Number 7: Circus | Spring 2010
Circus Art | Literature | Fashion | Music | Poetry
064 Lusus Naturae: Porca Miseria and the Spectacle of Shamelessness Words by Lee Adams
008 All Done With Mirrors
070 Greasepaint Guerillas: Clowning as a Subversive Strategy Words by Gillian Whiteley 078 Ă‰tude pour le Cirque: becoming powders Words by Phil Sawdon and Marsha Meskimmon 084 Performative Circuits: Processes of Re-Materialising the Virtual Content Words by Gavin Perin and Linda Matthews
054 Youâ€™ll Go Crazy by the Hazy Sea 106 Dena 114 Cast
022 Tina Hage Words by Rahila Haque
096 The Flaming Lips Words by John Doran Images by Maria Jefferis
032 Neil McNally 042 Matrimonium by Sarah Baker
100 Bishi Words by Jeremy Allen
Poetry 110 CIRC/US Words by JL Williams Illustrations by Estella Mare
Features 126 Rankin Interview by Rose Cooper-Thorne 130 Market Words by Rose Cooper-Thorne
Contributors this Issue
Cover illustration by Estella Mare Literature
Gillian Whiteley Phil Sawdon Marsha Meskimmon Gavin Perin Linda Matthews
Jennifer L Williams
Fashion Edith Bergfors Matthew Holroyd Yuhi Kim Jade Starvi Esther Elis Audrey Charis Kyprianou Angelos Pattas George Andrei Olly Glodi Bianca Arron Jack Anastasiya Art Tina Hage Neil McNally Sarah Baker Andy Hsu Jen Fechter April Dawn Storm Elizabeth Joung James Shearer Uta Kogelsberger Rebecca Donnelly Willy Hsu Rahila Haque
Music The Flaming Lips Bishi Bhattacharya John Duran Maria Jefferis/shot2bits.net Features Rankin Rose Cooper-Thorne Gilles Peterson Illustration Estella Mare For contributors contact details, please email the editor in chief at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor in Chief Jack Boulton email@example.com Contributing Editor - Literature Jacki Willson firstname.lastname@example.org Editors - Literature Phil Sawdon and Marsha Meskimmon email@example.com Editor - Fashion Christos Kyriakides firstname.lastname@example.org Contributing Fashion Editor Matthew Holroyd Editor - Art Christopher Thomas email@example.com Editor - Music Jeremy Allen firstname.lastname@example.org Editor - Features Jonna Dagliden email@example.com Editor - Poetry Ellen Sampson firstname.lastname@example.org For advertising opportunities, please contact the editor-in-chief at the address above. We welcome unsolicited material from our readers. If you would like to make a contribution to future issues then please email the editorial team at the addresses above. Stimulus Respond is published by Jack Boulton. All material is copyright (c) 2009 the respective contributors. All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior consent. The views expressed in the magazine are those of the contributors and are not neccessarily shared by the magazine. The magazine accepts no liability for loss or damage of manuscripts, artwork, photographic prints and transparencies. ISSN 1746-8086
cir·cus Pronunciation: \ˈsər-kəs\ Function: noun Usage: often attributive Etymology: Middle English, from Latin, circle, circus Date: 14th century 1 a : a large arena enclosed by tiers of seats on three or all four sides and used especially for sports or spectacles (as athletic contests, exhibitions of horsemanship, or in ancient times chariot racing) b : a public spectacle 2 a : an arena often covered by a tent and used for variety shows usually including feats of physical skill, wild animal acts, and performances by clowns b : a circus performance c : the physical plant, livestock, and personnel of such a circus d : something suggestive of a circus (as in frenzied activity, sensationalism, theatricality, or razzle-dazzle) <a media circus> 3 a : obsolete : circle, ring b : British : a usually circular area at an intersection of streets
srorriM htiW enoD llA
All Done With Mirrors
Photography Edith Bergfors Fashion Matthew Holroyd Hair & Grooming Yuhi Kim Fashion Assistant Jade Starvi Model Esther Elis Production little yellow jacket productions
Previous Spread: Dress by Martin Margiela at Start- London Opposite: Jacket by Lutz; body by Spanx and dress by Martin Margiela both at Start London. Next Spread: Body by Spanx at Start London
Opposite: Top by Weekday; tops worn around waist by Wood Wood and Stine Goya; leggings by Acne; hat by Dries Van Noten.
Opposite: Skirt by Martin Margiela at Start-London
Opposite: Grey top by Wood Wood; leggings by Carin Wester
Tina Hage Words by Rahila Haque
“Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelopes the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum.” Tina Hage presents us with a fiction, a fake. There is nothing in the artist’s photographic works that attempts to deceive; rather they assert falsity as reality. Hage takes images of crowds from the press and re-enacts them figure by figure. The artist herself plays each member of the crowd, replicated in a digital montage. The images, ranging from political riots to celebrity fans, appear as high contrast and colourful tableaux. Hage presents a complete reduction of media image and brings to the fore a sense of the hysteria which underlies mass social interaction. Simultaneously, the airless quality of the images flatten the emotion on each face so as to immediately distance and require a reconsideration of what is presented. Alluding to what Jean Baudrillard termed the “hyperreal”, these digitally manipulated photographs take on a process of destabilising the authenticity and disintegrating the ‘real’ status of the found images they are based upon. They assert the impossibility of reality in the content of the supposedly truth-telling images of news media. Hage’s work creates a relationship with the viewer that is as inauthentic as the way we often experience social and political events second-hand, holding just as little in the way of personal resonance. In each photograph we see the repeated figure of the artist in various poses and with various facial expressions, formulating a group that on first encounter refuses any sense of difference. The mass of the crowd overturns the prominence of the individual. Each figure is irrelevant and only maintains their position through a relationship with others and their physical interaction in the given space; the crowd becomes a whole unit. That this might be a work of self-portraiture is inconsequential; that the artist painstakingly re-presents herself in various roles is not a question of identity, but non-identity. The forged relationships which make up the composition of each photograph also present themselves in the experience of viewing them. There is none of what Roland Barthes described as the punctum; the deeply personal affect of the photograph upon the viewer. There is an element of recognition that is generated despite the high production of the image (which nevertheless we are more than accustomed to in advertising). This familiarity is an external one however, and one that plays on surface rather than depth. It is as though the relationships formed imitate the disconnected yet strangely habitual relations formed in those cultural and political events that make up society. 1
Jean Baudrillard, ‘The Procession of Simulacra’, Simulations, New York: Semiotext(e) 1983
Top: Universal Pattern IV, Triptych leftpiece, 2009 Middle: Universal Pattern IV, Triptych centrepiece, 2009 Bottom: Universal Pattern IV, Triptych rightpiece, 2009
Above: Universal Pattern I, Diptych leftpiece, 2008 Opposite: Universal Pattern I, Diptych rightpiece, 2008
Left: Loop I, 2009 Above: Loop III, 2009
Opposite: Universal Pattern II, Triptych leftpiece, 2008 Above: Universal Pattern II, Triptych rightpiece, 2008 Next Spread: Universal Pattern II, Triptych centrepiece, 2008
Above: Giorgio Moroder coming over all Giorgio Morandi Oil on linen 250m x 200m 2009
BUKOWSKI STUDIED HIS SHIT I LOOKED AT MINE BUT THAT WASN’T IT. BATAILLE LOOKED AT HIS EYE AND SAW IT WAS GROWING A STYE. ANDY WARHOL WASHING MACHINE SOUPCON SOUP CAN CLEAN. JOHN LENNON MIDDLE CLASS BOY WORKING CLASS HERO CLEVER PLOY. JOHN CAGE SAID NOTHING A PLUCKED TURKEY WITH EXTRA STUFFING. DUCHAMP AND MAN RAY SHAVED A CUNT DIDN’T FIGHT ON FRONT. PICASSO OVER-RATED PLAGIARIST EXAGGERATED. DALI WAS A MASTURBATOR ARSE TICKLED BY A VIBRATOR. SOL LEWITT IS A TWIT. EVA HESS I LIKED HER IN A DRESS. VICTOR BURGIN POMPOUS PSYCHOBABBLE VERMIN. SYLVIA PLATH’S MOTHER HAD A NAZI FOR A LOVER. FRANCIS PICABIA WAS RICH ISN’T LIFE A BITCH. KIPPENBERGER DRANK HIMSELF TO DEATH JUST TO IMPRESS. DAN GRAHAM STUTTERS EVERY WORD HE UTTERS. GERHARD RICHTER ICE CREAM VAN LEMON CHOWDER MUDDY CLAM. DAMIEN HIRST FROM BAD TO WORSE. SAM TAYLOR WOOD I WOULDN’T IF I COULD. GUSTAVE KLIMT AND EGON SCHIELE UNDERAGE GIRLS THEY LIKED TO FEEL UH. CHAPMAN BROTHERS IN A THRICE I’D EXPLODE THEIR HEADS IN A VICE. FRANCIS ALYS GOES FOR A WONDER FLANEURESQUE HE LIKES TO PONDER. JACKSON POLLOCK CLOSET QUEER KNOB DIP FRANZ KLINE’S BEER. LUCIAN FREUD FUCKS WOMEN WHO UNDRESS SO HE CAN PAINT THEM NUDE. UTE BARTH IS HAVING A LAUGH. OTTO MUEHL LIKE UNCLE FESTER ACTIONIST CHILD MOLESTER. BARBARA HEPWORTH DISCOVERED THE HOLE HENRY MOORE THE ARSE TO MAKE THEM WHOLE. SOUTINE NEVER WASHED LIKED TO HAVE A CHEESY COSH. FRANCIS BACON LIKED TO BE FISTED HIS BODY BENT AND HIS FACE ALL TWISTED. RACHEL WHITEREAD’S WHOLE CAREER BASED ON THE UNDERSIDE OF NAUMAN’S CHAIR. MICHAEL LANDY GIVE IT UP GILLIAN WEARING MUCH BETTER YOU SCHMUCK. HAROLD PINTER LICKS HIS BAKELITE IMITATION BECKETT-LITE. ELIZABETH PEYTON SPINDLY ARMS I WISH SHE WOULD SELF HARM. PETER DOIG SPAWNED DANIEL RICHTER SQUEEZED OUT FROM HIS SPHINCTER. CECILY BROWN CRAP ILLEGITIMATE DAUGHTER OF A FAT CLOWN. WILLEM DE KOONING WANKS OFF MOOMINS. MARLENE DUMAS AND LUC TUYMANS BURP REPEATING SHOP ASSISTANT RYMANS. ANTHONY GORMLEY BODYCASTS HIS PRICK CONDOM COVERED LITTLE DICK. DONALD JUDD IS QUITE A STUD. TRACY EMIN HAS GOT BIG TITS BILLY CHILDISH JIGGLED HER BITS. ROTHKO BOUGHT HIS PAINTS IN WOOLIES HOISTED UP HIS WORK ON PULLIES. MARK LECKEY PINK TROUSERED SCOUSE DANDY LICKED OUT A TATE GRANDEE. GIACOMETTI SMOKED WEED ANOREXIC HOVEL DIRTY BLEED. MAURICE VLAMINCK ANDRE DERAIN FRENCH KISSING ON THE TRAIN. PHILLIP GUSTON RATHER DUMB RIPPED OFF ROBERT CRUMB. DIANE ARBUS BORN INTO MONEYDOWN’S SYNDROME IS SO FUNNY.
