Clubbing and dance music have always ridden the edges between catalysing liberation and commercialising escapism, existing in a kind of subcultural tug-of-war between soul and money. 2014 was a bad year for quality clubs, with a number of legendary venues across Europe closing and others being squeezed by gentrification and property speculation.
Robert Frank’s classic book The Americans was a seminal piece of work in a variety of ways.
In this essay, George Cotkin explores how Frank’s photographic expression was fundamentally aligned with the literary vision of Beat writers (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs et al) and their “sustained critique of the barrenness of American culture,” overlapping with “a vision of renewal and rebirth”.
As part of his thesis, Cotkin suggests that Frank saw and portrayed Black Americans in the Fifties as living an embodied form of existential freedom that far surpassed the experience of the theoretically freer White American “walking dead”…
It takes a long time for the privileged to become aware of their own privileges. For others around them it tends to be obvious what’s going on.
This incisive piece by Matt Zoller Seitz is searingly honest about the realities of being white in America (and probably most other WASP democracies), and how society is structured to maintain racially-based privilege. Read the article >>
“Rather than finding ourselves in an era of unprecedented change, we may find it is one of crushing tedium, uniformity and vacuous conformism.” writes Richard Martin as he looks back at true revolutionary periods from artistic, political or corporate perspectives. “People really should stop talking about talking…” he adds.
His proposal for starting the slow change processes that may produce a rich harvest many years hence: “Play them at their own game… accepting a role alongside them and operating as an outsider on the inside.” Read more here >>>
Skateistan began in 2007 when an Australian skateboarder, Oliver Percovich, discovered a perfect spot to skate at the weekend – Mekroyan Fountain, an abandoned, Russian-era concrete relic located in the heart of Kabul. In 2009 Percovich created the non-profit skate school in Afghanistan. The goal is simple: to use skateboarding as a tool for empowerment in a country worn away by 30 years of conflict and dislocation. The children, and especially the girls, come for skateboarding, they stay for education writes Kat Lister.
Charlie Hebdo offices, Paris, 7th January 2015.
Another sudden intensification in our evolving multi-dimensional global conflict.
A few perspectives…
The western mainstream almost unanimously responded to events as a barbaric and failed attack on freedom. The massive, instant #JeSuisCharlie grief&solidarity movement appeared to uphold and defend the core liberal values (or rhetoric) of free speech and democracy. This cry was swiftly taken up by global politicians of all stripes – although a wide-angle shot shows their united ‘leadership of the march’ in Paris as a photo-op set-up in an empty street.
Meanwhile, in the quiet spaces, human beings (of liberal, Muslim, Jewish, secular and many other origins, sometimes mixed) have been reflecting on the internal and worldly challenges catalysed by the situation and meditating on the question “How do we respond?”
. [image still from TV news]
The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human. But how are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human – and free – when we are so busy? – asks Omid Safi. Read article here >>>
After a near-death experience, the photographer Kim Weston re-awakened a dream of being an artist. She went back her to roots, creating “Seen, Unseen”, a subtle document of an African-American family, layered with meditations on culture, photography and the sacred. Read article & watch slideshow >> .
The New Era windows factory in Chicago is a worker-owned cooperative. There are thousands of cooperative businesses in America and around the world, but New Era is remarkable in that it emerged, phoenix-like, from exploitative corporate ownership into an effective operation based on equal rights and consensus decision-making.
Astra Taylor chart the story of how the original company’s owners pretended to close down the factory and sack the entire workforce, only to try and take the machines to another, more profitable location. The workers, inspired by Argentinian horizontalidad factory occupations and the Basque Mondragon Co-ops, refused to leave, took over the factory and eventually managed to buy the facilities for a song and set-up New Era.
KKK, Sony, Xbox… Hacking has never been so “en vogue”, whether the motivation is political, criminal, exposing the system – or “just for the LULZ.” But hacktivism and codebreaking are of course not new, having been around since the very technologies they use…
Fire is perhaps the most visual and emotive symbol of protest and resistance movements…
Jarret Martineau explores the role of anger in Indigenous and Black struggles for freedom in the U.S, suggesting that in the post-colonial historical context, collective expression of rage and resentment is a necessary precursor as well as fuel for liberation. Jarret Martineau is a Cree/Dene doctoral candidate in Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria and this essay is inspired by Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and Sean Coulthard’sRed Skin White Masks. Read the essay here >>
Meanwhile, on the ground, read this post by Zig Zag on anti-fracking actions by Mi’kmaq activists, who have been using burning tyres to blockade vehicles engaged in shale gas exploration. Zig Zag, aka Gord Hill, is a writer and activist from the Kwakwaka’wakw nation.
Photograph from Red Shirts protest in Bangkok featured in Warrior Publications blog; AFP photographer unknown.
Adam Curtis presents his theory of how political and economic elites have gone beyond propaganda into deliberately crafting confusion and informational overload in order to neutralise public understanding and opposition. This summary traces the methods back to a long-time advisor to Russian President Putin, who emerged from avant-garde art to develop informational ‘non-linear warfare’.
Today the Greek Parliament will attempt to elect a new president. Bruno de Landevoisin’s analysis goes back some fundamentals of “Democracy” and reviews the main forces at stake in this socio-politico-financial tragedy. An interesting perspective from America on a highly sensitive issue for the Old Continent to resolve…
Reportage journalist Paul Salopek is re-tracing the footsteps of humanity’s ancient ancestors, literally walking from Ethiopia in Africa, into Palestine/Israel and across the globe. Out of Eden Walk tracks the progress of what is planned as a 7-year walking journey around the world and across the arc of time.
His latest dispatch is a fascinating meditation on the historical and contemporary complexities of the Holy Land and the Levant, cradles of agriculture, monotheism and cities – in fact civilisation as we know it. Read the article >>
A Hello Hub is an outdoor computer kiosk hooked up to free, solar-powered Internet and running hundreds of educational games. It’s rugged enough to handle dust storms, rain, and thousands of users. Built and owned by the community, it’s available for anyone—adults or children—to use anytime. This report by Adele Peters outlines plans to bring Hello Hubs to communities without access to schools and/or teachers, including refugee camps.
It also raises interesting questions around how education looks when not rooted in human relationship, and whether the alliance of community and technology can replace, or re-shape the role of mentors.
Depending on who’s asking, the idea of giving legal rights to nature may seem completely outlandish or entirely sensible. Bolivia, which currently has a government with an indigenous majority is in a process of enshrining legal rights for the natural world.
It’s not without paradox, for the economy of the country is reliant on extractive industries such as mining and natural gas production, but it’s nevertheless a milestone in the diverse global movement expressed by some as eradicating ecocide.
Postcard: image & text based missive sent to friends by travelers. Babylon: (1) capital of Babylonia in 2nd century B.C, often considered the first city. (2) Rastafarian term for capitalist civilisation. Liberation:the process of seeking and embodying freedom for, and by, all peoples
Postcards from Babylon
- the Soundtrack is complete!
Special Preview: 5th June @ the Ritzy Cinema, Brixton, London Click here to book
Years in the making, an Original Soundtrack to PfB by Alex Forster and Christian de Sousa. Drawing on and remixing the book's narrative, this is an immersive audio dream journey, moving through the synthetic landscapes of the modern world and the lucid rhythms of nature. Closely inter-weaving music and spoken word this is a unique piece of 21st-century storytelling.