and the recent, it’s a very satisfying weekend. The four shorts programmes could have done with some more humour, and I miss Video Visions, but Anger in the flesh was a once in a lifetime.