Second Spread Right: Levitationist Oil on canvas 60cm x 50cm 2009
Above: Luncheon Meat on the Grass (Detail) Luncheon meat, grass 2009
Previous Spread Left: A Leper Fucking an Eagle Oil on canvas 250cm x 295cm 2009
Previous Spread Right: Rich Cunts Purchase Pictures Painted by Poor Cunts postcard 2009
Above: The Exhausted Exorcist Oil on canvas 700cm x 365cm 2009
Matrimonium by Sarah Baker San Francisco-born artist Sarah Baker dissolves the distinction between life and performance. Now based in London, she has enacted shopping trips, for example, and even her own birthday party as calculated PR stunts. With her artist-friends co-opted into brand-Baker, clear ideas of authorship are collapsed and the viewer becomes complicit in the aspirational construction of celebrity. For Stimulus Respond, Baker presents her marriage to artist Andy Hsu.
First Spread: Photo: Jen Fechter Second Spread Left: Photo: April Dawn Storm Second Spread Right: Photo: Andy Hsu Previous Spread Left: Photo: James Shearer Previous Spread Right: Photo: Elizabeth Joung This Spread Left: Photo: Uta Kogelsberger This Spread Right: Photo: Uta Kogelsberger Next Spread Left: Photo: Rebecca Donnelly Next Spread Right: Photo: Willy Hsu
youâ€™ll go crazy by the hazy sea fashion editor / christos kyriakides fashion assistant / audrey photographer / charis kyprianou hair / angelos pattas model / angelos pattas
previous spread: trousers / yohji yamamoto teeshirt / vintage helmut lang opposite: shirt / lanvin bow tie / adam kimmel
previous spread: shirt / lanvin bow tie / dries van noten this spread: trousers / yohji yamamoto teeshirt / vintage helmut lang
trousers / balenciaga shoes / dries van noten
Lusus Naturae: Porca Miseria and the Spectacle of Shamelessness Words by Lee Adams
Photographer Rafael Perez Evans Digital Operator: Monica Elkelv
“Filth is my politics, filth is my life.” Divine – Pink Flamingos (1972) Porca Miseria, literally ‘Pig Misery’ was performed at Gay Shame, the 9th Annual Festival of Homosexual Misery, produced by Duckie – ‘Legendary purveyors of progressive working class entertainment.’ It was a Rabelaisian circus sideshow, a durational performance installation, inspired both by Divine’s famous dictum from John Waters Pink Flamingos and Porcile, Pasolini’s 1969 savage, sacrificial parable of the underlying horror of a society whose dominant trait can be clearly described as the maximisation of economic profit, in which the son of an ex-Nazi industrialist is devoured by the very pigs, whose company he seems to prefer to that of his fiancé. The carnival of Gay Shame offered, by turns, a grotesque parody and a gently mocking critique of the vapid banality and brutal materialism of the urban gay economy. Upon arrival visitors were issued with pink ‘Duckie’ pounds, which they could spend on the (F)unfair of Shame, featuring everything from... Religious Nutcases to Gay Bashing, Polemic Art to Naked Lesbians, Mechanical Bears, Tea & Sympathy, Comedy Bigots, Bare-knuckle Transvestite Boxing, Toffee Apples, Punk Rock, Paganism, Very Unimportant Peoples Area, Pornography, Radical Knitting Circle, Balloon Modeling, Closet Costuming, Interesting Animals, Cup Cakes... and much, much more... The programme noted wryly, “It’s a nightclub. It’s a theatre event. It’s a rip-off. GAY SHAME: Neither useful nor thought provoking. GAY SHAME: No Fats, No Femmes, No Fun.” For Porca Miseria I collaborated with installation artist Robin Whitmore to create a ragged, end-of-the-pier style peepshow, ringed with a semi-circle of private cubicles separated by vanity screens. “Perverts Pay Here: Half-Man Half-Pig” stridently proclaimed the banner above the entrance, in the manner of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century traveling fairs that exhibited deformed animals, human oddities, famous hoaxes or medical anomalies. Inside I prowled a pigsty covered with stinking straw, lit with a single red bulb hanging from a bare wire. I wore a pig mask and crumpled suit, zipper undone revealing a hyper-realistic strap-on dildo. For five hours I performed a shamelessly obscene, though parodic travesty of an erotic peepshow, which had an implicitly ironic, though distinctly autobiographical resonance with the kind of voyeuristic, pornographic “Desiring Machine” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1972) I worked in, during the late 90s, in a preOlympic Sydney, Australia. “The veil of modesty torn, the shameful parts shown, I know – with my cheeks aflame – the need to hide myself or die, but I believe by facing and enduring this painful anxiety, I shall, as a result of my shamelessness, come to know a strange beauty.”
“Porca Miseria was in certain respects a banishing ritual, an exorcism, and a revolt against shame”
(Genet, The Thief’s Journal, 1949: 132) Customers entered small curtained-off booths, arranged around the perimeter of the pigsty. They could then attract my attention by ringing a bell. I would open a small hole at waist height, through which they would pass rolled-up currency. Once the fake cash had been deposited I would pull back a curtain to reveal a viewing hole at eye level. I would then initiate a series of indecently exhibitionist acts – performing as “a figure of unruly biological and social exchange”. (Harpold, 1990). If more cash was offered I could engage physically with any of the visitors via a series of holes drilled through the walls at strategic positions. I was groped, stroked and masturbated by dozens of people during the course of the performance; my strap-on was mauled so severely it had to be re-attached several times. Porca Miseria was in certain respects a banishing ritual, an exorcism, and a revolt against shame. Born of “a furious desire … to drain to their utmost dregs the most violent and the most bitter of carnal vices.” ( Huysmans,1884) This “morose delectation” (St. Thomas Aquinas), hovered somewhere between the space of a confessional and a monstrous freak show. With it I was attempting to examine the “dialectic of shame and grace”, (Hanson, 1998) in search of the mystical “strange beauty” to which Genet refers. In retrospect, Porca Miseria can be read as a manifestation of what William Haver (1999) has called “The Pornographic Life” an incidental residue of “art’s work” rather than a work of art per se. The performance amounted to a queer travesty on several levels, in that I frustrated the financial/libidinous exchange by wearing a prosthetic penis. Not only was the half-pig part of me a sham, but the phallus itself was counterfeit. The visitors were offered only simulacra, a piece of plastic trash. An elaborate apothecary of illusions sustains the economy of desire in perpetuity. Unfulfilled longing throbs with an eternal ache. Whilst researching Porca Miseria I discovered that the demise of the traveling freak shows around 1940 came about as mysterious anomalies began to be scientifically explained as
genetic mutations or diseases. Circus freaks became the objects of pity rather than fear or disdain. The eugenics movement saw human anomalies as unfortunate mistakes of nature. In 1937, Germany passed a law outlawing freak shows, decrying them as exploitative. Somewhat ironically however, this made it legal for the [pro-eugenics] Nazis to arrest freak show acts and conduct scientific experiments on them, prior to subjecting them to mass extermination in a little known genocidal project known as the T4 Euthanasia programme. “If you are a Superman, let me be forever animal.” Letter from Austin Osman Spare to Adolf Hitler. (Swaffer, 1950/51) When I discovered this response from Austin Osman Spare to Adolf Hitler, declining the offer of a portrait commission, it struck a chord with my reading not only of Porcilie but also of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in respect to “becoming minor”. In a sense Porca Miseria enacted a series of radical becomings that scorned the supposed artificiality of the carnival pig mask and the plastic cock. During the five hours of improvised performance, I was, in effect becoming animal and as Guattari writes in Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, Becoming animal is only a temporary stop on the path towards “cosmos, words, colour, music”. (Guattari, 1984) Despite its satirical aspects, Porca Miseria was ultimately meant as a celebration of the erotic and transgressive possibilities, often unexpectedly afforded by systems of enclosure and control. “It is not that it lacks a spirit, but it is a spirit which is body, corporeal and vital breath, an animal spirit; it is the animal spirit of man: a pigspirit... Unmaking the face, rediscovering or pulling up the head beneath the face.” (Deleuze, The Body, The Meat and the Spirit: Becoming Animal).
References Deleuze, G and Guattari, F (1972) Anti-Œdipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, (2004) London and New York: Continuum. Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of L’AntiOedipe. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit Deleuze, G. The Body, The Meat and the Spirit: Becoming Animal, cited in http:// members.optusnet.com.au/~robert2600/fbacon.html Genet, J. (1949) The Thief’s Journal. Cited in Ellis Hanson. Teaching Shame. Gay Shame. David M. Halperin and Valerie Traub (eds) University of Chicago Press, 2009 Guattari, F. (1984) Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics (Peregrines) New York City: Puffin p. 234 Harpold, T. (1990) “The Grotesque Corpus: Hypertext as Carnival.” Paper delivered at the Sixth Annual Conference on Computers in Writing, Austin, TX, May 19, 1990 Huysmans, J.K. (1884) Against Nature. Cited online Ebook - http://www. gutenberg.org/files/12341/12341-h/12341-h.htm accessed online 31 Dec 2009 St. Thomas Aquinas’ (1265–1274) Summa Theologica http://www.newadvent. org/summa/2074.htm accessed online 31 Dec 2009 Hanson, E. (1998) The Dialectic of Shame and Grace. Decadence And Catholicism. Harvard: Harvard University Press Haver, W. (1999) Really Bad Infinities: Queer’s Honour and the Pornographic Life. Parallax, 1460-700X, Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages 9 – 21. Routledge Swaffer, H. (1950 or 1951) The Mystery of An Artist, in London Mystery Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 5
Opposite: Clown Eggs by Katherine Stone, The Clown Museum, Dalston, London, 2005 documented in the â€˜Performance (Reprise)â€™ section in Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art from the UK, London: Book Works, 2005, p 147 Courtesy of Jeremy Deller, Alan Kane, the artists and Book Works.
