The neat angle of the grass as it joins the pavement in this quiet niche of the municipal gardens is certainly no place to hesitate, when to hesitate is to signal the shady characters who always wait with interminable patience over there behind the trees where the shade is thickest. Even if it were not the case that such characters – though they go about their business in the most ordinary of ways and even a sideways glance may be misconstrued – were any more likely to pose a danger than you do yourself, the suggestiveness of this place, the way the pavement folds along the grass so neatly, is all too much to resist and helplessness becomes the only motive. The cautious eyes of children, women alone, flashing across to the shade of the trees and back again invites the inevitable even if you intend no such thing – you stalk out from the thicket and approach if only because she hesitates for a moment –
What sort of ‘waste problem’ are we dealing with here? It is true that the health of the whole body politic rests on the sanitary measures taken to deal with its waste, but to reduce this ‘problem’ to a concern for hygiene in the regular sense would be to somewhat miss the object of CADE’s enquiry. ‘Hygiene’ could conceivably indicate some form of ‘racial hygiene’, (attested by increasingly frequent outbreaks of fascism, like buboes on the skin of society,) a mendacious attitude towards ‘cultural cleanliness’ even, or a division of the clean and unclean; it may refer to a physical blockage in the waste-disposal system of the city, (as in the sewerage pipes we see stuffed with dog carcasses by operatives from Thames Water,) or it may even point towards a mental attitude towards waste which itself is becoming problematic – things formerly considered ‘useful’ are re-categorised unconsciously into the ‘useless’, provoking widespread nausea and apathy towards the value of things. One thing is certain however; CADE takes no moral stance on this rubbishing of everything – indeed, he seems quite at home, nestled amongst the spreading tendrils of entropy all around, a lotus-eater. His writings indicate no critique of post-industrial capitalism and its excesses; no Camorra-style syndicate is holding politicians to ransom with garbage; no general strike amongst sanitation contractors is prostrating the system. There is in fact no good reason why it should be so, but there it is: CADE presents a compromised system in which everything is in a process of ‘being-wasted’ – including its people.
On several occasions CADE himself displays the tendency towards purposeless drifting – swept along, object-like, mysterious to himself – to everything. His records are begrimed with apathy:
“A machine for the production of rubbish.”
This phrase, written out several times in his journal, must make us reconsider what is meant by rubbish and by what is not meant by rubbish; are things becoming rubbish even before they are used? There is doubtless more, (or perhaps even less,) than meets the eye. After touching this material, watching it, hearing it, reading it, one gets a stale odour on one’s fingers, so to speak – used, spent, empty. This system, as it is perceived, is in the process of losing its useful energy at a highly accelerated pace, decay is encrusting every corner and every object in ambiguity, and the cohesion between the sensible and the impossible is becoming meaningless – is becoming rubbish, in fact. The apparently systematic methods employed by CADE in gathering this material is not one of retrieving something meaningful or useful out of the rubbish-heap; rather, in his method is a peculiar desire to join with this rubbish, to become part of a system which is in the process of becoming useless as we speak. And perhaps CADE’s ‘machine for the production of rubbish’ is some kind of entropic engine, devaluing the usefulness of anything, a Heraclitean cosmic-accelerator in which the cohesion of the meaningful tends ultimately towards dissolution and chaos. Another quote from his journal seems conclusive:
“The universe is a great pile of rubbish, heaped up at random.”
View the entire project here: NEO-LONDON
There’s a lot to be said about inertia. I myself have been inert for…seven years now, ever since the old Routemaster buses were taken out of service. Yeah, I was a conductor, see. Oh, It was a merry old life we had back in the old days. Great times, they were…yeah…nah, hold on a minute…that’s a lie. A complete lie. I just told you a complete…listen; I had an awful time back in the old days. Working every day for sod all money, having horrible people shout at you for no reason on that filthy old bus that stank of vomit half the time…thirty-eight years of it. Even then I used to nag about how things were better in the old days! And now here I am, saying that even those old days I used to hate were better than these days are now. How do people go on like that, always complaining about the present, in the present? If anyone sours the taste of the present, it’s me – let’s face facts here! It’s not as though its got something to do with all this progress that’s…what do you call it…decadent, is it? You know, like how even though we’re progressing into ‘a better world’ and all that guff, somehow life was always better in the past. I mean, it must be me who’s wrong…it can’t be ‘our age’ that’s up the spout, can it?
Sorry…rambling away there…completely lost my thread. Don’t get much chance to speak to anyone these days. Where was I? Oh, yeah, I used to work on the Routemaster number 38 bus that ran from Clapton Pond to Victoria Station ‘til it was decommissioned seven years ago. There was a big hoo-ha about cutting down on expenditures, and how my job was seen as expendable, you know, unnecessary…so I got made redundant, didn’t I? Well, it had quite some effect on me, that did. You see, it all happened when I was reading through the redundancy notice the bus company sent me. Hold on a minute…I’ve got it somewhere…here it is. I’ll read it to you, shall I?
