Stonehenge bouncy castle - I can't resist it....

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Stonehenge bouncy castle - I can't resist it....
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I can't resist this. I just saw on the BBC an art work for the Olympics: a bouncy castle shaped like Stonehenge.

Generally speaking the state of the world does not inspire cheerfulness. So just like George Orwell shared his love for Woolworth's roses, let me share with you this magnificent vision of a Stonehenge you can actually bounce on. I agree with the guy in the report who said he would like it in his back garden (if I had a back garden).

Talking of a certain Mr

Talking of a certain Mr Deller have you come across Acid Brass before?

I think I've been on better bouncy castles to be honest. But good on him for taking the piss out of 'culture'. If that's what he's doing. I don't really understand when 'art' stops or starts being a commodity.

Seriously cool

I think that is a seriously cool piece!

One of the problems of art these days (at least the kind people go to the Tate Modern to look at) is that it is impossible to understand it without reading a book. At least in the Renaissance (for example) people could appreciate the beauty of Leonardo's David (set up in public in Florence) without having to understand all about the Golden Rule and such.

On the other hand, one excellent thing about all the combination of cheap recording equipment and YouTube is that nowadays it is possible to put artistic creation (especially music) out to a wider audience really easily, and to put together ideas, and new creation, in a really fluid way.

Here is an example which I like for sentimental reasons, though I can't understand a word he's saying (I can't understand rap in English much less French)

I wouldn't know the Golden

I wouldn't know the Golden Rule from the Brown Rule, maybe they are both shit? Joking aside, the only French rap I've heard and liked (I probably haven't heard that much) was from the film La Haine.

Likewise, I don't know much of what is being said apart from perhaps "fuck the police".

On art, I really like this I came across recently:

Today the cleaning of a gun by a Red soldier is of greater significance than the entire metaphysical output of all the painters.... With joy we welcome the news that the bullets are whistling through the galleries and palaces, into the masterpieces of Rubens, instead of into the houses of the poor in the working-class neighbourhoods! We welcome it if the open struggle between capital and labour  takes place in the domain of this disgraceful culture and art, which constistently served to suppress the poor while edifying the bourgeois on a Sunday, so that on Monday he could all the more calmly resume.... his expoitation!

Heartfield and Grosz, 'The Art Scab' 1920


You can read a little more here: 

The problem with art today

I think I disagree with Lonelonder about not needing to know the Golden Rule etc to appreciate Leonardo. At one level this is true, Leonardo produced beautiful figurative paintings, drawing etc and people can see that. But that appreciation is made even deeper by an understanding of just how technically and culturally brilliant he was. As for modern art, how many times throught out history has: "the problem with art these days" heard.  It was said about Beethoven's 5th Symphany, also about some of Mowzart's work, Schoenberg, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman. This is not to say that some modern art is not difficult to understand or simply rubbish but we have also not been educated to appreciate it, as we have been with Leonardo. Equally if someone in the 16th Century saw a picture by say one of the impressionists, they would have been mystified, whereas we now think  that they are wonderful. Unless it is endless going on repeating the established forms of art, how is art going to develop without challenging the existing forms.

This is a very interesting question, especially in relation to the question of decadence. Does the fact that capitalism is decadent mean that all its cultural products are decadent? If not how do we judge the quality of a cultural product?

I also disagree with Radicalchains, the quote expresses a tendency that existed and still exists within the revolutonary movement to reject the cultural heritage of bourgeois society, it is also expressed by Tolstoy in his What is art which rejects opera etc because it has been produced at the cost of the working class and peasants.  Marx and Engels, Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky -to name a few- never defend this anihilism. Lunacharski, as the commisar of art, spent a lot of his time fighting against such destuctive attitudes to art. The defense of the cultural heritage of humanity is part of the class struggle. The class struggle has to embrace art, such as during the recent struggles in Spain when one of the main orchestra's in Madrid played Beethoven for the 10.000s who had gathered there to protest against the attacks.

The ruling class want to exclude the proletariat and the poor from what they call "high culture" but the class has always fought against that. In  revolution works of art may be destroyed but that will be a loss of humanity


I liked the bouncy castle

I liked the bouncy castle Stonehenge - a bit difficult for excavations though. I also like the Stonehenge scene and song in Spinal Tap.

I agree with Ernie in relation to Radical. It's a similar idea that we've seen expressed in relation to science. We  can say that only true art or science can begin with the proletarian revolution. Or we could say that only true art and science can begin with a classless, communist society. That's true to a point but it doesn't mean wiping out all the art, culture and science of bourgeois society (and back beyond) and startiing with a clean slate. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be discerning or analytical about it though.

art in decadence

It's never been the case that in a period of decadence all art becomes decadent, even if art certainly cannot escape the general degneration of social life. The best art always expresses the potential of humanity, even if in such periods it will more often than not also express a profound protest against the existing social order. In previous modes of production, a period of decadence, however, often (though not always) meant the rise of a new mode of production, a rising class, and thus a reviviciation of art on a large scale. It's different in capitalism because communism cannot grow inside the old order. But art in capitalism's decadence can still express a revolt against inhumanity.  