Greasepaint Guerillas: Clowning as a Subversive Strategy Words by Gillian Whiteley
In Spring 1977, Italy - the home of commedia dell’arte, Pulcinella and pantomime - witnessed an extensive and infectious outburst of radical, inventive clowning. In Bologna and Rome, thousands of ‘metropolitan Indians’ (as they were dubbed at the time) dressed up, painted their faces and took to the streets, adopting absurdist teasing tactics, playing games and pranks, employing simulation and parody, performing a circus-like spectacle. In 1980, Maurizio Torealta wrote about these young demonstrators as ‘agents of subversions’, calling it ‘painted politics’. (Torealto, 1980: 103) This comedic extravaganza was, however, no laughing matter. Indeed for some, this was ‘the most creative wing’ (Dosse, 2009: 15) of the insurrectionary autonomia movement of the 1970s - the uprising of intellectuals, unemployed youth and young workers - whose tactics of ‘social war-fair’ included ‘collective reappropriations’ (pilfering, robbing banks and distributing loot), ‘self-reductions’ (eating in restaurants without paying, refusing to pay utility bills), ‘sign tinkering’ (re-routing authorities and police and creating chaos by scrambling traffic-light control systems), pirate radio and squatting. (Lotringer, 2007: v) Undoubtedly, since the collapse of Leninist approaches to social revolution and with the post-Seattle emergence of antiglobalisation groups, there has been a resurgence of interest in the ‘painted politics’ of the autonomous movement of the Seventies. Contemporary activist groups such as CIRCA - the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army - whilst not necessarily supporting the full repertoire of autnomous tactics, break all the conventional ‘rules’ of political engagement, employing greasepaint, buffoonery and pranksterism. CIRCA aims to make clowning dangerous again, to bring it back to the street, restore its disobedience and give it back the social function it once had: its ability to disrupt, critique and heal society. Since the beginning of time tricksters (the mythological origin or all clowns) have embraced life’s paradoxes, creating coherence through confusion adding disorder to the world in order to expose its lies and speak the truth. (www.clownarmy.org) Parodying the rhetoric of conventional army recruitment, CIRCA seeks ‘fools and rebels, radicals and rascals, tricksters and traitors, mutineers and malcontents’ to join its ranks. An intensive 3-day ‘big-shoe camp’ involving ‘Finding the Inner Clown’, ‘Bouffon Manouevres’ and ‘Marching and Drilling’, provides Basic Rebel Clown Training. You could be part of a fighting force armed with ruthless love and fully trained in the ancient art of clowning and non-violent direct action. You could learn ingeniously stupid tactics that baffle the powerful. You could uncover your inner clown and discover the subversive freedom of fooling. You don’t need to like clowns or soldiers, you just need to love life and laughter as much as rebellion. If you think you’ve got what it takes then follow your nose & join CIRCA! (www.clownarmy.org)
“Here, clowning - with its hoaxing, silliness and slapstick humour becomes an unruly practice of political insubordination”
Here, clowning - with its hoaxing, silliness and slapstick humour - becomes an unruly practice of political insubordination. Of course, all cultures have their own equivalent of the fool, the jester, the prankster, the buffoon, the trickster. (In)famous Western literary ‘clowns’ might include characters created by Alfred Jarry (Ubu Roi), Dario Fo (eg in Mistero Buffo) and Samuel Beckett (Vladimir and Estragon). In Europe, the circus and theatre have commonly featured archetypal clowns with their own distinctive character and appearance: the self-assured, serious ‘whiteface’ and his stooge side-kick - ‘auguste’, a foolish joker with ill-fitting trousers and dilapidated shoes. (See detailed information on types at www.clown-ministry. com and for a comprehensive greasepaint manual, try Strutter’s Complete Guide to Clown Make-up, Picadilly Books, London, 1996 by Jim Roberts, former On new forms of activist politics, protest cultures and direct action, see Gerald Raunig (2007) Art and Revolution, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles/London, 238. Also, for a recent appraisal of anti-global activism, see Rodrigo Nunes, ‘The global moment: Seattle, ten years on’ in Radical Philosophy, Jan/Feb 2010, No. 159, 2-7
Cindy Sherman Untitled, 2004 color photograph framed-55.5 x 56.5 inches (141 x 143.5 cm) image-53.75 x 54.75 inches (136.5 x 139.1 cm) Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures
President of the World Clown Association). American clowning on the other hand – with its tramps, hobos and bums - draws on particular experiences of homelessness, worklessness and migration, encapsulated by Charlie Chaplin’s poignant but hilarious portrayals of the sad ‘down-and-out’, as in his classic film, The Tramp (1915). Although there are plenty of similar characters in later European cinema, such as the tragic Gelsomina, the mute clown-heroine sold to a travelling circus-performer in Fellini’s, La Strada (1954). Whatever the specific tradition, there is no doubt that the creation of mirth is a fundamental aspect of clowning – and the laughter caused can be socially disruptive. For Peter L Berger, the intense comedic moment has the capacity to puncture the quotidian and reach into what he calls ‘a counterworld, an upside-down World’. (Berger, 1997: 207) Similarly, the clown invites on-lookers and audiences to suspend their belief in everyday reality and escape into an imaginary ‘upside-down world’. Potentially, this is a powerful metaphor for the possibilities of social and political transformation. Indeed, Jo Ann Isaak echoes this point in her seminal study, Feminism and Contemporary Art – The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Laughter, arguing that, in the 1980s, a range of women artists used laughter as a performative act of insubordination and subversion, invoking laughter, metaphorically, as a catalyst for cultural change. Unpacking the invention of hysteria, via Freud and Charcot’s ‘clownism’ , Isaak documents a variety of women’s art practices such as that of Nancy Spero, with its roots in ancient folk humour and the carnivalesque. She describes it as an exploration of the ‘license and lawlessness of laughter and of women.’ (Isaak, 1996: 20) Cindy Sherman’s representations of the grotesque fragmented body and her employment of masquerade were equally ‘revolutionary’ in their provocation of laughter. However, her recent photographic series of representations of herself in various ‘clown’ guises were, paradoxically, darkly disturbing, underlining the sinister, uncanny side of the comic. Other contemporary artists, such as Paul Mcarthy, John Bock and Mark McGowan, have used clowning, slapstick and buffoonery extensively in their practices to raise serious – and often distinctly political - questions about human social experiences. As a ‘clownish’ interventionist, McGowan raises political questions in an outrageously provocative manner, adopting comedic tropes (more akin to Ali G and Jackass than ‘performance art’), he creates outlandish acts of slapstick endurance and silliness, such as being interviewed as a dead soldier on the streets of Birmingham and pushing a peanut for miles with the tip of his nose.
“In an absurd world, perhaps the only sensible thing to do is run away with the circus.”
Acting daft is not always all it seems. In a globalising world increasingly characterised, as Hardt and Negri indicate, by ‘war, suffering, misery and exploitation’ (Hardt and Negri, 2009: xvii), perhaps the only riposte is to laugh. In the final passages of their trilogy proposing a new ethics of freedom and the revolutionary politics of ‘common wealth’, they warn us that we will suffer terribly in the struggles against capitalist exploitation and the rule of property. Arrogantly though, in the face of such power, in a Foucauldian gesture, they call for laughter and joy. For them, ‘the process of instituting happiness will constantly be accompanied by laughter.’ (Hardt and Negri, 2009: 382-3) In an absurd world, perhaps the only sensible thing to do is run away with the circus. We are clowns because what else can one be in such a stupid world. Because inside everyone is a lawless clown trying to escape…. We are an army because we live on a planet in permanent war - a war of money against life, of profit against dignity, of progress against the future. Because a war that gorges itself on death and blood and shits On ‘clownism’, see Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, ‘Bourgeois Hysteria and the Carnivalesque’ in Simon During (ed), Cultural Studies Reader, Routledge, London, 1993, pp. 284-292 Cindy Sherman’s ‘clown’ portraits were shown at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 2003 and Metro Pictures, 2004. For images, see www.metropicturesgallery.com Hardt and Negri cite Michel Foucault’s preface to Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, pp. xi-xiv
money and toxins, deserves an obscene body of deviant soldiers…… Because alone clowns are pathetic figures, but in groups and gaggles, brigades and battalions, they are extremely dangerous. We are an army because we are angry and where bombs fail we might succeed with mocking laughter… We are circa because we are approximate and ambivalent, neither here nor there, but in the most powerful of all places, the place in-between order and chaos. RUN AWAY FROM THE CIRCUS JOIN THE FORCES OF THE CLANDESTINE INSURGENT REBEL CLOWN ARMY (www.clownarmy.org)
References Berger, Peter L (1997) Redeeming Laughter, The Comic Dimension of Human Experience, Walter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin/ New York Dosse, François (2009) ‘Introduction to Chaosophy’ in Félix Guattari, Chaosophy, Semiotext(e)/MIT press, Los Angeles/London Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri (2009) Commonwealth, Belknap Press/ Harvard, Cambridge, Mass. Isaak, Jo Anna (1996) Feminism and Contemporary Art – The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Laughter, Routledge, London Lotringer, Sylvère (2007) ‘In the Shadow of the Red Brigades’ in Sylvère Lotringer (ed) (2007) Autonomia, Post-political Politics, Semiotext(e)/MIT press, Los Angeles/London Torealto, Maurizio,  ‘Painted Politics’ in Sylvère Lotringer (ed) (2007) Autonomia, Post-political Politics, Semiotext(e)/MIT press, Los Angeles/London
MA and MPhil/PhD Loughborough University School of Art and Design The School provides excellent opportunities for postgraduate students in areas relating to Art and Design practice and the history and theory of Art and Design. We are particularly interested in encouraging research that includes reflection on practice within and across the boundaries of our disciplines; students can take advantage of expertise in new technologies present both within the School and in other departments and faculties across the campus. The School of Art and Design offers several pathways for postgraduate study. We currently run three MA programmes and an MPhil/PhD:
• MA/MSc 2D and 3D Visualisation • MA Art and Design • MA Studio Ceramics: Methodology and Practice • MPhil/PhD Art and Design/History of Art and Design
For further information contact: School of Art and Design Inquiries: +44 (0)1509 228903 www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ac/mainpages/postgraduate.htm
Image courtesy of Felicity Lloyd-Coombes, Ceramics 2008
Étude pour le Cirque: becoming powders
Roll up and run away a blush line in ekphrastic representation
Phil Sawdon <© 2010> roll-up Marsha Meskimmon <© 2010> run away
A fragmented, visionary conversation/dialogue with Georges narrates a line to the previously undetected drawn study for his unfinished painting Le Cirque.
The drawing is allegedly conserved in the fictional Museum of Drawing, Whitby, North Yorkshire.
It’s March (28th) and Georges, René Hector and Ada Algren approach The Museum of Drawing and consult no notice.
