Ulla’s Amazing Wee Blog

December 5, 2006

Interview with Stewart Home

Filed under: General,Writing — Ulla @ 7:23 pm

Stewart HomeIt is pretty late for doing my interview for the cultural journalism course assignment, and the planned talk with the
ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan has just fallen through. My last hope is a reliable libertarian communist: Stewart Home, unconventional pulp-fiction author, prankster and performance artist is now teaching postgraduates as a writer in residence at Strathclyde University.

Stewart expresses happiness with the postgraduate students he teaches. He encourages them to establish personal blogs as imaginary persons on Rupert Murdoch’s MySpace website.
“It is amazing when you first make them do something and initially they don’t like it but then are really getting into it.”
The blonde, short-haired, clean-shaven teacher thinks that pseudonyms help to develop the writing skills of his students.
“A lot of people have fictional identities at MySpace.”
The good-looking, former art class model is impressed with the immediacy of the Blog entries and the lively community responses. “There is nothing like developing your writing live.”


Every week new tasks are set for the students to progress:
“Last week they had to write reviews about books or theatre shows they haven’t read or seen, without it being obvious from their blog entries.” says Stewart.
“A lot of journalists do that all the time”. It would just be a matter of “talking about themselves but they need enough substance to look credible.”

In his most recent work, the Londoner started to utilise the world wide web. He is fascinated by YouTube, Wikipedia and MySpace.
“All the kind of Internet is now totally integrated into people’s lives, it is not the stuff of nerds anymore. It is a good way to distribute [my art].”

The author tells me that he planned for a long time to use the Internet’s potential for his art.
“It was just a matter of allocating time.”
With a professional development grant he received last December – one of the last given out before these grants were completely stopped – he was able to commit himself to digital development and website building. He creates his own content now on the former ‘fanclub’ website of the Stewart Home Society .

I ask him whether he has himself a blog on MySpace. He tells me he has six – “a whole lot of different profiles under different names”. I vaguely remember a previous conversation with the 44 years-old outrageous artist, whose polite private identity as a charming, friendly, loving and caring father seems as a totally striking contrast to his professional confident, cult persona. He told me then, that tried to be kicked off the MySpace site.
“On MySpace there is a lot of rule breaking – the last time I looked there were about 25 Pete Doherty. And it is also used commercially. There is a Rupert Murdoch, an anti-corporate activist and George Bush is out there and whoever else. It
is a very clunky site which never works very well.”

As a film maker, Stewart has just released BBC-funded interviews on YouTube with Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, sculptor Francis Morland, painter Mikey Cuddihy, musician Barry Smith and writer Bill Hopkins under the label of the psycho-geographical project “London Art Tripping”.
The former anarchist is enthusiastic about the possibilities of the Internet. “I have still got to get my head around [the photography website] Flickr.”
The writer tells me that he also got editorial access to Wikipedia, but he has not used his administrative privilege yet. His own biography is already published on the collaborative community encyclopedia.
“I think it has been written by Floriam Cramer because it’s someone German and there is a slant of me being ‘best known for the early novels’.”

The artist became famous with his early pulp fiction, such like “Pure Mania”, “Blow Job” and “Red London”, which usually feature sex and violence in an exaggerated underclass socio-political milieu spiced-up with class struggle, creative anti-authoritarian idea chaos and deliberate similarities to living persons.

Will his new book “Memphis Underground”, which is published in April, be as engaging and entertaining as his earlier works, I ask the former redskin, who still likes to wear DocMartens and working-class clothes.

“I like post-modern novels. The new novel is in the mould of the more recent books. When “69 things to do with a Dead Princess” was published [by Canongate in Edinburgh four years ago], a lot of the people who liked the earlier books found it hard to understand. But it was more commercially successful. It is not good to repeat yourself all the time.
The new book deals with the gentrification of London and includes art world content and four strings of action. It is not science fiction but structured like a science fiction book. I think it will sell very well.”

“Will the new release still include the usual class-war direct action and make a mockery of capitalism?” I ask enthusiastically.
“It is dealt with in a more subtle way. It is about an office worker who ends up homeless, because in London housing is so expensive. Then he tries to find a way out by impersonating an artist. And Princess Diana is back in this novel, too. This time she is living in a housing estate in Orkney together with other celebrities who faked their death to escape publicity.
And there is always sex and violence in my novels.”

Beside his novels, his art work is a lot more complex and less easy to understand, except that the musician experiments with rule-breaking and pushes the boundaries everywhere and anytime. He was even thrown out of college in the final year of studying philosophy “for arguing with the teacher and winning the argument.”

In the early nineties he initiated the Art Strike. “I read about this artist, Gustav Metzger, who’d declared a cultural strike between 1977-80, and thought ‘Why don’t we have one?’ “
Stewart loves working with multiple identities under names such as Luther Blissett, Karen Elliot and Monty Cantsin and called on others to adopt these names, too. He embraces Plagiarism by often lifting whole paragraphs of other authors into his written work without reference, and sometimes even without context. He deliberately breaks the copyright law for his artwork – for example by taking the amplified background noise of silence in “Screams In Favour Of De Sade” as well as his black footage to incorporate in his work. With his Necrocard – a satirical, necrophilic artwork based on the Organ Donor card – he established himself thoroughly as a professional prankster, too.