"The best art always

"The best art always expresses the potential of humanity, even if in such periods it will more often than not also express a profound protest against the existing social order."

The problem is how you define the quality of art. One may, I suppose, comment on the technical competence of the artist in question (for example, can someone actually draw* or play the guitar or write correctly). But that's not necessarily any indicator of the emotional reaction art might induce.

Let's take two examples from the same genre and , one an example of total nihilism embracing the collapse of society and seeing it as a means of personal power and advancement; the other (while not Marxist in any sense) posing a collective and conscious response to the social disaster facing the same demographic.

Which is the better "art"?

fight the power!

Public Enemy every time!

Really? Why? (Any effort to

Really? Why?

(Any effort to appeal to Flava Flav's dancing in the video will be summarily rejected regardless of the awesomeness of said dancing.)

the beat!

first, the beat (although that's James Brown of course), but secondly the message, despite all the Black Power bullshit. Gangsta rap marked the decadence of hip hop (more or less). 

One man's celebration of

One man's celebration of depravity is another's rebellion against it, I guess. I think NWA always claimed that their act was not meant as a celebration of gangsta life, but as a critque of it--by "telling it how it is" to a society that judges people based on a fairy tale.  Personally, more than half the time I can't tell if a given piece of "art" is really a critique of society or recuperated and reified camp dressed up as dissent. Maybe I am just not good enough an art critic and need someone with a post-graduate degree in this field to explain it to me?

Another example of course with some history related to Marxism is the question of the nature of Jazz. Adorno saw it as a terrible reflection of the developing banality of mass culture in American captialism, while C.L.R. James saw it (I hope I am getting this right) as evidence of a virbant cultural life thriving in America's black ghettos as a response to racism and exploitation. A similar argument could be had about the ultimate significance of rap music, I suppose. I think Ernie's point sums it up: to what extent is culture even possible in a system where civil society has been absorbed by the state, commodification creeps into all aspects of life and they actually have award shows for best commercials?

On the video links, whatever NWA's relationship to violence; at least they tended to avoid Public Enemy's rather hamfisted forays into politics. Paraphrasing Chuck D in an interview from the 90s "What black people need is a little bit of nationalism, a little bit of capitalism and a little bit of Marxism."

OK, what, yeah.....

I'd fix the date for rap's

I'd fix the date for rap's decadence sometime in the early 90s, when they actually starting playing it on the radio. You know art can't be authentic if it is enjoyed by the masses.

Music across the borders...

ernie wrote:

I think I disagree with Lonelonder about not needing to know the Golden Rule etc to appreciate Leonardo. At one level this is true, Leonardo produced beautiful figurative paintings, drawing etc and people can see that. But that appreciation is made even deeper by an understanding of just how technically and culturally brilliant he was.

Actually that is the point I was making... You do appreciate Leonardo's art better (or indeed any art, I think), if you understand the thinking behind it. But the thing about Leonardo's art is that it can be appreciated on different levels, including a level that is open to everybody. Art in Renaissance Florence was part of the city's public display, everybody was involved, if only in looking at it.

I think the Acid Brass thing is brilliant, partly because the music is great but partly also because it represents something that is happening a lot with what they call "world music": different traditions meeting without prejudice and producing something new that binds humanity together.

And even, perhaps, getting over prejudice sometimes. So I can't resist posting a clip from a great movie called "Schultz gets the blues". It tells the story of an unemployed German miner whose great passion is traditional German accordeon music. In this scene, he discovers Zydeco...

"first, the beat (although

"first, the beat (although that's James Brown of course), but secondly the message, despite all the Black Power bullshit. Gangsta rap marked the decadence of hip hop (more or less)"

So you like frenetic, complex soul beats as opposed to a laid back one overlayed with a funk guitar (actually a slowed down sample from the Steve Arrington band I believe). But is it actually "better"?

As for the second, this is what I distrust, you see: political criteria for judging the value of art. On the other hand, I think we're on firmer ground on looking at what art says about its era of production to get a handle on what's going on. Art, at the end of the day, is about people: reflecting back at them their experiences and emotional responses.

And in that vein - and at risk of summary expulsion from the ICC (already on notice for my complete lack of interest in sport!) - I have to say the vast majority of so-called art induces in me the emotional response of extreme boredom and disinterest ...





the beat thing is a matter of taste, obviously. The other issue isn't really so much about 'better' but about how much it merely reflects and even glorifies the decomposition of the social system, and how much it represents some kind of protest against it. The latter can and often does take forms that are not directly political - such as through the affirmation of the more positive human emotions. I certainly agre there are no political criteria as such. Trotsky was right about this against the Proletkult (as argued in this article:

Would you agree that

Would you agree that something that "reflects and even glorifies the decomposition of the social system" can nonetheless be an astounding work of art?