The Museum of Drawing is open for fetishised tweaking … drifting, lacing, drawing and kissing from half past ten to half past twelve, on Tuesday and Thursday in every fiction. A crazy, crazy member may introduce personally, or by a drawn order, a sonic depth, a friend and stranger residing above but no person residing, not belonging to the household, shall be admitted who may be introduced. Under special circumstances, strangers may be admitted towards each other at a time of beginnings when they are unusually shut, by the personal introduction of one of the drawings, or by a mark from consequence. The names and abodes of all visitors, with the names of the members introducing them, shall be entered in a book to be kept for that purpose in the Museum. No person introduced into the Museum shall be permitted to handle their specimens. No person shall be allowed to take a stick or umbrella into the Museum, or any thing likely to occasion sugar. A members drawing must contain: A richly embroidered Petticoat Portuguese Copper Coin Sand a Piece of Mummy Wrapper Fine Specimen of Platypus fetching stuffed Fox
A Flying Fish Head of a small figure Pair of Ancient Gloves assortment of Halberts Skin of a large Snake The Yorkshire Highwayman Jaw and Backbone of a Shark wings of a Flying Fish Elephant’s Tail Two handsome Boys Curious specimen A bag of Badgers Preserved Serpents Pipe Fish Fetching Silver Ring a pair of Albatross Feet A piece of Moss from Bonaparte’s Grave Pair of American Snow Shoes Stuffed Seal’s Foot Vegetable Impressions Skull of an Ox A finger of one of the brave the kitten heels a need for sugar Ada and René confer, … she takes nothing for granted in this company, and is reassured that they have come to the right place, that they have [(not)] been led astray (a merry dance). Her own thoughts are [(marks)] on paper, in grease, pigment, graphite||diamonds and a gum binder. Ada(h); Hebrew: adornment; Old German: noble; African: first daughter. A programming language somewhat similar to Pascal The Enchantress of Numbers, she was also Mrs. Orpheus C. Kerr and mother to Flora (McGrath). “Nothing is known about her except lies!” She danced, when a child, in the ballet… she was exceedingly bright, an exceptional scholar, she was Jewish, she was Black, she was a cross-dresser, she was naked, she was a spy. Men fell in love with her and her poetry, with her intellect and her lovely face and her exquisite figure(s);
she smiled on her admirers and ran the bath. She adored him and he was besotted with her; he drew her in a minute and she was lavish with her love in return Identity evades representation, eludes definition, yet allures eloquent interlocutors, a host of adoring admirers and suitors, determined to take it in hand. Contingency is [(not)] allowed; contingency becomes articulation. Elemental desire fosters difference, enables emergence, but refuses definition, defies gravity.
Who is drawn? An other, an Other, another Ada? Georges turns away and coughs quietly into his chest as they enter. Two bearded men in the foreground with elephants are followed by a horse rider, camels and a performing bear (escorted by several smitten sheep). René and Ada pause inside the entrance whilst Georges swallows uncomfortably … It is strange how fragile this man-creature is. That cobbled road on Tate Hill … has it been redeveloped [since The War]?
… Beyond the houses … the piers and the sands of Collier Hope, named because the sailing colliers during bad weather, would run in through the harbour entrance to beach themselves on the sands on a falling tide, which would leave them high and dry … but … safe.
Are you settled Ada? Can ‘theory’ come out to play? She’s coming… … falling apart today, tomorrow, tomorrow will be sex with everything
… Below the cliff … a miscellaneous range of temporary buildings … what can be seen in the foreground … have they submitted … do they extend as far as George’s studio ladder?
No … they are laced on a stone bench and doodle with a conté walking stick outside a thatched cottage Georges …Parlez-vous français? Nein. Ich kann nur Deutsch sprechen. Enormous drawings everywhere … Ada apparently in a nude state, stretched on the back of a wild horse… Young men thronging to witness this combination of poses plastiques with dramatic spectacle… One drawing [by an unnamed artist] shows … a tin bath hanging over Collier’s doorway announcing Baths for hire … a shop repairing umbrellas … the craving carving on the wall is believed to be part of the stern decoration of a captured smuggler caught and broken up by a young man in a bowler hat who is the resident engineer.
Among the flags are a pair of sea-boots, fishing baskets and a ‘gansey’ – a collection of decorations for a fisherman’s wedding with some large cod laid out for sale. Best Boots and Shoes.
Here and there a French artist sets up an easel near Coffee House End to draw on a harbour scene. He has put on a laced apron, which suggests he is drawing in. Apart from the inevitable small boy, he has also attracted an admirer. Madeleine. Trade appears to be slack, as the young man has time to read.
The crowd behind the ice-cream hut are listening to an itinerant brass band. The hut was owned by Ada who sold lace. It was unusual in having five wands or sails. He came into the hut, she didn’t really know why… he had paper(s), she hoped he might stay.
On the footpath and by the kissing gate you can buy a piano. Ada is in the pony and trap enjoys a joke with a friend and her windows are sufficiently low for young noses. Then, as now, this was a popular place for those who just like to watch.
The drawing in question is indeed enormous, overwhelming, unforgettable.
Ada moves toward Georges, looking at his hands… he is looking down again… Perhaps we’ll… lose control on Thursday morning… be better able to see the drawing from here (laying down again).
Photographs curl around me showing the making of it was, of course, on rails and ladders which were completed. A fern in the spring on which the crane stands and moved along … lie down, was referred to as the walking-man or iron man singing the things you bring, the work progressed the pier extensions and we can go down easy in August 1950
Ada continues to look at his hands, and then down again; from a distance, she can still focus, but up close, there is no drawing… Georges’ hands beckon: come closer… become closer… become… becoming… be coming… be coming closer… this close, drawing becomes Ada becomes drawing
Oh my, heavens to Betsy… the Piers, the coastguard lookout, and Argument’s bathing machines come up and see me at the turn of the century until the powder houses remained around to my place, as they still do. There are no railings along the capstan and mooring bollards pier you know I’ll sympathise for sailing and fishing boats warped up the harbour if the wind and tidal conditions were big and brown. The capstan bars won’t be fancy under the seats.
Under the pier extensions you can really talk to me.
Lacing, drawing.., gentle circles, bold strokes, forceful gestures… the work indeed overwhelms. Ada turns to René: Hector, can you hear me?
[singing] kangaroo and chipmunk … chipmunk and kangaroo … that’s the way the thunder rumbles, that’s the way the thunder rumbles, rumbles, rumbles …
Swept by a green sea running up the lifeboat slipway… Ada is being swept away, slipping away, becoming water, becoming gesture, becoming… closely now, and closer still, so close… be coming, Ada, out to play where theory and practice unlace one another becoming drawing||writing… two women struggle through the gale among the slabs of paving ripped up by the sea on the previous day.
Be coming this close, there is no Ada, no René, no drawing, only powders: allotropic entropy
El Duc d’Aumale ran foul of the iron man she had run on to the harbour bar and was washed ashore near the Spa Ladder to go down easy.
Georges coughs … no drawing, only powders, unfinished practice
René takes the donkey [that ate the pencil] to be watered …
Ada notes that George’s dust is fused as she close[s] the door …
The Museum of Drawing is closed to fetishised tweaking.
No notice displays:
Drawing … an absence X
Illustration by Estella Mare
Performative Circuits: Processes of ReMaterialising the Virtual Content Words by Gavin Perin and Linda Matthews Introduction: From authorship to persuasion Louis Marin (1988), in his book The Portrait of the King, reminds us that every coin bearing the imprint of the monarch is, in fact, first hand evidence of the way in which the exercise of real political power is accompanied by the imagistic promotion of that power. It matters little that the locus of Marin’s exegesis on the link between power and image revolves around those artefacts circulated to propagate the monarchical power of Louis XIV. In fact, if anything, the dynamics of contemporary capitalist democracy exacerbates this link: as Slavoj Zizek (1996, 268) reminds us, “With the advent of democratic discourse, the locus of Power changes into a purely symbolic construction that cannot be occupied by any real political agency.” Importantly Zizek (1996, 267) argues that this semiotic sublimation of ‘real’ political power ensures that, “within the democratic horizon, everyone who occupies the locus of Power is by definition a usurper.” What this suggests is that the shift in power from the figure of the monarch to that of the usurper creates a power structure that is a direct reflection of the latter’s persuasive ability. The subsequent reliance upon imagistic propaganda confirms the idea that the establishment and maintenance of political legitimacy in a democracy is far more contingent upon the ability to author, promote and circulate not only one’s own image but also one’s own ‘idyllic’ images. As with other cultural phenomena, the artifacts and edifices of the built environment are susceptible to being converted into vehicles of political propaganda. This conversion requires a process of re-materialization where solid form is made into an image. Emulating the structure of representational democracy, the making of these images can never be authored by the people but only on their behalf. Charged with the responsibility to author these images the democratic ‘usurper’ initiates this process of imagistic rematerialization by either appropriating built form as ‘content’ in the production of persuasive images or by pathologizing civic space, requiring it to be policed through the use of surveillant technologies. The current trend to convert CCTV surveillance systems into venues of imagistic promotion of city form is significant precisely because it offers a rare moment where these two approaches to the built environment conflate. This merger not only overrides the original surveillant objective of these systems but also exploits technology to create a new performative ‘circuit’ where the creation and the experiential capacity of the image is now completely contingent on the operative flexibility and adjustability of webcam technologies. Thus if “circus” is understood both as a unique type of performance and as a specific type of enclosing of space, then the dependence on the apparatus to mediate experience, together with the enclosed and enclosing nature of the viewed space make these webcam networks somewhat analogous to a “circus”. It is of little surprise then that appropriation of these networks by civic authorities also guarantees that the applied operational logic of these performative ‘circuits’ echoes the formalized relationship between the circus performer/object and audience/viewer. The point being that the determination by authorities to use the mechanisms of instrumentalization, occurring through the specific interactive and performative viewing capacities of these apparatuses, mediates and controls the relationships and experience in an uncannily similar way to that instituted by the circus. The new collective space of the digital realm Prominent Australian Architect Carey Lyons (2002), in the essay unreal estate argues that the rise of the image fostered by the “emergence of information technologies” necessitates a new logic in thinking and making urban form. It is difficult to dispute his claim that the technologies of this post-industrial economy will radically challenge
the rationale used to shape the industrial city, but for Lyons (2002) this change instrumentalizes the image into what he terms the “image-myth”, where one buys “into the image and its associated cultural and aesthetic possibilities.” This assigns a use value to the image, but as a semantic semiotic construct, it is the output rather than the mechanisms of this imagistic re-materialization that are of interest to him. What remains unanswered is how the mechanisms that enable this re-materialization might open a productive space for the designer to strategically intercede in the technologies and techniques of image production and dissemination. This requires nothing more than the complete embrace of the information economy’s tools and techniques furnished by these new ‘emergent’ digital technologies.
“The distinguishing aspect of this new economy is its ability to gather and propagate information by its translation in digital form and formats”
The distinguishing aspect of this new economy is its ability to gather and propagate information by its translation in digital form and formats. Certainly multiple digital technologies have initiated an expediential increase in the quantity and accessibility to what had previously been highly specific and privileged information. As each new layer of information accrues in sites like Google Earth, and as the interconnectedness between these types of web sites increases, it is clear that information about the city has never been so easily and affordably accessed. Yet ultimately the value of these digital technologies exceeds the passive engagement with ‘factoids’ gathered and spatialized through Global Positioning Systems, satellite imagery and even Geographic Information Systems. These digital technologies offer individuals more than access to previously inaccessible spatio-geographic information. The individual has no formal agency, nor is there any expectation of greater governmental transparency. All this does is to ensure individuals are granted a greater ability to access and proliferate information. The real agency of this digital transformation occurs when individuals, instead, apply the almost inexhaustible arsenal of digital tools to this information. This action of information and software, by opening a capacity to interact, map and reconfigure information, permits us to curate and author new processes of imagistic re-materialization and through this potentially to develop new cultural phenomena. This ability to curate and produce content outside the jurisdiction of governing authorities profoundly recasts the existing power structures at play in the imaging and making of the city. Simply put, these technologies provide a mechanism to circumvent or “fall through” existing political structures. Our argument is not utopian but rather to imply simply that the real significance of these digital technologies is their facility to open a new collective, productive space to contest the hegemony of vision for the city presented by the ‘city fathers’. These alternative city visions, by polluting the imagistic account of the city, interrupt the capacity of governing authorities to use the image to exert political control over space image. It is argued here that the rise of the information economy asks authorities to fundamentally reconsider the very strategies used to control the production and dissemination of their view of the city. Alternative strategies, targeting the quantity of images, the modes of dissemination and the reception and perception of this information, are inevitably shifted from sanctioning and censorship to persuasion. These persuasive strategies may present the un-built as a vehicle for promoting their specific vision for the city or they may convert built form into a communicative vehicle that either reuses semiotic codes or uses unique form to identify or brand the city. In both cases this shift institutes a fundamental change in the conceptual logic of authority, where the rematerialization of the city image moves away from Michel Foucault’s disciplinary logic towards George Bataille’s logic of the spectacular.