Stewart follows on from where the Situationists left off. He regards every reading and talk about his work as an opportunity for a performance.
“My live art routines mix stand up, spoken word and philosophy but are generally booked as ‘readings’.”, states Stewart. “I recite memorized passages from my novels and stories and since rhythm is important to me, audience members unfamiliar with my writing often believe they are listening to poetry.”

“I am still having fun with it.” Stewart says about his art. “What I do gives people a lot of credibility. I am the best”, he laughs.

Review of “Get a fucking job – the truth about begging”

Filed under: General,Reviews — Ulla @ 12:19 pm

Bestseller: Get a fucking JobGET A FUCKING JOB – the truth about begging
published by New Social Art School, 2006
Eva Merz & Bob Steadman
96 pages, soft cover, text / interviews, b/w illustrations, 21×27 cm.
Non-fiction, £12,

*****

This book is not just an art book about begging in Aberdeen. The whole concept of this book is to rebuild society from the ground up, using arts just as a tool.
It has an exceptional, outstanding political and structural basic-democratic social purpose and approach, and uses art as a sparingly sprinkled spice to complement and illustrate the project’s purpose without distracting from it.

Funded by the Scottish Arts Council and supported by the Peacock Visual Art Centre, the editors Eva Merz and Bob Steadman compiled twelve verbatim recorded and printed interviews with the beggars, Big Issue vendors, a project worker from the Cyrenians, the mother of a heroin addict, and a street worker for publication in this book.

Pencil drawings, excerpts of news reports from the “Evening Express”, and quotes from Patti Smith to Alexander Trocchi are used to give the impression of a truly revolutionary focus by putting the interviews into the social and political context of the Aberdeen news agenda. In the short term the book clearly disrupts the local politicians’ aims to ban begging in public places and it ads to the discourse about the increased privatisation and commercialisation of public places.

In the long term the action-focussed New Art School empathises so much with the people portrayed, that it inevitably exposes the flaws of the social system of neo-liberal Capitalism – the lack of quality council housing, homeless shelters and drugs rehabilitation places make jail an attractive warm place to be.
The book exposes myths and clichés about beggars by giving a voice to the voiceless.
The perspective throughout the book – from the front to the back cover – is the view of the homeless drug addict begging. The book is as much about initiating understanding of society’s classes towards each other as it is about empowering the lowest caste in Scottish society.

December 4, 2006

Review of Ken Loach’s “The Wind that shakes the Barley”

Filed under: General,Reviews — Ulla @ 9:28 pm

Propaghanda? What Irish propaghanda?DRAMA
THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
Dir: Ken Loach
Runtime: 127 min
Classification: 15
Country: Germany / Italy / Spain / France / Ireland / UK
***

Ken Loach’s film “The Wind That shakes the Barley” is controversial. Whilst the Jury at Cannes Film Festival awarded the Palme D’Or for Best Film, conservative mainstream media labeled it “anti-British”, “a recruiting campaign for the IRA” and “old-fashioned propaganda” because of a perceived unfair portrayal of the unionist occupation forces. Historian Stephen Howe found the tale about the Irish republican independence struggle set in the 1920ies “politically distorted” and “misrepresenting”, though he admits many of the scenes portrayed in the film have been reported by eyewitnesses.

Instead of asking the question of how cruel occupation forces were, are and have to be to maintain the power of exploiting one country economically for the benefit of another, the topic of the film could also be focused on the question of nationalism, politics and violence.

The key moment of interest in this film is not the tale of the armed Irish guerillas, from whose point of view history is told, but the result of the peace accords.
Only then the the different reasons for joining the underground army are revealed: Damien (Cillian Murphy) a doctor, joined out of socialist reasons, partly to combat the effects of poverty, whereas his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) puts nationalism first. Inevitably, after the peace accords, the different fractions in the alliance start to fall out with each other, and, already brutalised, resort to violence.

The story brandishes a clear warning of what happens when conservative, capitalist, religious patriotism meets left-wing socialist independence struggle.
The Loach brand includes as usual a tragic, unhappy end, a three-legged dog and wrestles with the topic of an individual’s failed struggle for a better society.
The film is produced in the director’s usual “realistic” acting and directing style alongside his experienced team. Nevertheless it does not live up to his previous cult films like “Bread and Roses”, “Carla’s Song” and “Land and Freedom”. Though the unobtrusive cinematography produces stunning pictures, most of the acting appears dilettantish like taken out of a school play, except for Cillian Murphy who sympathetically and realistically expresses the narrative. The additional retrospective claims that Loach never lets his actors read the whole script before filming; maybe he should, because there was just too much wooden performance with protagonists not knowing what to say in which situation and just standing around trying not to look silly. The hugely different reception of the film on the continent and the British Isles is worth exploring. Maybe armed guerilla movements have a better reputation on the continent because of the local “Resistence” fighting the nazis during the second world war, maybe there is also the underlying fear of the wobbly Northern Ireland reconciliation process flaming up again if the roots of the conflict are mentioned.
Given that background, Ken Loach has done an amazing and brave job in dealing with the Irish independent struggle. Now, with the launch of the DVD at the start of November, all of the harsh criticism has ebbed away, as the underlying fears of re-ignition of the Northern Ireland conflict have proven to be unfounded.