Trust the bourgeoisie to come

Trust the bourgeoisie to come up with something 'nationalistic' like Stonehenge, to turn into something Big and Bouncy. Why couldn't they have used body-parts. That would be much more fun and Bigger and Bouncier too and not have all those things sticking up like you have in Stonehenge. Well, er, maybe you might have some things sticking up but mixed in with more rounded stuff, so's you'd get more of a variety, and certainly a lot more Bounce. And it'd be more Internationalist too, wouldn't it? So is the whole Olympics thing going to be a huge outpouring of nationalist fervor, and preceded of course by the Golden Jubilee? God, what an awful summer in prospect. Isn't there a chance of a working class response adding a tangy relish to the mixture, or is it bourgeois blandness throughout. I'm just talking about cultural artifacts of course, not the Games themselves.

But about Adorno jk. I didn't know he had it in for Jazz as well as Tchaikovsky! What a shit he was, stalinista or not.

But if you want to know what "Decomposition" sounds like, played on a symphony orchestra, try one of Harrison Birtwhistle's recent compositions on a new CD. Or rather maybe don't! He's captured it all exactly. All the doom, gloom, and despair is excellently presented in music that is just about bearable as something to listen to (which can't be said of all contemporary 'classical' music) but without any apparent resolution. (Personal opinion!) But then he's a north of England lad, brass bands and the coalpits, so to speak, so he should know. And I agree with Ernie and baboon - bullets whistling into Rubens' paintings is crap. The struggle between capital and labour won't be resolved in an art gallery.

Poor old Demogorgon. Is it

Poor old Demogorgon. Is it your real name? But anyway... I agree with you that something that REFLECTS the decomposition of tbe social system could be great art, or music. I find it difficult to imagine a serious artist being able to GLORIFY decomposition, unless satirically. Aren't the truly great artists moral and ethical creatures by definition, so how could they glorify something wholly bad and regrettable, and signifying tbe end of humanity? In any case, why would Demogorgon (surely it must be a pseudonym - or is it the word"pseudonym" you object to elsewhere) who has expressed extreme boredom and disinterest in art, even be bothered to raise the question- of whether something may or may not be an astounding work of art - when he/she has no interest in the answer? Or is it a purely academic question? But aren't revolutionaries generally against things being rendered "academic"? Yet the Gorgon must be right in saying: art is about people, their emotions and responses. Thus the Gorgon's expulsion is delayed, temporarily.

Politics are criteria

Wow, what a discussion! very interesting.


I agree with Demo about the difficulty of politics as a artistic criteria. Should we reject the fantastic expression of agnoized humanity that is Alban Berg's Wozzeck because he supported the first world war? Or Schoenbergs last two string quartets, because he was nationalist and had some pretty iffy ideas about the superiority of German culture? Then there is the whole question of Shostakovich, was is a Stalinist toady or was his music an expression of his opposition? If you simply hear his string quartets does it matter given how moving they are?

On Adorno, well I have to admit I found his book The Philosopy of Modern Musics fasninating. Did not understand it fully but his central point appeared to be that music has to undergo a process of development, and not get caught up in an endless repeatition of the previous forms. I think he makes the point about the interesting dialectic of the most radical and revolutionary development of music in the early 20th century being brought about by a political reactionary like Schoenberg. His rage at the reduction of music to audio wall paper strikes a cord. When it came to Jazz he did not understand the complex beauty of Jazz.

What I have heard of slipnote and from an interview with their lead singer I would say that they are a graphic expression of the depth of alienation felt by many teenagers and others who are faced with the tearng apart of social relations. Is it great art? But it certainly expresses the deep feelings of those who are their fans. Such dispairing desperate and dark expressions were a pretty marginal 30 years ago (The Doctors of Madness come to mind from the 70s) but now there is a large genre: has to say something!


Sorry, that should be Slipknot: in a hurry to go to work: Sorry

I don't think we should

I don't think we should "reject" art, just because we find the politics of the artist unpalatable. If we did that, there wouldn't be much left to enjoy. But it sure does make it difficult to enjoy a particular piece of art, when its BS politics are smacking you in the face. There is something to be said for subtlety here, I think.

On gangsta rap, personally I always found Ice-T's music superior to others. His politics were a little bit better also. Although infused with violent, misogynistic and petit-bourgeois "I'm rich bitch" hyperbole, he didn't idealize the ghetto and actually took a stand against homophobia, when even more expressly political acts like KRS-ONE made frequent homophobic slurs.

I agree with jk and DH

I agree with jk and DH Lawrence who said:don't look at the artist look at tbe work. Shoshtakovich managed to express Shoshtakovich despite a lot of interference. His last quartet is a masterpiece of originality. And the technique whereby he conveys the feel of sharpening pain, through single notes getting louder and suddenly cut off, is a mind-blower. This movement is used at the start of that remarkable film "Wit" which is also a study of pain, and the abuse (?) of medical treatment (?) in using people like guinea pigs in pursuit of medical progress.

Query. Was Schoenberg really the radical and revolutionary developer of 20th. century music, as claimed by Adorno? Or did he not just invent a system of composition - the 12 tone system- which manages to expell human emotion from the music, and is thus of great appeal to certain people, like Adorno, who love it's complexity, and mechanical approach; but which produces music of such atonality, anomie and 'lostness', as to be almost impossible to listen too by anyone lacking the required cerebrallness, or who still retains human feelings in Adorno's Brave New World. Surely the music of communism won't be like this, but will embody rich delights? This is a personal opinion of course. Is that okay?