CCTV systems: from circuits of surveillance to imagistic promotion
“In New York the cameras focus exclusively on areas of social interactivity, and for this reason they are regulated to transmit only at specific hours”
As previously mentioned the transformation of the modus operandi of authoritarian control from censorship to persuasion is nowhere more evident than in the use of CCTV webcam systems. Research in 2007 revealed that the original surveillant intent of this network, based on the inability of civic authorities to police the dispersed, nonhierarchical city from a single vantage point, has been transformed into a promotional framework that visualizes the city in a way that is consistent with their individual and political interests. Located through Google Earth, the strategic siting of these pervasive CCTV camera networks demonstrates how they are employed as imagistic purveyors of significant city sights. Accordingly CCTV footage gathered over a twenty-four hour period from Paris, New York and London showed how these networks are located to focus on iconic form or, what can at times be seen as dubious, recreational activities. (Figure 1) Thus in New York the cameras focus exclusively on areas of social interactivity, and for this reason they are regulated to transmit only at specific hours. Alternatively the majority of Parisian webcams are located at iconic buildings and spaces, clearly with the intention of promoting an already established ‘Parisian identity’. For this reason the most active cameras in this network intersect an area that maps onto what was the geographical area of extreme political activity during the supremacy and demise of the Bourbons. (Figure 2) In both cases it is clear that these networks may offer the ‘remote’ tourist a new privileged vantage point of the city but they never question the authority of those in power to curate the visual experience of the contemporary urban landscape. Conceived purely as both a voyeuristic and passive mode of engagement, they implicitly accept the right of civic authorities to control the city image.
Figure 1: Webcam images from New York (above) and Paris (below)
Figure 2: Mapping of spatial intersection of Paris webcams
There is no doubt that there is a strong correlation between the operation of this surveillant network, Jeremy Bentham’s panoptic system and this new voyeuristic and spectacular usage. Jonathan Crary (1995, 18) notes this when he writes that the “two regimes of surveillance and spectacle coincide”. Co-opting Foucault’s disciplinary visual theory, Crary argues that the spatial organizations instituted by various mechanisms for seeing established the conditions necessary for the transformation of tactics of surveillance into the politics of the spectacle. To quote: “this autonomization of sight, occurring in many different domains, was a historical condition for the rebuilding of an observer fitted for the tasks of ‘spectacular’ consumption”. (Crary, 1995, 19) As an
extension of the tactical functioning of systems of surveillance, the spectacle also operates of a viewing field or a series of images that supports the political interests of a privileged minority. What differentiates the promotional functioning of a CCTV network is the technological transportability of both the mechanism and the image itself. Importantly, it requires captured ‘content’ to re-enter the public domain rather than remain the property of this minority group. This accessibility not only functions through an exploitation of the camera mechanism but also by flouting or co-opting institutionalized laws. This enables groups like New York’s Surveillance Camera Players, simply to convert the visual field of prominently sited CCTV cameras into the stage. (Figure 3) Others are able to assess and configure.
Figure 3: Surveillance Camera Players
“The English band The Get Out Clause ‘filmed’ a video clip by ‘performing’ in front of a range of different CCTV’s, and then relying on the Freedom of Information Act to access this footage”
content by exploiting this new visual field and the legal frameworks set up to police this content. For instance the English band The Get Out Clause ‘filmed’ a video clip by ‘performing’ in front of a range of different CCTV’s, and then relying on the Freedom of Information Act to access this footage. In both examples the webcam is transformed into a performance venue wherein individuals become producers rather than consumers of content. They also demonstrate how the return of information back into the public domain instigates a capacity to subvert the spaces opened by these technologies. The limit of these interventions is that they temporarily subvert or appropriate content rather than challenge the legitimacy of certain individuals to propagate the image. It is a one step process that only exploits the dematerialisation of form. If one applies the performative arena of the circus as a comparative model, the passive relationship of the performer - spectacle audience - viewer of the webcam network is fundamentally unchanged. The tripartite relationship between the viewer, mediating device and viewed object still functions around the technical mediation of the perspectival view where an author curates the experience. This condition is only reinforced by the supporting mechanical apparatus, which by its location and vocational specificity reinforces this passive relationship. As with the apparatus of the circus, these mediating technologies between the object and viewer understand the audience as ‘global’. The previously cited examples are haunted by the failure to think adequately how the relationships established in the traditional circus can be rethought in terms of this new digital space. One may participate but not alter this space so that the embedded power relationships between viewer and object are undisturbed. Both the image and viewed spectacle remain beyond the control of the audience. The fundamental difference with digital technologies is that individuals can determine the location of the ‘viewpoint’ and subsequently the audience’s experience. Unlike the circus arena, where the combination of the seating structure and the mechanisms operated by performers determine the audience experience, the remote operability of the camera and its location can be exploited both as a viewing experience and as a formal outcome. Accordingly, the extra faculty of the CCTV network rests with its capacity to productively exploit the dematerialization of the image and to re-materialize it as a platform for virtual and real urban interventions. Any hope for political agency resides in the capacity of technological interventions to alter both the individual’s perception of
object and performer and also the way the viewer engages with the same object. This belief, premised on an understanding of this tripartite relationship in both the circus and the CCTV webcam network, revolves, as previously noted, around technology. By extension the opportunity to recalibrate the politics of this visual spatial relationship is also technological. Thus the adaptability and diversity of digital technologies opens multiple ways in which to transform the viewer/object relational field. The political agency of CCTV networks to produce alternative images can said to rest both in how they make content assessable and how they convert the view into a material thing. The Pixel: Perspective and Form
“The pixel, as the fundamental building block of the virtual environment, effectively sets up the conditions by which civic authorities lose control over the form of visual ‘information’”
The process of imagistic re-materialisation is underscored by the way pixelation that allows one to easily capture, document, manipulate, repackage and eventually disseminate images. The pixel, as the fundamental building block of the virtual environment, effectively sets up the conditions by which civic authorities lose control over the form of visual ‘information’. Any meaningful intervention into both “real” and “virtual” spaces must apprehend and exploit the way the material of the pixel orchestrates the mediation, manipulation and dissemination of the image. Architecturally, the ability to manipulate CCTV content to bring about three-dimensional form requires the design of techniques and processes that utilize camera technology in conjunction with a range of open source and proprietary software platforms. The resulting capacity to analyze and formally reconfigure the political relationships in the urban visual field, establish methodologies that directly challenge the current strategies used to control the making of the city. One immediate way in which to explore the formal potential of the pixel is to treat it as the base unit by which to spatialize and scale the image. This process, indelibly linked to the issue of resolution, involves the application of a linear uniform grid over any ‘flat’ CCTV image. This anamorphic projection immediately alters the scale of any built intervention depending on its real-time spatial location. (Figure 4) It is worthwhile noting that the example provided below shows this process applied to a webcam view of Sydney’s East Circular Quay Foreshore precinct, captured by a manipulable Canon VC-C501 webcam and owned and operated by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA). Further virtual and real visual disruptions can be achieved by capitalizing on the visual ambiguity of illusionary patterns. In the East Circular Quay view the Münsterberg pattern, discovered by Gregory and Heard (1979) is applied as the base grid. This is, of course, one of many possible illusions and each possess different formal consequences. An example is the Vasarely effect (Troncoso, Macknik, & Martinez-Conde), where a stacked set of concentric geometrical figures, graduated in size and luminance, creates a gradient towards the centre of the pattern. The result is an apparent lightening at the edges forming,
Figure 4: Process of gridding the CCTV webcam view of Sydney Harbour Foreshore
in the case of stacked squares, an “X” shape. This could be formally translated into a pyramid of stacked elements that are deliberately arranged to counter the normal reading of depth. (Figure 5) Returning to the Münsterberg pattern, its illusory properties are created by exploiting the difficulties the eye has in edge detection due to the simultaneous spatial and colour registration. This effect of ‘border locking’ gives the appearance of an alternating skewed pattern along the lines divergence, which tectonically suggests a material differentiation across all the working scales within the flat image. (Figure 6) The pattern, when applied to an image works in two ways. Firstly, it plays against the camera resolution and the
Figure 5: The Vasarely pattern
subsequent scale of the pixel. This creates an alternative resolution that subtly blurs the image. Secondly, it draws the Internet user’s attention so as to simultaneously disrupt any clean legibility of new form within the CCTV view. These paradoxical qualities cause the viewer to zoom in on the façade in an attempt to comprehend what one is seeing.
Figure 6: Left: The Münsterberg pattern Right: Webcam view with grid and Münsterberg pattern overlay showing areas of site selected for intervention
Conceptually, the notion of the pixel can also be extended further to guide programmatic distribution. Using the interface’s additive RGB colour model, form can be arranged to coincide with the fundamental numeric proportions of red, green and blue within each basic pixel unit. These proportions can be opportunistically rearranged to accommodate required program. (Figure 7) Spatial depth can then be obtained by sampling the resultant patterning through the displacement map function in the proprietary 3D modelling program, Rhinoceros. This process effectively allocates a different depth to each different colour
Figure 7: Projective program configuration options based on pixel ratios
Once spatial depth has been obtained in this way the need to retain the flatness of the grid pattern in the camera view requires a twisting of the façade so that it remains perpendicular to the camera lens. As demonstrated in figures 8 and 9 the magnitude of twisting increases the more obtuse the siting of the façade element is to the line perpendicular to the camera lens. This twisting opens up the façade and creates a deformation in the patterning wherein the greater the twisting, the more closed and intimate the space.
Figure 8: Diagrams generated in Rhinoceros showing variations in the relationship between camera and façade: Diagram A (left) shows acute twisting of façade while Diagram B (right) shows façade remaining flat to the camera lens.
Figure 9: Two possible versions of formal intervention with the Münsterberg pattern applied responding to different camera angles and showing the vast discrepancy between the virtual and real-time views. From left to right: Building A, webcam view; Building A, street view; Building B, webcam view; Building B, street view.
