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Preview: The New Ennui

The New Ennui

Negativity. Snobbery. Rancour.

Updated: 2018-03-05T17:30:56.696-06:00


Some Music


Here are some records that have been close to me the past 13 months or so. Some of them are old, some were released in 2012. They are in no particular order:[...]

Security, Territory, Population: Hope Peterson's The Night is a Moat


 Foucault, in his annual lecture series at the Collège de France in 1978 under the title Security, Territory, Population, elaborated the dispositifs of surveillance and subjectification familiar to readers of Discipline and Punishand The Will to Knowwith a greater emphasis on something that he considered to be relatively recent: the technologies of security. The disciplinary regulation of normality and abnormality has, Foucault argued in these lectures, altered its focus from the production and control of normalized individuals to the administration of quantifiable populations in delimited territories based on large-scale analysis and prediction. The title of given to this lecture series is important as it serves to highlight the thematics of Hope Peterson's installation at RAW Gallery, The Night is a Moat. This installation is the latest articulation of an ongoing series of investigations into security, territory, population, surveillance and precarity under the title Threshold Economicsbegun in 2009. (Other findings from this artistic project have been exhibited as part of the My Winnipegshow in Paris, Sète, Ottawa and Winnipeg). All of the work in this series involves hand-held camera footage of the artist's apartment and its immediate nocturnal winter environs, accompanied by a mélange of amplified sounds all-too-well-known to any apartment dweller: steam-radiators clanging and hissing, cars passing by, muffled voices and footsteps, a constant mechanical pulse/whine. In the case of The Night is a Moat, the sense of enclosure (both protective and claustrophobic) that pervades the works comprising the Threshold Economicsproject is further augmented by the gallery space itself – a basement, with its lights turned particularly low which requires viewers to take a moment to allow their eyes to adjust to the dark. A large video screen is mounted in a curtained-off area, thereby making it not immediately visible from the gallery's entry, as the sound reverberates throughout the bricked room. At first exposure to the environment produced by Peterson's installation, we are posed a question, or, rather, exposed to a mystery. What is happening?This sense of being involved in the investigation of a mystery is underlined by the title of the installation, which evokes noir radio serials of the 1940s – an important source of inspiration to the artist. It is here that the affect of noir mystery combines with the thematics of security, territory and population by means of two main features in this exhibition: the deployment of surveillance and the police. Peterson's camera work primarily functions in two imbricated ways: as mimesis of CCTV and as hand-held personal recordings (as one would record a car accident or an assault, for example, on one's iPhone). Both of these modes of surveillance – call them the corporate and the subjective – are ubiquitous in the contemporary socio-political configuration; Peterson's usage of both surveillance modes is complex. On the one hand, we have the personal mode: the “occupant-subject,” apparently confined to her apartment, peers through security keyholes to record ominously-lit men standing in corridors or (as we will come to later) being led away by the Winnipeg police. At other times, the occupant-subject looks through windows, often with what seems to be some trepidation; more often than not, the streets are deserted and we are treated to imagery that are almost sensuous in their treatment of light, shadow, colour and form. (Trees silhouetted in the night sky, multi-coloured lights from cars and streetlamps, parking lots whose cover of snow give them the appearance of planes of pale blue). I say almostsensuous; the video image has the graininess that characterizes footage shot on a cellphone or the like. (This is a deliberate effect on Peterson's part, as the footage was, in fact, shot in HD). When the streets are not empty, there are overtones of violence: a woman walks to her car at speed, as though fleeing someone; a man and woman hav[...]

21 Shelters for the Apocalypse That Never Comes


Begin by reading Giovanni Tiso's piece here, and then choose how you wish to envy the dead:Und die musik allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />[...]