Would you agree that

Would you agree that something that "reflects and even glorifies the decomposition of the social system" can nonetheless be an astounding work of art?


yes, it's certainly possible. On the other hand, Damien Hirst's stuff does that and you can see the growing subordination of everything he does to the cash motive (which further reflects the decomposition of the social system). Perhaps, as a result, he has ceased to astonish. 

Something that reflects

Something that reflects decomposition could be an astounding work of art. But I don't see at all how something that glorified decomposition could actually be art at all, but would rather be pornography, in the sense that it would do dirt on life. It depends on your definition of "art" of course. I haven't got one at this moment. But I do have D.H.Lawrence's definition of pornography, which is that it is something that "does dirt on life". So this becomes my main criteria for judging what isn't art, though the thing in question may make millions, be lauded in the newspapers, and be truly astonishing. It is inhuman to glorify decomposition, because decomposition is an inhuman, filthy and disgusting state of affairs, brought about by an inhuman system -capitalism - and not at all a way of life created by humanity. In fact there's nothing creative about it at all. It is pornography writ large, and no real, honest artist could possibly wish to bestow the honor of their artistic talent on it by "GLORIFYING" it. There has surely to be an ethical dimension to art - it isn't just anarchy is it, though it may appear so - and maybe I'm an old-fashioned prude. So what!

A final word on Schoenberg, for whom I have it in. You might say his mechanistic twelve-tone rows- played backwards, forwards or upside down, but always in the same order - present "alienation" musically. This would be wrong, says I. In fact his music is alienated in itself, and thus alienated from the listener. (Choruses of 'you can't say that', 'how dare you' and 'you're not qualified' etc.)

Tchaikovsky on the other hand, throbs with love, life, sex and sadness, even if he's sometimes over the top. And to think that this just started with a bouncy Stonehenge castle!

If expulsion from the ICC threatens....

Demogorgon wrote: risk of summary expulsion from the ICC (already on notice for my complete lack of interest in sport!)

Before that happens you can join me in the zero-sport fraction!

mikail firtinaci

I remember reading somewhere that Marx said; "art is the alienation of creativity." I do not know if he really said that or this is just a Situationist detournment. But still don't you think "high culture" and the exclusion of masses from art is an inherent quality of art? Simply because to appreciate art you need to have some sort of expertise. It may not immediately have a meaning for an uneducated mind.

But consider the bourgeois art in the 17th century, for instance in holland. I have in mind especially Bruegel. He was a kind of vanguard at his time because he was explicitly concerned with the "peasant life." But not the dull and boring peasant life. He brought in the fantastical aspects, the peasant myths into life in his pictures. See:

Even more, he was obviously aware of the approaching collapse of the feudal society (!):

So perhaps this examples shows that art is always in the center of a dialectical tension. On the one hand it becomes more creative as it expresses more closely the revolutionary classes' spirits - the creative social element; on the other hand, it can never overcome its alienation because art is always an abstracted form. :)

However, I have dounts about music. Can we consider rhytm as an abstraction? I think no. 

The idea of the

The idea of the "glorification" of decomposition in art, music or anywhere else, is something I can't get over. Decomposition in nature has positive and negative aspects. Decomposition, as elaborated in the ICC's own these on it, becomes capitalism's last obscenity perpetrated on an unsuspecting humanity and the planet. It's as if the filthy malignancy of capitalism, growing slowly and benignly during it's ascendant phase, it's poisonous indications largely unnoticed by those it fed on, has suddenly reared up as an unstoppable diseased monster, destroying everything around it in the anger of it's dying torments. So what is there for anyone, let alone a creative artist, to glorify in it's anti-life and anti-creative decomposition?

The ICC has said it well in the theses. :" decomposition leads to social dislocation and putrefaction, to the void. Left to its own devices, it will lead humanity to the same fate as world war. In the end, it is all the same whether we are wiped out in a rain of thermonuclear bombs, or by pollution, radio-activity from nuclear power stations, famine, epidemics, and the massacres of innumerable small wars (where nuclear weapons might also be used). The only difference between these two forms of annihilation lies in that one is quick, while the other would be slower, and would consequently provoke still more suffering."

Considering what mikail said. I don't think the masses are excluded from art. It's just they have no free time available for it's appreciation, and it requires money too. Nor do I think an expertise is required to appreciate and respond to beauty, whether visual or aural. And the more you look, and the more you listen, the more you develop the ability to look and listen more. There's nothing alienating about Bach, his exquisitely beautiful intracies provide within themselves the education needed for their further appreciation. But it takes time. (After the revolution everyone will have more time available to get stuck into stuff like this.) And how about Botticelli? I would defy anyone not to be able to respond on a first look to his paintings, which must be among tbe least alienating and most reassuring decorations to be found on the planet. And then there's Breughel and many others.

