Why the VICE generation are apocalyptic and frightened

Vice Magazine - Looking Beneath the Waves

Vice Magazine’s Alex Miller interviews one of Red Eye’s favourite filmmakers, Adam Curtis, in this new piece called Looking Beneath the Waves. In the article Curtis shares some of his latest theories on why the news (in its current guise) is unable to shed any light on the real reasons for the global financial meltdown, why economics is a failed pseudo-science, why a whole generation has grown up to be supremely cynical and paranoid, and the frightening reality of a world in which no-one really knows what’s happening, including both the journalists and politicians that pretend to have all the answers.

A must read.

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Clay and the Collective Body

Clay and the Collective Body

Just read a really interesting interview with sculptor Antony Gormley (in New Scientist magazine, of all places) that had a surprisingly political slant.

His recent installation Clay and the Collective Body explores “conversations between people – through objects or through the process of creating” by locking 100 random people in a stark white environment, with only a monolithic block of clay for entertainment. This “gave rise to an extraordinary and explosive outpouring of, you could say, collective unconciousness.”

This alien place seemed to trigger something in the participants, something primal that if I was more of a “yogurt-weaver”, I may be tempted to call a universal human connection – certainly the only familiar sight were other people, and the only way of killing time was to create.

“What’s absolutely beautiful is the way that people have occupied that space and become the absolute opposite of what capitalism wants us to be – passive consumers of spectacle, of information, of entertainment, of objects of desire – they become participatory and productive and cross-fertilising.” I thought it was particularly apt that Gormley chose to use the word occupy in that context.

Although Gormley goes on to state that he never intends to make overt political statements with his work, he lets slip that “…there’s no question that many of my works, in different ways, are asking about the connection between humans and our environment. And I think that all my installations in cities of the naked human animal in effigy form – surrogate fossils, industrialised fossils – are asking, where does humankind fit? Now that we seem to be well into the sixth great extinction, how long are we going to contribute to the evolution of life? Those are very big issues”  – and undoubtedly political ones.

Another subject that Gormley brings up in the interview, that is also a favourite of my own, is that of Easter Island.

Easter Island

This ‘ghost island’ captured my imagination from a very young age, as it seems to encapsulate the power that art and iconography can hold over people, our self-destructive tendencies, the damage that can be caused by a flawed belief system and the folly of excess that human civilization seems prone to follow.

“What was in the mind of the man or woman on Rapa Nui who cut down the last tree? It seems the answer to that question is “Well, I cut down this tree because that was what my father did and that was what my father’s father did.” I think we’re in the same position, but we are running on the myth of progress. My work is there to ask pretty serious questions about how we can shift our perception of what constitutes viable human actions or viable human behaviour.”

I always thought there was an eerie connection between Gormley’s sculpture and the statues on Easter Island, and I’m pleased to learn my instincts were close to the mark. Both signify mankind’s strange detachment from the world that bore him, and the lonely marks left on the land after he has gone.

Antony Gormley's Another Place

Gormley also goes on to criticise elitism and the determinism of scientific progress – it is a thoroughly thought provoking and enlightened article, that has once again piqued my enthusiasm for art’s potential to induce change, by making us take a long, hard, look in the collective mirror.

Read the whole interview in New Scientist

Culture in Decline

Very good overview of modern economics and how it’s fucking things up. Thoroughly recommended.

Occupy Off Grid

Reflections on another Black Mirror

Black Mirror 2 - 15 Million Merits

The second installment of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror leads us to another implausibly grim vision of the future, but the main difference between The National Anthem and 15 Million Credits, is that the latter is actually rather good.

Co-written by Kanak ‘Konnie’ Huq (of Blue Peter fame) and directed by Euros Lyn (Doctor Who), this modern fable is a surprisingly entertaining glimpse at a possible future dystopia. We can only guess that what unfolds is society’s answer to the impending energy crisis, as people are put to work on millions of exercise bikes to fuel a hi-tech, computerised existence, obsessed with mindless entertainment and online living – distractions from their slavery.

The plot is much more emotive and engaging than the first episode, with characters you actually care about and everything – and it does what all great satire should do, which is to push the current way of things to the extreme, in order to reveal some hidden truths about their nature.

It’s also really heartening to see some proper Science Fiction back on the television. The best Sci-Fi uses the future to tell us about the present, and 15 Million Credits does this better than most. Its exploration of the cruelty innate within Reality TV shows like The X Factor is undertaken by pushing them further in that direction. Its subversion of the idea that social networks somehow bring us closer together, its parody of throwaway digital culture, web advertising and online pornography and its use of a Microsoft Points-style credit system in place of a currency – all have deep sociological and psychological resonances with the new ways we have begun to live our lives through technology.

Black Mirror’s dark future is like our own world with the volume turned up, and what is reflected back is not a pretty picture. Most worrying of all is how the technology is used to placate us, used to make the population do the bidding of the powers-that-be, by removing people’s freedom of choice and disempowering them, while making them believe they are actually getting exactly what they want. In full high definition. Just keep peddling and saving up those credits and all your dreams will come true, citizen. It’s the same lie we’ve always been told, and the black mirror of the ubiquitous LCD screen reflects both that, and a ghostly wan imitation of our vitamin D-deprived faces. Now plug in, shut up and resume viewing.

This is a very clever caricature of our increasingly digital world, the full consequences of which, we are still oblivious to. Let’s just hope Brooker and Huq’s vision of a malevolent force behind the network is just another dark fantasy and not a true sign of things to come.

Can’t wait for next one now…

Watch On 4OD

On Thin Ice

David Attenborough's Frozen Planet

I recently read online that the final episode of David Attenborough’s latest epic, Frozen Planet, would not be shown in the US or China due to it’s apparently “controversial” angle on climate change.

On Thin Ice says nothing we haven’t already heard a million times about the polar icecaps melting – but it tells the story with amazing pictures of global warming’s effects on these regions, a calm and concerned narrative by Attenborough, and a lot of incontrovertible evidence. This was too much for some it would seem.

The BBC defended it’s decision to sell the series to 30 countries as a six-parter, with the 7th episode missing – stating that this was due to a difference in style rather than content (bullshit).

The good news is that Discovery Channel has backtracked under public pressure, and has now decided to show On Thin Ice on the US network, after a Change.org petition gathered 84,000 signatures complaining about this apparent censorship. Discovery Channel denies that the petition had any influence on their decision (more bullshit).

The episode itself is awesome. I watched it last night on BBC iPlayer and it is the best in the series in my opinion. It should still be available there to watch for viewers in the UK. Check it out