Dated April the 9th, 2005
Dear Mr Bus-Conductor Man,
(that’s me, see,)
Dear Mr Bus-Conductor Man,
This bus company don’t need you no more, right, so you better get yourself gone real quick. If you don’t, I’ll eat your children, though you probably don’t have any ‘cause you’re such a massive tosser.’
Yours with deep affection, etc, etc,
Sir Frederic Cunthole, CEO
Well, apart from this personal letter I received, (which I thought was lovely, you know, that ‘personal touch’ helps soften the blow in these instances, dunnit?) I also got an information pack about why they was making blokes redundant, and I was reading about how ‘by cutting down on unnecessary labour the company could save money and deliver a better service, ready to face the challenges of an uncertain economic future’, etc, etc, etc, etc. Well…I was struck – suddenly – by an idea. I mean, what if it was true? Perhaps I ought to treat this redundancy note as a word of warning, you know, sent by providence? Perhaps I should cut down on excess labour – that might help me progress into an uncertain economic future, ready to face the challenges I might find there? I mean, blimey! What’s this future going to look like, eh?…I got…well, I got bleedin’ worried about the future, didn’t I, and I thought…well, I’d better get my arse in gear and start cutting down on unnecessary labour.
Well, I started out small; you know, by sitting at rest and not bumbling about all day. I don’t know if you ever been put out of work, but you tend to bumble about all day, worrying about bumbling about all day. So I just sat in my chair. I thought it’d be best to meet this uncertain future by expressing the minimum amount of effort physically possible. It was weird though, ‘cause I’d been travelling along that same route every day now for the past thirty-eight years, and all of a sudden, I has this sudden great change in velocity thrust upon me, like a lifetime’s movement suddenly stopped, and now there’s, there’s nothing but this…inertia! But I tried to keep calm and carry on, you know, being inert. Well, since then, I haven’t moved from my armchair. No kidding…I’ve resisted every impulse to get up and move about, and taken my redundancy completely literally.
You know, things really spiralled out of control after that, cause, you know, my wife tried everything she could think of to get me out of my inertial state, (which she took to be some kind of melancholy, albeit a lot less psychological, ‘cause, err, ‘cause I got less psychology than the average man, according to my doctor,) and there were doctors and social workers here all the time, prodding me about and asking questions. But I just sat here, and after a bit, they buggered off. Well, after my wife left me, strange thing happened…I had these people round from the TV company, see, and they wanted to do a story on me. I didn’t mind, ‘cause, err, I just sat here. You know, it didn’t affect my inertia one bit, ‘cause, you know, I’d taken remedial measures against the uncertain future, like. But then, right, weird thing is, is after this programme goes out on daytime TV right, all these young people started coming round. Yeah, they would just…sit…you know, all over the place. I could have as many as two hundred people round here at any one time, just sitting about. On the landing, the stairs, the cooker, all over the place. It was like…I started some kind of movement or something…except it weren’t moving nowhere! Or, or, like I’d become the conductor of some kind of force…some kind of resistance or something. It was like being back on the bus again, with these people coming in and sitting about before moving on. Except we didn’t go nowhere.
Well, then they stopped comin’ round all of a sudden, didn’t they. The youths. And then some geezer from the Department of Health comes round, and he prods me about and asks me a load of ‘questions’. I mean, ‘questions’! The bleedin’ cheek of it! And he tells me it’s a ‘Risk Assessment’ or something. I mean, what’s going to happen to me! I took all these measures against the uncertain future, didn’t I, and now me future’s all bleedin’ uncertain again, isn’t it!
View the entire project over at The Unstitute: NEO-LONDON
Here at The Unstitute, micro-history interleaves with micro-narrative. The Samuel Gray Society – an archival project dedicated to the memory of Samuel Gray, who holds the honour of the first man to be killed during the Boston Massacre in 1770 – weaves a curious admixture of mythology, disinformation, speculation and history to produce contingent histories and relative lives,investing Sam Gray, as cipher, with world-historical sense.
“The Samuel Gray Society www.samgraysociety.org officially went live online in 2009 as an educational organization dedicated to the preservation of 18th century American history and to the biography of Samuel Gray, the first man killed in the Boston Massacre. The SGS is a vehicle I created to investigate the historic record of our nation’s founding in an autofictional format. The term autofiction refers to the synthesis of fiction and autobiography, and is used frequently in literary strategies. The website currently contains twenty-three pages of written historic research with citations, a visual archive of over fifty-five individual works of art, a print suite, an archaeological excavation, a related political action committee, and four videos, including a thirty-minute documentary on the Revolutionary history of the Hudson Valley, NY.
To quote the historian M.I. Finley in his book Ancient History, “Accuracy and truth are not synonymous…”. He refers to the gaps in our knowledge, and the tenuous nature of truth and scholarship with respect to the past—a past that is both inaccessible and interwoven with various prejudices both conscious and unconscious. I present my work in such a way as to make clear the role of questioning and critically examining information as a method for understanding ourselves and reasoning the world around us.