Most of us now are excluded from art, science, the pleasures of life, and indeed from any really serious educative processes. Does the bourgeoisie even have any really serious educative processes available? Is the bourgeoisie at all interested in humanity developing it's untapped powers and talents? I doubt it, and decomposition rules!

Fred said: "I don't think

Fred said: "I don't think the masses are excluded from art. It's just they have no free time available for it's appreciation, and it requires money too." So they are excluded, if not by deliberate bourgeois plan, then by lack of social status. He also said: "Most of us now are excluded from art, science, the pleasures of life..." blah blah. Maybe it's time Fred took a rest, before total degeneration moves in or is it schizophrenia? And, please note radicalchains, you are not required to make any response to this.

Poor old Schoenberg!

Fred, what on earth has Schoenberg done to lead you to having such a downer on him? Yes he certainly can be difficult to listen too, but you don't listen to him for a nice melody line, lycricism and romanticism. I do not agree that his music is emotionless. Was he a revolutionary? Not as far as he was concerned he simply felt he was continuing the development of music towards atonality that was already underway. But he music and theory certainly lead to a stepping forwards of music. Personally I could not tell if he was writing his 12 tone themes upside and sideways but I do think it is worth the effort of listening to, even if it does mean a certain amount of reading about what he was trying to do in order to begin to start to appreciate it more. Anyone wanting to dip their toe in the water should listen to the 3rd String Quartet.

To reasure you Fred , there is not "line" on music within the ICC. Becoming as member of the organisation expanded my music interests hugely. It was a comrade who persuede me to listen to Free Jazz and Schoenberg rather than simply rejecting them, for which I will be eternally greatful. It was also comrades who put me onto rap, world music, Noise, death metal,black metal etc.

It would be interesting to know what the revolutionary movement wrote about the New Music. was it performed in the early years of the Soviets?

art is always in the center

art is always in the center of a dialectical tension


Sounds good.

I think my first exposure to a radical ideology came from punk rock.


I say ideology quite precisely because it was not what I consider revolutionary theory.


However it served to open my mind (or was a contributory factor) to a revolutionary perspective.


I can now easily pick fault with such formative ideology , but cannot deny its profound influence on my adolescent mind.  Groups like CRASS were like  religious icons to us.


I think the situationist outlook was something akin to as a spectacular commodity , the object of staring, separate from everyday life is dead.


Art as to be reinvented in the total environment, beautiful cities fit for children and lovers, not built for profit but for people.

Architecture, gardens, everything was to be subservient to human desire.

Maybe we'll only understand by trying to transform an alien environment designed to glorify the commodity.












Did someone mention death

Did someone mention death metal? Now, that has to be anti-revolutionary?

Why shouldn't art, music and

Why shouldn't art, music and literature, and the artists who produce it, suffer under decadence as does everything else? The idea that progress is always taking place - even in music - isn't a fact but ideological dreaming. The test is in the listening, like tasting relates to food. The 20th. Century has seen the gradual disappearance of melody, harmony and rhythm from 'classical' music, and it's replacement with difficulties and technicalities (what Adorno sees as being 'progressive) that render it problematic (ie awful!) for the listener. Music is the product of it's social environment. Since 1914 this has been ghastly and getting worse. In the 'sixties, during the reconstruction of capitalism after the war, we had the glorious and original outpouring of melody, harmony and rhythm that was pop and rock. That tailed off a bit shortly after - the return of the crisis?-
and now 'rap' has lost melody while retaining rhythm. But Foo Fighters and others are still producing very lively and confident rock, heavy too, so maybe all is not lost. It's all a question of confidence. Is the working class starting to feel a bit more confident these days?

There's a recent paper by

There's a recent paper by Golan Gur called "Arnold Schoenberg and the ideology of progress in 20th. Century music" (eleven pages long) which deals with this matter and Adorno too.

It's available here:

Death metal, Adorno and decadence

Death metal, Adorno and decadence what a heady mix: enough to make your head spin (which would go down well at a death metal gig). I do not think anyone thinks that death metal is some revolutionary music: though I presume you could have an internationalist death metal band.

I think MH makes a very good point about the powerful upsurge of revolutionary (as in ground breaking) theories at the beginning of the century. You could add the Bauhaus school to that list.

The disappearance of melody etc yes 12 tone, Serialism etc moved away from that: just as art moved away from figurative paintings. Was this progressive? It took forwards the already existing tendency for music to be seen as being primarily the expression of the artists/composers inner development of their art. This was first theorised by the New German School in the 1850s (Robert Shumann, Liszt were leading members). Richard Taruskin, in the Oxford History of Western Music, says that "art for art sake" marked the beginning of the history of modern western music, because it began the split between those who composed for their audiance and those who composed for their own artistic needs primarily. A graphic expression of the ideal bourgeois individual. Taruskin, along with others, see this split as being central to understand the development of modern music. I do not know enough about music theory and history to know if he is right but it is a very interesting hypothosis which he unfolds with great hisotrical skill.