Techniques of Luminance and Chromaticity
“These new visualisations allow one to not only test a façade’s capacity to alter an Internet user’s experience of luminance and chromaticity, but also guide real world formal decisions”
The process of re-materialisation can also seen to be reliant on an analysis of the perception of chromaticity in the digital image. Applying the dictates of the RGB colour model used in the CCTV system, and exploiting the fact that the combination of a primary and its complementary secondary color produces white, it is possible to select colours to create a condition of extreme brightness on the RGB colour monitor. In the case of East Circular Quay, the chromatic qualities of the webcam footage ‘captured’ at regular intervals over twenty four hours was processed through the open-source medical imaging software, ImageJ (2010). These new visualisations, as a qualitative chromatic mapping of the site, allow one to not only test a façade’s capacity to alter an Internet user’s experience of luminance and chromaticity, but also guide real world formal decisions.
Figure 10: ImageJ colour profile of Sydney Harbour Foreshore
The ImageJ colour profile of East Circular Quay reveals that the site sites in the passive, low visibility tertiary purple and blue tonal colour range. (Figure 10) Therefore, any intervention aimed at invigorating this view would employ more visible and dominant blues and yellows. These colours, being the most visible and luminous colours of the spectrum, would maximise the screen brightness in the RGB virtual environment over very different temporal conditions and be most potent at night when most Internet viewers would be active. This colour selection would affect ‘real’ space in two ways. Firstly, blues and yellows would be visually disjunctive within the East Circular Quay precinct. Secondly, the qualitative aspects of colour rendering could also guide program if programmatic distribution were made to equate with activity and its need to be seen. Taking into account that any reduction of yellow intensity at night, when combined with blue, would only reinforce the dominant purple tonal range, it is evident that material selection should aim to increase the yellow intensity. This highly visible yellow rendering quality suggests that these areas house dominant primary dominant programs, leaving blue for the secondary, less active programs. One common aspect to all these techniques is that they operate at the scale of the pixel and pixel resolution. A further area of intervention is opened up at the sub-pixel scale of the CCTV camera’s color receptor mechanism. This mechanism utilizes the locative proximity of these basic units to translate colour information to determine the compositional output of any image. Accordingly, the strategic arrangement of chromatic elements within the façade to correspond to this sub-pixel scale allows the designer further options by which to engender disruptive or deceptive forms. The CCD or CMOS sensors are a family of light-sensing components containing grids of pixels used in CCTV video cameras for image interpretation. In this mechanism, hundreds of individual pixels are arranged in horizontal and vertical directions over the sensor area with a colour filter array located above the pixel sensors to capture colour information and convert it to a full-colour image; with intensities of all three primary colours represented at each pixel. (Figure 11) As a lens focuses light from a single point within the image frame onto each
“Any deliberate manipulation of the colour components in the RGB colour model would disrupt the image and view”
pixel the incident light upon each pixel generates a charge proportionate to that light, creating a direct relationship between the patterning within the received image and the patterning within the camera filter array. Because the charges created by the pixel array are a faithful and exact reproduction of the pattern of the transmitted image, it then follows that any deliberate manipulation of pattern at any scale within the physical view will produce a disruption or intensification within its corresponding virtual view. Any deliberate manipulation of the colour components in the RGB colour model would disrupt the image and view. For example, within the array pattern of the camera sensor mechanism, the addition of red and green to blue at any location within the pattern would produce pure luminance or white “invisibility”. Similarly, the random addition of complementary colours to a third colour within the locative constraints of a specific patterning would produce unexpected chromatic results. The direct relationship between the received image and the colour sensor mechanism could instigate a condition whereby the building’s visibility and reception within a virtual environment could be controlled by simply mirroring the array pattern in the materiality of the façade. By exploiting the capacity for manipulation inherent within the mediating technology, the designer’s deliberate “deceit” of the Internet viewer is able to expand the quality of the viewing experience and thus change the nature of the engagement itself.
Figure 11: Top: The Bayer colour filter array. Each two-by-two subarray contains 2 green, 1 blue and 1 red filter, each covering one pixel sensor. Bottom: Three new Kodak RGBW filter array patterns
Techniques of Light diffraction and diffraction gratings The common aspect to all these previous processes of re-materialization have centred on either the image or the receptive mechanisms of the camera technology itself. Recent investigations into digital diffraction patterns, produced by the incidence of the luminance of the image upon the camera lens, suggest a third space located between image and sensor. The Fraunhofer diffraction patterns, which detects coherent plane waves incident upon an obstruction, either on the camera or located
between camera and the light source, when formally duplicated, offers another technique of visual interference. As such the strategic incorporation of design features within the façade that duplicate any of these patterns could produce a ‘virtual’ image that is highly inconsistent with its real-time counterpart
Figure 12: Fresnel Diffraction Explorer diffraction patterns of Sydney Harbour Foreshore webcam view ranging from narrow lens apertures (top left) through to wide lens apertures (centre right). Bottom: Fourier transform of Sydney Harbour Foreshore using Hypercube
while guiding specific design requirements. This visual disruption to the Internet image could incorporate the recently developed zoom tool feature in new CCTV cameras to render unprecedented urban images while simultaneously extending the performative aspect of the visual relational field. To this end the open-source scientific software Fresnel Diffraction Explorer (Dauger 2005) was used to generate a number of Fraunhofer patterns from a single captured image of the site over a range of different lens apertures as viewed through a selected two-dimensional ‘race-track’ shaped diffraction grating. (Figure 12) Other open-source software, like the US Army Geospatial Centre (2010) HyperCube, can also be used to perform a Fourier transformation (mathematically equivalent to a Fraunhofer diffraction by an aperture) of an entire site. The image’s surprising lack of correlation with specific areas of luminosity within the native file (see earlier unmanipulated image) again reveals the potential to investigate this aspect of deliberate image interference as a possible design strategy for the manipulation of the visibility of built intervention. Conclusion These new techniques reveal how the transformation of CCTV circuits from a surveillant mechanism into a reflexive media tool can open an incredible array of techniques by which to see and make urban space. The adaptation of this system into a design tool asks the designer to relinquish traditional strategies developed in response to the forces that formed the industrial city and instead offers the opportunity to develop techniques, which can be selectively assembled according to specific design objectives. Within the context of these processes, the use of free open-source software for preliminary procedures of site investigation and assessment allows the designer to capitalize upon the more qualitative aspects inherent within the digital image and ultimately ensures the incorporation of these qualities in urban form. It is also clear that a designerly understanding of, and the strategic interference with, the working of the camera mechanism itself offers multiple ways of directing formal intervention. When these techniques are combined with the formal potential of proprietary software the designer cannot only intervene imagistically within the virtual digital environment but also address
real architectural issues do to with program, materiality, visibility and so on. Furthermore, the early exploration at the sub-pixel level suggests a potential to guide formal and programmatic distribution of interior spaces. If, as claimed earlier, the operational logic behind the promotional use of CCTV networks by civic authorities determines a specific viewer/object relationship akin to that of a ”circus” or circuit, then the nature of the transformation from a mechanism of surveillance into a freely accessible purveyor of urban images exceeds the passive process of dematerialization when the full set of digital tools are brought to bear on these images. This capacity for imagistic re-materialization creates an alternative performative context. This new condition not only transforms the dynamics of the viewers within this relational field but it also transforms its imagistic product: the spectacle within this space. The engagement of Internet viewer with the technology of the digital environment transforms the visual field of the public domain from a space of passive receptivity into a dynamic and participatory arena. The creation of what is a far more heterogeneous performative space so profoundly disrupts the original authoritarian intent for this enclosed circuital field that it can no longer be described as a Closed Circuit system.
References Army Geospatial Centre 2010, Army Geospatial Centre: HyperCube, viewed 8 January 2010, <http:// www.agc.army.mil/Hypercube/> Crary, J 1995, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, 6th edn., October, MIT Press: Cambridge Mass. & London. Dauger Research 2005, Dauger Research: Fresnel Diffraction, Huntington Beach CA., viewed 8 January 2010, <http://daugerresearch.com/fresnel/index.shtml.> Gregory, R.L and Heard P 1979, ‘Border locking and the Café Wall illusion’, Perception, Vol. 8, pp. 365-380. Lyons, C 2002, ‘unreal estate’, Take 1 Urban Solutions: Propositions for the future Australian city, ed. R. McGauran, Royal Australian Institute of Architects: Red Hill, The Australian Capital Territory Marin, L 1988, Portrait of the King, trans. M. Houle, University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis. Research Services Branch 2010, ImageJ: Image Processing and Analysis in Java, viewed 8 January 2010, <http://rsbweb.nih.gov/ij/> Troncoso, SG, Macknik, SL, and Martinez-Conde, S 2005, ‘Novel visual illusions related to Vasarely’s `nested squares’ show that corner salience varies with corner angle’, Perception, Vol. 34, pp. 409 – 420. Weisstein, EW 1996, Wolfram Research: Fraunhofer Diffraction, viewed 8 January 2010, <http:// scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/FraunhoferDiffraction.html> Zizek, S 1996, For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor, 3rd edn., Verso: London & New York
Illustration by Estella Mare
It might seem perverse but if you want to understand why each concert performed by The Flaming Lips is a cross between a visit to the circus, an acid trip and a children’s birthday party, first you have to understand that they are primarily a band concerned with death. Wayne Coyne, the now dapper curly haired and besuited frontman of the psychedelic rock group that formed in Oklahoma City in 1983, says that a very intense glimpse of his own mortality as a teenager had a fundamental impact on the nature of what he was to do with his life. The insight this event gave him would go on to inform his peculiar ability to address the issue of death - not just of him but of all living things - in the context of the pop and rock song. Coyne, an irrepressibly charming guy, is even genial when discussing his brush with the infinite in a downtown Oklahoma burger joint: “I had a near death experience, perhaps, when I was really young. When I was 17 and working in a fast food restaurant called Long John Silver’s. And maybe that’s what switched me so that I could speak about it or talk about it or write about it or sing about it in some way. I don’t know . . . you’re working at this dumb fast food restaurant and you come in all the time and you don’t think about it then one night these pissed off guys with giant guns just barge right into the back and yell ‘Motherfuckers! Get on the fucking floor!’ When you think about that when you’re 17 nothing prepares you for how it feels and you’re like ‘Oh yeah. This is how it really happens then.’ And they laid us on the floor . . . Yeah, there had been a lot of robberies in Oklahoma in the previous years where the staff had all been walked through to the back of the freezer and all shot through the back of the head. There were three guys from my street at these all night grocery stores who had been shot. So yeah, it was a pretty desperate time in Oklahoma City. “So when these guys barged in I thought ‘Oh my God. This is happening to me.’ There’s a lot of time in that hyper ‘Fuck, I’m gonna die!’ state of mind, time slows down quite a bit and even though I was only on the floor for a couple of minutes, you just see - and it’s not your life flashing before you - you’re just sitting there thinking ‘This is it, I’m going to die now.’ And then when I didn’t die I just thought ‘I’m going to do the things that I want to do and that I like to do.’ Not in some kind of selfish, it’s all about me sort of way. But I just felt no fear about pursuing my dumb life. Why not? If you fail, just try again - who cares? But without that kick, who knows . . .” And although it was always a lyrical concern, the concept of mortality is central to their 1999 breakthrough album The Soft Bulletin. The album, one of the best of the 90s - a dense, psychedelic rock record with overtones of ELO, Spiritualized and Led Zeppelin - was ostensibly about two scientists battling to find a cure to a global pandemic but was actually about the transience of all life as we know it. The singer said he understood why this could actually be a problem in the live setting: “When we started doing The Soft Bulletin live it was a weird thing because it’s a group of songs about death. I’m not sure if everyone views it the same way but to me it as an album about death. Not just your own death but the death of everything. Everything around you is dying and the older you get the more everything is falling down and dying. And you either love that or hate that or embrace that or run away from that or whatever. I knew when we toured that album in 1999 that we were going to be doing a lot of songs from Soft Bulletin. And then we would be playing to 500 20-year-olds on a Saturday night who wanted to do ecstasy. They didn’t want to watch some old man singing ‘You’re gonna die! You’d better accept it and love it!’ And I know the difference because of age. “When you’re younger death is just death and when you’re older death gives you insight into the nuances of living. Death and life reflect
The Flaming Lips Words by John Doran, images by Maria Jefferis/shot2bits.net
“Death and life reflect off each other. When you’re 20 the two things are separate. They don’t mix.” off each other. When you’re 20 the two things are separate. They don’t mix. Now I kind of knew that and I didn’t want to sit there on a Saturday night singing about how grim your life is going to be but it can be beautiful beyond that as well. So I just thought ‘Well, if we’re going to do that then we need to make this into an outrageous party like it was someone’s birthday. So that was our essential idea going into it, that it would seem like a very joyous thing with an underlying current of some kind of despair, some kind of realisation of what this is all about. That’s the concept.” “We can sing about death but we really have to sing about it as if we’re singing about life. And we’ll do that in the context of this extravagant, exploding circus you know... But if all we did was confetti and balloons and stuff, I think after about five or six songs you’d be beat up. It’s like birthday cake. It’s great but you don’t want it all the time.” Ironically now The Flaming Lips may have actually given themselves a new lease of life backing away from the grand themes that they have been exploring for the last twelve years. Their recent double album Embryonic, is a more experimental, freeform affair influenced by Krautrock, Black Sabbath and Miles Davis. But you can be sure, wherever they are playing live tonight, that’s where the biggest party in town is.