Lei Cox's Being There: Digital's Hidden Dimension


The importance of the transition from analogue to digital in the realm of video art cannot be overestimated; new understandings of the status of the digital video image were seized with a mixture of enthusiasm and anxiety by artists seeking to explore the seemingly endless transformative and malleable qualities of the digital image – its capacity to be altered, its capacity to be transmitted telematically and its capacity (or lack thereof) for representation.These are some of the issues to which video artist Lei Cox addresses in his work. A recent (partial) retrospective of his career, Twenty-Six Years Later (a journey to fiction and back),  presented a selection of Cox's work from 1985 to the present and included a variety of Cox's single-channel and installation video work. However, the centrepiece of the exhibition was a triptych entitled Being There, itself a composite of three separately produced but related video works Catching Sight of Sputnik 2009/11, Race 2010/11and Auto Race 2010. This triptych took up the major part at the end of the gallery, its centrality signalled by the relative size of the projections (each segment taking up an entire wall) compared to the other works which were mounted at a distance from the central installation on much smaller screens with headphones in order that they not interfere with the sound of the larger works. The implication here is that the triptych serves as a kind of summation of Cox's work to date. The question then becomes what is this summation is being offered here, and to what future does it point?To begin, descriptions of each of the separate videos. Catch Sight of Sputnik 2009/11is a characteristically mordant exploration of space-travel conspiracy theories (e.g. the moon-landing was staged by Stanley Kubrick etc.) In this video, Cox performs a series of dance-like manoeuvres – literally, one small step followed by one giant leap over and over again – in an apparently lunar landscape under a fantastic star-filled sky at one point traversed by a retro-futuristic rocket ship. Gradually, an important transformation occurs: the lunar landscape gradually reveals itself to be a terrestrial desert, with an all-too terrestrial blue sky above it. Throughout this revealed fakery, Cox continues his Neil Armstrong dance. Race 2010continues the retro-futurist demystifications of Catching Sight of Sputnikin a more deflationary manner. A single, diminutive toy robot struggles to navigate its way across a desert landscape (as with Sputnik, shot along the Salt Lake Flats in Utah). The robot, ill-suited to movement against so uneven a terrain, frequently falls and must be restored to verticality by Cox until the robot-toy finally exits the frame. Such slow, jerky movement is contrasted by the last video in the triptych – Auto Race 2010. In this video, Cox drives at speed in a pick-up truck in the same desert as the other two works. He described, during his artist talk at the Gurevich Gallery opening, his activities as a sort of large-scale tracery – with the movement of the truck scoring patterns on the earth that followed the patterns of celestial events.In all three of these videos, Cox explores the malleability of digital and “real” space by emphasizing scale: whether the quotidian scale of a truck driving helter skelter through a desert plain, through to the pathos-ridden miniscule scale of a toy robot, to the astronomic scale of the faked moon-landing of the Sputnikvideo. As in all of his work, Cox places himself in each of these videos, but in different relations to the framing space: he is unseen in the truck tracing patterns that are only visible from an air-born view-point (significantly not shown in the Auto Racework); he is the giant figure picking up the toy robot (such that only Cox's arm and leg are seen); he is the miniscule figure leaping around a deserted planetary surface, gradually increasing in size as the extra-terrestrial reveals its terrestrial reality until he [...]

Fourteen Fossils


AKA the sex appeal of the inorganic.[...]

The New Ennui Dictionary of Quotes


I depend on the starsand the places of nightThat is what it isintent space, andthe speed which is light, growingpast any shapethe half-door or the door slightly open        this is what happens when I move        (or I see motion, all of it                I'm in it       the world depopulated       those configurations of spirits       scattered and gone       so to disappear       this side of the road                                  nothing              I want roomLarry Eigner, "For Sleep"[...]

Database as Cultural Dominant


"Computer assisted technologies have allowed us to look deeper into matter and out into space, to elicit or construct meaningful patterns, rhythms, cycles, correspondences, interrelationships and dependencies at all levels." "Computational systems have led us to an understanding of how the design and construction of our world could constitute an emergent process, replacing the old top-down approach with a bottom-up methodology. Nano science has been particularly suggestive in this, as well as other, even more challenging respects.""Telematic systems have enabled is to distribute ourselves over multiple locations, to diversify our identity, to extend our reach over formidable distances with formidable speed.""After the novel, and subsequently cinema privileged narrative as he key form of cultural expression of the modern age, the computer age introduces its correlate - database. Many new media objects do not tell stories; they don't have a beginning or end; in fact, they don't have any development, thematically, formally or otherwise which would organize their elements into a sequence. Instead, they are collections of individual items, where every item has the same significance as any other.""The data stored in a database is organized for fast search and retrieval by a computer and therefore it is anything but a simple collection of items. Different types of databases - hierarchical, network, relational and object oriented - use different models to organize data.""New media objects may or may not employ these highly structured database models; however, from the point of view of user's experience a large proportion of them are databases in a more basic sense. They appear as collections of items on which the user can perform various operations: view, navigate, search.""Following art historian Ervin Panofsky's analysis of linear perspective as a 'symbolic form' of the modern age, we may even call the database a new symbolic form of a computer age..., a new way to structure our experience of ourselves and the world. Indeed, after the death of God (Nietzsche), the end of grand narratives of Enlightenment (Lyotard) and the arrival of the Web (Tim Berners-Lee), the world appears to us as an endless and unstructured collection of images, texts and other data records, it is only appropriate that we will be moved to model it as a database.""The world is reduced to two kinds of software objects which are complementary to each other: data structures and algorithms. Any process or task is reduced to an algorithm, a final sequence of simple operations which a computer can execute to accomplish a given task. Any any object in the world - be it the population of a city, or the weather over the course of a century, a chair, a human brain - is modeled as a data structure, i.e. data organized in a particular way for efficient search and retrieval." "Algorithms and data structures have a symbiotic relationship. The complex the data structure of a computer program, the simpler the algorithm needs to be, and vice versa. Together, data structures and algorithms are two halves of the ontology of the world according to a computer."  Texts by Roy Ascott's "Introduction", Engineering Nature: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era and Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media. [...]