An aspect of culture in decadence that we have not taken up yet is its integration into the war machine that is decadent capitalism. Taruskin is very imformative about the way that with the struggle for the development and foundations of the modern states incorporated music. Handle's Oratorios were composed to appeal to the growing bourgeois in Britain and their nationalism, is just one example. In decadence this has taken on even greater importance with the development of mass media. The contradications so heavily involved in art in decadence are expressed in the way that what was presented as the most anti-establishment forms of art: serialism, abstract expressionism were all central tools in the ideological war against the Eastern bloc. US imperialism actively supported the development of the flourishing avant gard scene in West Germany etc in order to underline the "freedom" afford art by the West. The whole explosion of youth rebellion and culture in the 60's was used to try and lead the discontent of the youth into deadends: drugs, individualism, etc. In a recent Sky programm on the Blues a leading African American artist (i cannot remember her name) said the "Beatles invasion" of the US was used to drown the increasingly militant blues and jazz culture. How correct this idea is, is hard to tell but it is food for thought: if Serialism was a tool in the imperialist war, could the bourgeois have used the Beatles etc as a tool in the class war: increasing the power of divide and rule, stimulating black nationalism against the white mans stealing of black culture etc.

Well one thing is clear, decadence adds a whole new level of complexity to any marxist critique of the develoment of culture.

MH makes a couple of good

MH makes a couple of good points: firstly on the way that revolutionary periods throw up artistic and scientific developments - we can clearly see this through the rise of the revolutionary bourgeoisie and through the revolutionary wave instigated by the working class. Today is not a period of counter-revolution, so, as MH says, artistic (and scientific, in my opinion) creativity can and should flourish. But this is also a battleground between the classes and one that generally favours the dominant ideology and repressive apparatus of the state. Looking at some of the coloured "revolutions" around the collapsed Warsaw Pact, we saw literary and artistic circles involved which usually clearly ended up on the side of the bourgeoisie and even in their placements within the state itself. Highly recommended for the role of state agencies in the world of art is the story of the "Kulturkampf" with the CIA (and others) during the Cold War: "Who Paid The Piper?" by Frances Stonor Saunders.

I don't know about the Beatles being a weapon to defuse militancy but I think that the British music scene was really positive and went far beyond that particular group in opening up the blues, the black blues, to a much wider and younger public. In London, in the early sixties, blues were being played in clubs, on juke boxes, in halls and did more than anything else to bring black and white youth together as well as guaranteeing the life of a great many blues tunes and players that would have been lost.

I re-read the link from Alf above on "proletarian culture" and it's a good read for this discussion.

Interesting question, re: the

Interesting question, re: the nature of the period we are in in relation to the forms of culture that it "throws up." But on that note, how do we characterize an epoch that vomits up an Ayn Rand and a political movement that actually wants to put that junk into practice?

A better title

Just a quick point: I would like to propose that we change the title of this thread to something expressing the discussion more. As it is, unless you have read the thread you will have no idea that it is about culture in decadence. We want to included as many people as possible in this discussion. Got to dash but something Culture in decadence may be

I see the clarification of MH

I see the clarification of MH above. I don't want to make assumptions about what anyone thinks art is, but what about television and films?

Television as arm of the

Television as arm of the state? Discuss.


Keep the title...

Let's keep the subject title, I find it fascinating that something which I simply enjoyed for its sense of humour could actually start off a discussion like this one.

However, we could start another thread explicitly on "art in decadence", since this thread is about to hit the 50 posts limit, after which a bug in the software means that you can't go to new comments directly by clicking on them

I can go with Lazarus...

Lazarus wrote:

I think my first exposure to a radical ideology came from punk rock.

I say ideology quite precisely because it was not what I consider revolutionary theory.

However it served to open my mind (or was a contributory factor) to a revolutionary perspective.

I can now easily pick fault with such formative ideology , but cannot deny its profound influence on my adolescent mind.  Groups like CRASS were like  religious icons to us.

I think the situationist outlook was something akin to as a spectacular commodity , the object of staring, separate from everyday life is dead.

In my case though it was more Jefferson Starship... but that's a generation thing.

I also think that the Situationists had some very interesting things to say about art and the spectacle. "They take your dreams and sell them back to you".

Whether art can stimulate revolutionary ideas is an interesting one - Mayakovsky's Agitprop group certainly thought so, though when you look at the milieu he was in it is not really that interesting. In a sense perhaps you could say that the artists caught inspiration from the much vaster movement around them.

"I don't want to make

"I don't want to make assumptions about what anyone thinks art is, but what about television and films?"

Film has been widely regarded as an art form and I think the quality of some television (especially US television) at the moment certainly represents art.

I'm watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series) at the moment and the textual depth is really quite astonishing.


Demogorgon wrote:

I'm watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series) at the moment and the textual depth is really quite astonishing.

That's so brilliant, it's almost art. I really, really don't know whether you're taking the piss or not.


"I really, really don't know

"I really, really don't know whether you're taking the piss or not."

Well, that sense of aporia is actually an essential element to the pattern of discourse in the "Buffyverse" series (i.e. Buffy itself and it's spin-off, Angel).