Words by Jeremy Allen
bishi Bishi Bhattacharya’s first album Nights At The Circus garnered much critical acclaim when it dropped in 2007. Amalgamating pop and folk with traditional Indian instrumentation, it successfully brought together different musical worlds seamlessly in a way the Beatles could only dream of in 1967, and it was one in the eye for those that took Rudyard Kipling’s ‘never the twain shall meet’ quote out of context. But still commentators used patronising expressions like ‘melting pot’, trying to pigeonhole Bishi as some kind of exponent of World Music, an amorphous term that means nothing to anyone, bar a few avocado-munching bohemians with media jobs in Stoke Newington. Her pop sensibilities are even more to the fore on new single One Nation Under CCTV, a song that has a very contemporary message and a ‘very aggressive electropunk sound’ she says, flicking two fingers up at the government in a noble British tradition which may be out-of-step with the thoughts of those that have already compartmentalised Bishi. Having turned down recording offers from clueless A&Rs looking to make her their label’s female Nitin Sawhney, Bishi is doing things her own way, running her own label and creating her own aesthetic with a freedom most artists, especially supposedly strong, independent female artists, are rarely afforded these days despite appearances.
Running a label can be a thankless task. Running your own must be a bit more rewarding? “It’s rewarding when something goes right but you’re so busy chasing your tail that you might not have the time to enjoy it as much as you need to. But, I’ve definitely retained a post-punk ideal in terms of being in complete control. I don’t have to answer to anybody but myself, which is fantastic... and all consuming!” You don’t do things by halves. There’s a strong visual element that compliments the music... “Life is a circus!” It isn’t for some people. “It is for us! And a freakshow. Haha.” There’s political polemic creeping into the new single too.
“Everyone is obsessed with continuously watching each other and I wanted to make a dark but very pop statement”
“I’d always wanted to write a song about surveillance and CCTV - I know that in Britain we have the most CCTV cameras in the whole of Europe and yet we have the highest crime rate. There seems to be an obsession with surveillance, everything from reality TV to digital cameras to CCTV. Everyone is obsessed with continuously watching each other and I wanted to make a dark but very pop statement. I mean it’s pop culture but it’s also a very dark statement on something that I feel we’re all being strangled by. I don’t actually like Banksy’s artwork but I like his sensibilities that come with a certain sloganeering. So that’s where the inspiration of the song comes from.” Do you think this is the thin end of the wedge or are we already in some kind of Orwellian nightmare? “I think it’s already here really. Technology has created many opportunities but I also think it’s destroyed a lot. It’s made people very passive. They no longer really want to get up and make anything happen. They no longer want to work. They don’t want to strike or take action, they just want to sit in front of their laptops.” People say they don’t watch TV anymore, and then they spend four hours a day on Facebook. Speaking of TV, you did Friday Night With Jonathan Ross last year... “It was amazing and completely surreal. Someone in Oasis hurt their ankle, and [Jonathan Ross] has always liked me so we got the call to do it. It was really surreal in that green room, because me and my backing singer just got more and more hammered - no one else was drinking apart from us - and then we were really starving and Faye Dunaway put her hand in and took a massive handful of crisps. She did it really elegantly! We managed to drink most of Alan Carr’s champagne. Another great thing about Jonathan Ross
is he’s so fast and he’s got a real depth of knowledge which I don’t think necessarily translates into his presenting style. He was really nice to me, I have to say that. It was just his knowledge and his depth of understanding of films in a historical and critical context - he’s fast, you know... He’s there for a reason, so I have a lot of respect.” Of course thanks to the media circus surrounding “Sachsgate”, Ross won’t be there much longer. He’s too maverick. “The thing about the BBC is they’re obsessed with ratings and they need to get back to being obsessed with quality. I think that’s what people associate them with, they want quality programming, and all you hear about is ratings this and ratings that.” Auntie is also terrified of scandal now. It’s running scared of the Daily Mail. “Rage Against the Machine went on and swore loads; of course they were going to do that! Then they broke the story and made it a big scandal, like anyone in the media actually cared.” They were probably sitting there waiting for it, counting the fucks. “Aren’t Rage Against the Machine like 40 now? That’s amazing.” That internet campaign was interesting, but now there are groups springing up calling for people to make Hazel Dean No.1 for their birthday. “I just think it’s sad there’s no Top of the Pops anymore. It used to be a big deal. It was great to watch people being rubbish, lip-synching like the ultimate tranny kind of... it was a straight culture show aping a tranny trend. Haha, I loved it.” When the Tories cut the BBC’s budget to the size of Fingerbobs, then I anticipate its return, as it’s cheap to make. “It’ll be back to watching Pigeon Street.” So your sound certainly has a commercial pop edge, but do you think it’s still too esoteric for mass consumption? “I’m working with quite a lot of different producers on this album and everybody seems to have their own opinion. I’m at the stage where to be interesting is the most important thing. Someone said to me, which really made me laugh - ‘what do people want to listen to? They want Gaga and they want Florence’, and I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’ Obviously I do want to make massive pop records but with the right people. I think to be bold and to be interesting is the most important thing because there’s so much generic crap out there. Everyone’s so worried - ‘ooh I need to write a hit’ - to be honest I know I want to write catchy pop songs so to hell with everything else.”
“It was great to watch people being rubbish, lip-synching like the ultimate tranny kind of... it was a straight culture show aping a tranny trend.”
Fashion Editor Christos Kyriakides Photography Charis Kyprianou Hair Angelos Pattas Make Up George
Previous Spread: Scarf Joanna Louca Scarf Dries Van Noten Opposite: Scarf Dries Van Noten Scarf CCP
CIRC/US Words by JL Williams Illustrations by Estella Mare
I WALK AROUND LIKE THIS: Dum da ladadada dum da lada Ha ha la la the horses are made of sugar their heads have pink feathers get out of the car car car car car car car car car car car clown clown clown clown clown clown clown clown clown clown clown you clown you ha ha la la My uncle ran away with the circus to be a clown. He fell in love with the lady on the trapeze. I met her once when I was a little child. She taught me how to melt bits of glass into a twist of metal to make a red apple. I remember her eyes not her face. I remember her eyes not her face. I remember her eyes not her face. Ha ha la la the horses shit in a sack they lick their own fetlocks the horses are made of sugar when they dance the white sugar rises like dust and the lions ROAR get out of the cage cage cage cage cage and run run run run run run run run run run you clown you ha ha la la This is the heart of the clown; it is a balloon. Inside, the last of the burning gas – and glitter all over the floor. Old violet perfume, Russian fag smoke, buttered popcorn and salt (doesn’t have a smell), manure and the hay and the oats and the rum (the strong man sailed) and the tears (don’t have a smell) and the fire-eater’s farts and the cats and the ground-up greasepaint and camellia soap the bearded lady used to shave (just her breasts) and the clean, sad lick of snow coming down from the mountain; here, have it, here. No wonder he cries. No wonder his lips hang down like a saggy hot dog. Mi amor, sings the gypsy, mi amor, mi amor, mi amor, mi amor, mi amor.
II The tents were always striped, smaller than you’d think. Hot in there. The hay soaked up most of the piss but the smell, O that delicious, disgusting smell… Some nights the lions would draw real blood. I never let on. There’s only one way I’ll die; feast. How else, after all the years? They watch me, ragged, wondering Who will go first? I whisper, me.
III She fell. He watched her, couldn’t believe – everything In slow motion as you’d expect. She fell. No one even tried to catch her. It was too, Too beautiful. He stood with his black top hat raised in one white-gloved hand.
IV Silk, brocade, jacquard, Wool, felt, tweed, Burlap, Taffeta, tulle, Fur, Leather, Rubber, Muslin, Sackcloth, ribbons, rags.
V WALK AROUND LIKE THIS: Dum da ladadada dum da lada There was a man with an accordion and a boy with a fiddle. The girl sang with the voice of a virgin queen. Sometimes when I am drifting to sleep, I can hear itâ€Ś Dum da ladadada dum da lada Like a piece of dust caught on the skin of my eye; If you rub it, it hurts more. So you have to let it play itself out. If there was a way to go back, I would. I would. The first snow on the peak of the mountain But still petals on the trees and Everyone laughing, Even the saddest clown. Pitch fires burning beside each caravan. Tiny Chinese gymnasts Making a necklace of their bodies And an elephant spraying water at the stars.