Language is very important. By substituting words such asbelieve for know, and using verbs such as presume as opposed todetermine, I intentionally deny specificity and avoid the rigors of objective verification or any scientific methodology. These phrases have the added value of appearing as honest, ubiquitous and innocent synonyms for more exacting language, a curiosity that all successful politicians have learned in their spin classes. Belief is not a substitute for verity…in fact, to replace either word for the other demeans each equally. But in truth, it happens everyday, and I have learned that one can say a great deal about very little and get by quite well.
It is undeniable that we now live in an era increasingly rationalized through relative truths, which are natural and in many ways beneficial by-products of pluralism and post modernism. This is reflected in the reality that today, it is possible for you to have your truth and I to have mine. Just as there is your news source and there is my news source, each cooking their information according to our appetites. And of course, as a result of this, there is your version of history and there is mine. Almost nothing is known about the life of Samuel Gray, which is why I chose him, and like a poet or playwright, or for that matter, a judge, a general, a preacher, or a senator, I intend to insert my narrative where there is an opening. In this way, history is an act of creation–a ripe mixture of certitude and mythology.
A renaissance of amateur 18th century American historicism can be clearly evidenced today in the amorphous factions of Tea Party affiliates throughout the country. The sloganeering of these party platforms is intentionally romantic, lofty and vague, and presumes a more distilled noble age of American exceptionalism somehow bound in the era of our founders. It is a more conspicuous example of history as fiction than I could ever conjure, for even as they demand liberty, their nostalgia forsakes among other things the presence of slavery and sexism that would impede the freedom of 60 percent or more of the American population. And herein lies the rub, and the danger–that narratives of historical relativism frequently operate not by rewriting history, as many critics erroneously point out, for that requires too active and too conspicuous a role in the drama. Rather, historical relativism often operates through a selective shopping for facts to support a pre-existing view, leaving contradictions, complications or obstacles that get in the way of tidy conclusions on the shelves to expire like bad milk. Of course the irony in this, is that it is this very openness of history that created the possibility of pluralistic art. What Arthur Danto calls “posthistorical” is the state of contemporary art wherein it answers to no external precedent or qualifications outside of itself.”
This page contains a 2-part micro-narrative broken into separate channels; the moving image, and the text. The moving image does not exactly have the same effect as the text, and the text doesn’t express quite the same thing as the video. A certain degree of cognitive dissonance is therefore required on the part of the viewer to combine the two in such a way as suits their own interpretation best, or so as to not need to interpret anything at all…
#1: Video extract
#2: Journal extract
On the Waterloo Road I became aware that I was being followed. I first realised this at the sound of a faint clicking noise somewhere in the distance behind me. I veered right past the Old Vic so I could get a brief look behind me without betraying my awareness to my pursuer; but I saw nobody looking suspicious. I turned sharply onto Greet Street, which was deserted, so as to better isolate my pursuant. As I approached the railway arches, the clicking sound was almost upon me and I spun round to make a confrontation. I found a small plastic dog.
It was not moving. I pushed it along with my foot and it made a clicking sound as the wheels turned the dog’s head by means of a simple mechanism. Cheaply manufactured in China, such toys have become popular through retail chains such as Argos and may be found in almost any home in the UK. Children attach the dog to a nylon lead and walk around with it as though it was a real dog. But there was no child attached to this one.
As it was causing no harm I allowed the dog to tail me at its own leisure, and anyway, it seems to be impossible to get rid of it. The irritating noise can easily be drowned out by moving into busy areas and for brief intervals I can create the impression I am not being followed at all. But moving through crowds like this – using a herd of people for cover, I mean – is really not my style. I cannot help but get the impression I am being herded in some way, and this is a feeling I do not like. After several failed attempts I succeed in losing it near Borough Market after giving it a good kicking and running away.
view the entire project at The Unstitute: NEO-LONDON
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‘wrong’ is part of the series ‘Bermondsey Psychogeographic’ – a cluster of micro-narratives drawn-out of Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, London. The themes are common – a breakdown in subjectivity, the architecture of alienation, behaviour indicating a crisis…though the evidence points to the contrary. Narratives such as these lurk inside everyday places, waiting for the casual passer-by to give them voice.
To watch the whole project, visit NEO-LONDON
How often do you see, quite plainly, the bizarre cognitive dissonances unavoidable in a media-saturated environment? Within the first minute of ‘Laundry Day’, this dissonance becomes quite apparent; high-resolution images from the Hubble Space Telescope – digital depictions of stars, galaxies and nebulae – are lovingly caressed by a mouse-pointer as the narrator discusses the nuances of her laundry. Witty, banal, critical, surreal; ‘Laundry Day’ mobilises a myriad of ideas with incredible efficiency. We suggest you watch it for yourselves.
About the Projection Room
The Projection Room at The Unstitute was created to screen challenging, experimental video art from around the world in one online location, accessible anywhere with an internet connection, at no cost. The videos selected are drawn from the peripheries of mainstream visual cultures, where manifold voices incessantly define the boundaries of what can be said through conventional modes of expression. Videos are not selected on the basis of technical merit or aspiration to conventional controls and standards.