Summary of Left-wing culture in 2006

Filed under: General,Reviews — Ulla @ 9:18 pm

BOOKS

There have been lots of political libertarian books published in 2006. Many have been presented at the Edinburgh Independent and Radical Bookfair, organised by Wordpower Bookshop. Wordpower has also published “Rainbow City: Stories from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Edinburgh” in July 2006. Famous authors such as John Pilger launched “Freedom Next Time”, whereas Greg Palast premiered “Armed Madhouse” and Mark Thomas presented “As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade”. Eva Merz’s social-inclusive art project “Get a fucking Job – The truth about beggars” sparked controversy in Aberdeen, but helped to defeat the banning of the beggars, many of whom struggle with current or previous drug addiction. Michael Albert from Z-Net impressed the audiences at his talks with his new utopian book “Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism” whereas AK Press released “Rebel Alliances – The Means and Ends of Contemporary British Anarchisms” after Benjamin Franks worked for about 14 years on this issue for an academic research project. Class War founder Ian Bone surprised the people with his “Bash the Rich” autobiography, whereas Martin Lux describes his “Antifascist” activities in Britain in the 70ies and 80ies.

FILMS

So far, this year has seen a variety of political documentaries and movies being released: Ken Loach launched his film on the Irish Independence Struggle: “The Wind that shakes the Barley”, and John Pilger‘s 35 years long career is summarised in “Documentaries that changed the World”. Other mainstream films include “V for Vendetta”, “An Inconvenient Truth”, “KZ”, “Wal-Mart – the High Cost of Low Price”, “The Road to Guantanomo” and “Syriana”. Locally, Pilton Video has collaborated with “EAST – Edinburgh Against the Stock Transfer” group of council tenants to produce the 43min long documentary “Smoke and Mirrors”. Pilton Video has also started a digital archive of all documentaries and videos the group has produced since 1981 – so far 322 recordings of community projects, campaigns and activities are available to order for a small fee.

THEATRE

Theatre Workshop in Edinburgh run two productions this year: “One Hour Before Sunrise”, a play about torture in an Arab Jail, in October and “Babylon Burning”, a community project about the Iraq War with a 100 person strong cast, in June. The Birds of Paradise theatre company toured Scotland with their production “Mouth of Silence” about landless refugees of the civil war in Guatemala. “Petrified Paradise” was performed by the A Moment’s Peace Theatre Company at the Arches in Glasgow, and dealt with the detention of asylum seekers. Worth mentioning is also the renaming of the Perrier Comedy Awards – the Boycott Nestle campaign achieved the withdrawal of the company from their PR stunt of sponsoring comedians at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. However, the company still refuses to answer the questions about the underlying unethical corporate behaviour of the parent company which the protesters were targetting.

Review of “(((i))) – The Film”

Filed under: General,Reviews — Ulla @ 7:32 pm

Popular Assembly in ArgentinaDOCUMENTARY FILM SCREENINGS
i – The Film
Ignolia/Lyon | Argentina/US 2006 | 83 min
***

Another edition to Ulla’s crazy chaotic communal lively socio-political film shows, certainly garnished with a roaring coffee machine and burrito delivery in the background. Even slightly too much talk in this film doesn’t matter as there is always action in The Forest Cafe with passers-by running through the audience in the search for the leaking toilets.
An upgraded, more conventional, focused and sorted presentation can therefore be experienced at the Quaker Meeting House. All organised under the Indymedia brand, this film is certainly not only about the news website Indymedia, but it is Indymedia live – the non-linear structure, organisation and narrative of the film is nearly as horizontal and non-hierarchical as the network, mimicking real life.

The film is a great example as a voice for the voiceless, but not as good as the trailer “Eye of the Storm”, suggested.
It starts off brilliantly with Subcommandante Marcos holding a speech in the middle of the Lacadonian Jungle in Mexico, stressing the general importance of independent media, but then disintegrates a bit with raising a lot of philosophical and theoretical questions at the end. Some of these are rather interesting; for example on how media activists in the third world view the associated groups in the first, thereby raising the question of equality within the network and the world. The film does not give an introduction to the social movements, so it is primarily aimed at people who already know a bit about the dictatorship and financial collapse in Argentina, the occupied factories Brukman and Zanon, the Unemployed Workers Movement and their Picquatero road blockade protests, the Movement Sans Tierra in Brasil, Indymedia, the Zapatistas in Chiapas and the bloody police raid on the Indymedia Centre in the Diaz School in Genoa 2001 during the anti-G8 protests.
The film will also be screened at the International Human Rights Film Festival Document4 in Glasgow.

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