Photography Edith Bergfors Fashion Matthew Holroyd
Vintage vest by Helmut Lang
Vest by Calvin Klein
Image by JL Williams
World renowned photographer Rankin had in his own words a ‘busy 2009’ in which he got married, built a building, photographed 1500 of the British public for his ‘Rankin Live’ project, continued his fashion and celebrity portraits and yet also managed to find time to capture 20 of the UK’s top technological entrepreneurs for the BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur awards - judged by among others the British entrepreneur Peter Jones. The stunning portraits will be on display at the gallery at the Oxo Tower from the 28th Jan so Rose CooperThorne caught up with him to discuss the project, his own entrepreneurial spirit, and the crazy celebrity and media circus which is Rankin Photography... Tell us about your latest project photographing Britain’s Top Entrepreneurs as part of the ‘BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur awards’, how did you come to be involved? I did the competition entrants last year. And they talked to me about it four or five years ago and I liked the idea of it but I wasn’t really sure how it would work as a project. As a photographer you’re trying to visualise how something like this will actually photograph. And I’ve had to work really hard at business - building a brand and also this idea of technology, and utilising technology is so inherent to businesses nowadays and a lot of people still feel nervous about it - so anything that promotes that idea fascinates me. How do you go about capturing someone’s entrepreneurial essence on camera? The thing is that business is seen by so many people as being very tired and boring, and you know unless it’s Alan Sugar being really horrible then it’s seen as quite staid and Ricky Gervais. The comedy is quite kind of dry. I think it was important to try and have a sense of humour about it. Taking the Mickey out of themselves a little bit without undermining them in any way. As an entrepreneur yourself- you co-founded ‘Dazed and Confused’ with Jefferson Hack in 1991 among other projects, what advice would you give to people who have these entrepreneurial ideas, and want to take them somewhere? I don’t know, I was thinking about this last night because I knew you were coming to interview me - and I was thinking what makes it work? I think it’s really just believing in an idea that you think is a good idea. But at the same time, trying to look at it from a broader prospective. Thinking right - for example with me - in five years probably every single person who’s taking photographs is also going to be making films, so you have to think about where you’re going to be in five years time and what the world’s going to be like, how it will have changed. Does it take a certain kind of person to succeed as
an entrepreneur? Almost arrogance? Yeah a lot of people would call me arrogant, but I think it’s a self-confidence combined with an innate sense of criticism, because you have to think what’s going to be happening in the market in two months, a year? You have to be quite self-critical to do that. I always say you have to be 51 percent self belief, 49 percent criticism, but never let anyone see the criticism. So everyone thinks it’s 100 percent self belief, you have to be analytical to do that. Also I’m 43 so I’ve got 23 years experience, when I first started it was always about push, push, push, push - but I also criticised my work so now it’s more like I’m a businessman. I’m more respectable. Do you think that artists can still flourish during difficult economic conditions? Yeah! I think I came out of a recession when I first started my photography, and I think it’s always the middle group - the fat, smug, getting along just doing average stuff - never pushing themselves who suffer most in the recession. And it’s the people at the very top, and the very bottom - just starting who are doing the best work. They always seem to survive the recession, I think it’s an opportunity - people want people who are a bit cheaper because they don’t want to spend the money. And even if you’re a fine artist there’s an opportunity to capture an audience, because people just generally don’t want to spend as much money. How different is it photographing celebrities, to ‘non celebrities’? Would you say celebrities are easier because they’re used to it? It’s funny because I think guys like these [the entrepreneurs] are in a whole different category because they really are very driven people like we said before, they’re not very aware of what they want to look like, or what they want to promote in terms of their image. That’s not what they’re about, they’re about their businesses. So there’s certainly an uncertainty in terms of finding it amusing, because it’s about them, I think they’re more cautious. I quite like that though - because it showed that their business is what’s important to them. It’s different from photographing a celebrity who’s much more concerned about what they look like, actually what they physically look like, and what their persona is saying about them as people. And in terms of people for Rankin Live, I used to think that photographing ‘real people’ was easier. People that aren’t celebrities, I used to think they were easier, but in a way, they’re harder. Because their expectations of me are so high. So they really think that I’m going to make them look amazing, and its just the percentages are really high, there’s always 98-99 percent that I feel like I did a really good job on, you will always get one or two people who say ‘no I hate it’. I feel that pressure.
“Paparrazis - I’m a bit in the middle with them now. It really has become an industry for the people that want to be famous - they’re the people that people are interested in nowadays”
Do you ever get nervous photographing really big celebrities?
What is your take on Paparazzi and the whole media circus surrounding celebrities?
No not anymore no. I sometimes feel uncomfortable, because people do make you feel uncomfortable. You know I photographed Chloë Sevigny recently, and she will make you feel uncomfortable. Not intentionally, she just has got this persona, and please don’t write that I don’t like her - because I love her, she’s an amazing woman. But she makes you feel that you have to work really hard because she works really hard. I’m not nervous around anybody, but she makes me feel like I’ve got to really fucking do a good job here.
I used to be much harder on them then I am now. I guess going through that period of it being really heavy, it was really, really heavy for a good four or five years. It’s now been brought down to C list and D list celebrities and less about A list celebrities because they’re all protected now, and if you fucking want to be famous for the sake of being famous, you deserve it. Really. If you go on Big Brother, and then you get paparazzi in your face and you complain about it - I mean like ‘what the fuck?’ That’s it - you wanted it you got it – it’s yours.
What about photographing the Queen, surely that’s celebrity on a completely different scale?
So paparrazis - I’m a bit in the middle with them now. It really has become an industry for the people that want to be famous - they’re the people that people are interested in nowadays. It’s like having neighbours that leave their curtains open, you leave your curtains open you’re going to be seen - people want to look. If it’s someone like Amy Winehouse or Kate Moss who really are just sick of it – it’s like give me a fucking break. They’re hounded and I feel pretty bad for them because I’ve seen it happen to them.
It’s in a different stratosphere really. With someone like the Queen though; she doesn’t want an approval process, you go through a process of ‘I want to use this one’ and they say ‘we would prefer it if you used this one’ and that’s it. You don’t have to sign your life away. I once worked with Madonna and had to sign a 36 page contract, which is fair enough you know. Because she’s Madonna. Her publicist – let me use those images as I pleased. Whereas you have some B list actress who’s fucking papped all the time off her face, looking like shit. And you know they won’t let me use photographs I’ve taken that are really beautiful because, she’s changed in three years. And I’m like ‘come on’. It’s that which I don’t like - but the Queen is out there on her own, she’s got such dignity, so there’s none of that. And it’s great to tell your parents ‘I photographed the Queen!’
It must also say something about what’s happened to journalism that there’s a demand for these images? It is strange because book sales are up; I try to keep my feet placed firmly on the respectable side of it. I mean I photographed Katie Price. Twice in fact I’ve photographed her. I wanted to see what people’s fascination was with her, to me she’s just not interesting. I wanted to photograph her to find out what it is, and I actually went back to see ‘what is this’
“I wanted to photograph her to find out what it is, and I actually went back to see ‘what is this’ and I just did not get it. I didn’t understand it.”
and I just did not get it. I didn’t understand it. What do you think about critics, the critical circus, is it important to you how your work is received by them? Whose opinion matters to you, if anyone’s? It’s really funny because I got really slated by a couple of critics on my last thing, and it was weird because I got so much positive feedback, I got a really good crowd, and then I got a couple of bad things. The really good stuff was brilliant, and the really bad stuff was just so damning. And it had no sense of humour and that’s what I felt the most surprised by. The critics missed that like so massively, I was like - you’re so up your own arse. It seems to me that if you’re not part of something these days, if you don’t talk in the right way, and have the right background and have that critical appraisal then they whitewash you. You just get totally condemned. I guess their criticism of me took itself too seriously. Did I care? Yeah I always give a fucking bit of a shit. You know when it’s really nasty which it can be, they never attack the work, they always attack me. I do care a little bit - but I like it, I like that you get extremes. Does it drive you on? Does it make you want to prove them wrong? No - because there were too many people that thought I was right for me to be too worried, I think The Rankin Live project was a success, because I got really good numbers and it was a great experience for so many people. It also gave people an insight at the right point - people needed an insight into how these portraits are created and what it means - and people were interested at that point in time - people were like ‘how do you do this?’ I showed 10’s of thousands of
people what the process was and how it worked, and people got to watch me shoot them and I think that in itself was a really good thing to do. The critics didn’t see me do any of that - they came and looked at some of the photos, people came into it with a preconceived idea, and what I’ve learnt in my life - is never be preconceived, that’s why I wanted to photograph Katie Price, I really go into it without any preconception, and I think that’s the problem with a lot of criticism - art criticism, literature criticism, people go into it - thinking ‘I know what this person is about’, the fact is you probably haven’t looked properly - and it’s much easier to fucking throw something at someone, then it is to actually sit down and be positive about it. Does it drive me on? Everything drives me on. I’m one of these driven on people so - I’m not trying to prove anyone wrong or right, I’m only trying to prove things to myself. So what have you got planned for 2010? Not much actually. I’m doing a charity thing with Oxfam which I continued from a previous project and really that’s it - I had a big year last year. I built a building, I got married, I did my show and then I worked really hard. I had a great 2009 so now I’m thinking of having a holiday! And then I might do this again…
Market As the anniversary of the closure of Woolworths approaches, the people of Brixton decided to take the future of their shops into their own hands. Proof that opportunity can come out of recession, Space Makers Agency - a collective of artists, activists and entrepreneurs ran a competition to find the best local projects and new businesses to offer a three-month rent free shop space. With many of its larger shops standing empty, the market’s owners – London and Associated Properties Ltd agreed to offer the space in the hope of creating a new kind of shopping experience to revive the local area. The result is a wave of new shops which opened on the 17th December 2009, from vintage clothing to locally-produced food, pop-up galleries, children’s workshops and design studios. The projects aim to kick-start the local economy and work in harmony with the existing market community in Brixton Village. Offering a new model of community driven business- the project could become a model for the future of high streets up and down the country. Projects include: Margot Waggoner’s antique clothing store, specialising in French fashion from the 20’s to the 40’s, ‘The Wonderful World of...’ a store shared by a furniture maker, a lantern maker and an ethical fashion designer, The Brixton Cornercopia, a shop selling sauces, jams and chutneys made from ingredients bought at the market’s existing food stalls, and the Okido Doodle Shop - a pop-up shop from the team behind Okido, a children’s arts and science magazine. Spacemakers have been running events at the market every Saturday since the opening, and have seen visitor numbers grow as word gets around. Dougald Hine, founder of Spacemakers says ‘when the original market community first heard about the project, I think there was a feeling it was going to be a bit of a flash in the pan. But as we approach the half way point of the three month free lease I’ve really started to see relationships and collaborations grow, and many of the projects are starting to think about how they can become viable businesses in the future.’
Illustration by Estella Mare
Performers Acne www.acnestudios.com Balenciaga www.balenciaga.com Calvin Klein www.calvinklein.com Carin Wester www.carinwester.com CCP www.carolchristianpoell.com Dries Van Noten www.driesvannoten.be Helmut Lang www.helmutlang.com Joanna Louca email@example.com Lanvin www.lanvin.com Lutz www.lutzparis.com Martin Margiela www.start-london.com Spanx www.start-london.com Stine Goya www.stinegoya.com Weekday www.weekday.se Wood Wood www.woodwood.dk Yohji Yamamoto www.yohjiyamamoto.co.jp
Master May 2010
The Circus issue of Stimulus Respond, February 2010.