And the "Buffyverse" does have a lot of depth to it and there have been several international conferences discussing the nature of Whedon's work in terms of gender studies, philosophy, literary criticism, etc. as well as several academic journals dedicated to the series.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with the horror genre would recognise a lot of said genre's tropes being deconstructed in the course of the series and because it's actually fun to watch (unlike most things you'd have the misfortune to study on an arts course at university) it engages students, so it's a bit of an academic's dream I imagine.

But to set your palpitating revolutionary heart at rest, I refer you to Episode 1 of Season 3 ("Anne"), where Buffy is enslaved in a vast factory in a demon dimension and leads a workers' revolt, culminating in her giving the cruel guards a gruesome death with a hammer and sickle!




I think that it's fairly clear that film/cinema can be an art form and television also.

My apogee of TV art so far is the 40-odd episodes of The Sopranos - any one of which would make a half-decent film. I think that it's head and shoulders above series like The Wire where Dominic West had the same weekly drunk/love scene, the wise-guys in the hood were unaware of the numbers of cops swarming about on the rooftops above them taking about 2000 photographs every day and whose best idea was the "burnt" mobile phone - an idea patented by the Taleban ten years earlier.

HBO (Fox turned it down) bravely showed the Sopranos without adverts - which completely destroys the continuity and agreed with David Chase to shoot it in New Jersey while everything was being shot in L.A. The casting is of supurb quality as is the music which is incidental and sometimes antagonistic to the scene, ie, there's no "mood" music. The quality and depth of the photography has never been equalled in TV before or since - it's a genuine first. The acting and the plot is of Shakespearian scope and depth. It's an enormous collective and ever-improving effort.

The story concerns the relationship of a middle-age man with his mother and his psychiatrist within the end of the American Dream - "if it ever existed". The fact that he happens to be a middle-ranking mafia boss allows the relationship between his two families to be explored ranging far and wide sometimes filthy, violent and very funny. The contempt of the mob for the working class is shown over many episodes as is its basic patriotic instinct. I'd say that this is a great, collective artistic effort.

Which Buffy?

Yesterday I went to the anarchist bookshop in Whitechapel and bought a comic called Buffy the Anarcho-syndicalist. I will report on its artistic and political merits in due course. 

Agree with baboon about The

Agree with baboon about The Sopranos of which I was a fan from the very first episode. I still find I can go back and watch it and as well as still enjoy it for all the reasons babooon mentions, find it far superior to current television including hyped up and critically acclaimed programmes such as The Wire. Which incidentally, I gave up on after one episode. David Chase the man behind The Sopranos also produced The Rockford Files which I also like.

Woke up sour, so....

"Apart from being one of the saddest ways of making the worker forget his exhaustion during the three or four hours left to him at the end of a day's work, television is also an effective ideological weapon and has long been recognised as such," (ICC pamphlet, Unions Against the Working Class). 

Maybe the above passage should be altered to take account of mass unemployment but it's still true. We shouldn't get carried away admiring the quality of the chains forged for us.

Sure, 'we' know that the Mafia is patriotic and anti-working class. However, we 'read' programmes differently from the majority of viewers, I would suggest. Being patriotic and anti-working class (or at least anti-'troublemakers') is precisely what endears,endorses the mafia (or trade unions) in the eyes of the vast majority of viewers (ie atomised individuals) at the present moment, I believe.

Don't get me wrong: I really enjoyed the series. But, rightly, that's a guilty pleasure. A bit like top-flight football. Admire the skill, the combat and revel in the sometimes random outcome and outrageous fortune. But never, ever forget: this is the circus, not the bread.


my comments on Buffy the anarcho-syndicalist should go here


On Buffy the anarcho-syndicalist vs vampire capitalists who are actually vampires

Art work: original or 'detourned' situationist -style from a previous comic ? It's all left ironically ambiguous.

Hero proletarian undercover kung fu masters, or do they have a real problem with substitutionism? It's all left ironically ambiguous.

So there you have it

On TV mega-series:  


My guilty pleasure is Desperate Housewives, and even that's getting a bit too sombre now. I have not yet been able to face the committment needed to watch either The Wire or The Sopranos, but I have followed Mad Men, at least until Sky Atlantic nabbed it - it'll have to be the box set for the new series. While also being a bit of a guilty pleasure, I think it does frequently rise onto another, kind of archetypal level.  



Woke up this morning...

I was personally aware that the Mafia was patriotic and anti-working class. What the series showed was how entwined they were with the trade unions at the time and historically. The series also showed the role of the "Italian-American Committee" and ruthlessly lambasted it. This was unlike the makers of The Godfather who, on being "lobbied" by the above committee, took the word mafia out of the film.

But rather than personal likes or dislikes - or fleeting pleasures, can film and, by extension TV, represent art?

mikail firtinaci
game of thrones

game of thrones and the gloomy story of the disintegrating feudal ruling classes - my favorute tv series. ICC turkey section had an article recently which I liked reading. 

If you are going to talk about music and its evolution from the simplest form to the most elaborate in a historical sense- this must be the begining:

The TV series 'ROOTS' left a

The TV series 'ROOTS' left a powerful imprint on my mind.

I can't say I have seen it around for decades.



End of the day, they all serve to keep you sitting and passive.


I suppose any communicative form has a danger of becoming an object of consumption, an opiate. 


This included......





Mad, stupid and nonesense, but brilliant

True blood has to be one of the best bits of visual diazapam made in several years. The storyline, Vampires coming out of the closet, fairies, warewolfs and shapeshifter all inhabiliting a small backwards town in the South: is mad but absolutely brilliant. Just when you think it cannot get anymore far fetched and stupid: up pops another myth embodied in a redneck. Also it is one of the funniest shows going, permanently  poking fun at itself and the mores of American society. Also not many tv shows have a gay character as one of the central story lines. It also has one of the best theme songs and open sequence going:


On a more serious level, re-watched the 1980s Edge of Darkness recently: what an excellent series: well written, acted and shot. The series: Carnival, from the early part of the century, is well worth wathing, if only for the acting and fantastic eye for detail.

I was always partial to the

I was always partial to the saturday morning show "Saved By the Bell"--if only for its purely escapist camp.

Mr. Belding, "But Screech, you can't elope."

Screech, "Who are you calling canteloupe? Mellon head!"

neanderthal artistes?

I want to echo Alf's positive take on the ICC's day of discussion at the weekend and the richness of those discussion - which could have gone on for much longer. Outside of the formal discussion there were many informal elements and a couple of times the issue of the recent news about neaderthals being the first cave painters was raised. I want to make some preliminary responses to this question and here is as good a place as any.

Firstly, there is not one whit of evidence that the 40800 old art of the El Castillo cave was painted by members of the species Homo neanderthalensis. What evidence there is suggest that this is the work of sapiens. Alistair Pike, the archaeologist working on and involved in the dating of the cave, has previous in exaggerating HN's punctual expressions. It's understandable that he does so because of the general slating that this species gets from the bourgeois press - it's understandable but it's not science. Pike stated that neaderthals were the first cave painters and he has no evidence for this whatsoever.

There's no doubt that neanderthals possessed symbolic attributes, that they were involved in planning and that they were well capable of empathy and care. HN (or its direct ancestor) was mixing up colouring pigment hundreds of thousands of years ago. It was proposed that this could have been used for insect repellent, camoflage or a by-product of adhesive making - all this is possible, HN certainly ambushed its prey and used hafted tools. But its symbolic use is very likely and at the Cueva Anton and the Cueva de los Aviones, both exclusive HN settlements, there is evidence of shells, teeth and pendants dyed with paint (none of these had holes drilled in them but shaped for twine around them). But to go from there to say that they painted cave walls is a big step that needs convincing evidence. The idea that HN also made music, which is perfectly possible, is doubtful, because the only evidence that I've seen, the Divje Babe HN site in Slovenia, is now seems that the bear femur with holes in, supposedly a flute, is now thought to be holes made by carnivores. On the other hand, flutes made by HS and dated to 42000 years ago in Germany, are more clearly musical instruments with 5 holes and some made of ivory which had to be straightened out - a knowledge of chemistry was important here. There are pierced animal teeth and worked bone and ivory at the Grotte de Rennes, lived in by both HS and HN, and it's not clear if both were involved in this work. There is always the very real possibility of acculturation, ie, copying. HS did it through HS, why not HN?

Pike's main argument is that the antiquity of El Castillo predates humans in Europe which is not true given that recent finds along the Danube corridor put HS here over 41000 years ago and the "New York Times" of June 14 suggests in an article that HS were in what was to become the UK 41.5 to 44.2 thousand years ago. The "paintings" of El Castillo include dots, discs, lines, geometric shapes and hand prints. There are two types of hand print; positive and negative. The positive has paint applied to the hand and place on the cave wall, the negative (as at El Castillo) has paint blown over the hand leaving a ghostly impression.  This practice, echoed at other cave art sites, is strongly suggestive of shamanistic rituals making contact with or opening up a way to the cosmos through the membrane of the cave wall. It also appears to be part of an initiation rite as well with youngsters hand prints at certain selected areas. There's no evidence (yet) that HN was in any way involved in such "ceremonies".

 One of the points that Pike makes is that if HS were to have painted these forms at El Castillo, the species would have had to arrive in Europe already possessing a  tradition of symbolic art - which in my opinion is absolutely the case and Pike's view betrays his Euro-centrism. This art was developed in and came from Africa and it had a great antiquity. It is not a European phenomenom.

Pike also points to the differences in the art form of El Castillo and Chauvet (35000 years ago) to big up his HN as painters argument. But Chauvet was different from other HS and there are more similarities with El Castillo than differences.

What is intriguing is that the lighter skinned neanderthals used generally darker paint compounds than HS: pyrites, manganese oxide as well as red ochre. In the Chauvet cave, and I must look at this in more detail, there are definite "themes" to the compositions on the cave walls which, amongst other things, show paintings and "signs" in black and some in red. I'm not suggesting for a moment that one was done by HN and the other by HS but it's possible, if I was to speculate, that there could be a narrative here regarding the two species. Whatever;  but the main point here is that we don't have to exaggerated or make wild, unscientific claims about neanderthats in order to see the importance of this species for our own.