Images Workbook


This blog isn't becoming a found images blog, I can promise you. These are just some hopefully inspirational images for what I'm working on that will help me come up with this. So it may not make a lot of sense to casual readers, but trust me, I know what I'm doing. (Ha!)[...]

Thirteen Satellite Dishes



23 Corridors


(With apologies to Dennis Cooper, from whom the idea for this was stolen.)[...]

Zeroing in on McLuhans's Politics


[These are pretty scattered remarks that are more exploratory; they are not a Statement on Marshall McLuhan.]Marshal McLuhan and Walter Benjamin often sound eerily similar, to the point at which it is impossible to evade the feeling that McLuhan is verging on plagiarism. (For example, his note on the influence of newspaper layout on avant-garde poetry seems to ripped out of xxBenjamin`s essay, with Joyce and Eliot standing in for McLuhan where Mallarmé stands for Benjamin.) There is, of course, no evidence as to whether McLuhan, despite his evident erudition, had ever read Benjamin, whose critical stock has only been at its current standard in the last twenty or so years. What are their points of convergence? Clearly, they believe the form of media conveys as much, if not more, significance than the content of the media. Furthermore, they see new media like film or the popular press having social effects in advance of social movements per se; change in the dominant media experienced by the general populace/the masses leads inexorably to social change, for better or worse. This is the sense of which both Benjamin and McLuhan speak of their investigation as an analysis of the dream life of the collective. Points of difference might be understood at a very basic level of the difference between Benjamin`s Messianic Marxism, to use Derrida`s phrase, and McLuhan`s less definable political leanings. In fact, it is exceedingly difficult to place McLuhan politically. His political divisions, despite the protestations of the immediacy and global village, are typical of that of the Cold War: the U.S. and the Russians; the U.S. and Europe; the U.S., Canada and England; the First World and the Third World (particularly Africa's putatively pre-literate, “tribal” nature). There is little to condemn here; McLuhan is simply, if somewhat uncritically, accepting the terms of how the world was divided in the 1950s and 1960s. To be sure, McLuhan is no Marxist. His references to Marx are, as with his references to Freud and psychoanalysis in general, cursory at best, and often dismissive. He notes: “...[w]edded as they are to nineteenth-century industrial technology as the basis of class liberation, nothing could be more subversive of the Marxian [sic] dialectic than the idea that linguistic media shape social development, as much as do the means of production” (Understanding Media), suggesting that Marx, in his study of nineteenth century industrial forms, erred in his lack of attention to technology as a source of social change without reference to the specific configurations that these technologies might have taken at a particular historical juncture. To put it very roughly: Marx saw economic configurations, as embodied in base and superstructure and in class formations, as the basis for describing a sociopolitical situation as well as predicting its future configurations. McLuhan, on the other hand, asserts that prior to economic configurations come the technological developments that make these configurations possible. Therefore, technology is the base, with the rest as superstructural development. There is, as is a tediously well-known fact, a founding ambivalence to McLuhan's attitude towards technology. Its a bit of a shock to read his early work The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951, thirteen years before Understanding Media), not the least of which for its surprisingly paternalistic dismissal of popular culture that is part and parcel with the vast tide of contemporary denunciations of comic books, advertisements, “the Great Books” etc.. The Mechanical Bride, unlike analogous jeremiads from on high on the people deluded enough to enjoy quizz shows, has the virtue of being hilariously funny – for the :Men of Distinction” [...]

The New Ennui Dictionary of Quotes



"Being exhausted is much more than being tired. It's not just tiredness, I'm not just tired, in spite of the climb.' The tired person no longer has any (subjective) possibility at his disposal; he therefore cannot realize the slightest (objective) possibility. But the latter remains, because one can never realize the whole of the possible; in fact, one even creates the possible to the extent that one realizes it. The tired person has merely exhausted the realization, whereas the exhausted person exhausts the whole of the possible. The tired person can no longer realize, but the exhausted person can no longer possibilize. 'That the impossible should be asked of me, good, what else would be asked of me.' There is no longer any possible; a relentless Spinozism. Does he exhaust the possible because he himself is exhausted, or is he exhausted because he has exhausted the possible? He exhausts himself in exhausting the possible, and vice-versa. He exhausts that which, in the possible, is not realized. He has done with the possible, beyond all tiredness, 'for to end yet again.'"

Gilles Deleuze, "The Exhausted"

The New Ennui Dictionary of Quotes



Forever be accursed the star under which I was born, may no sky protect it, let in crumble in space like dust without honour! And let the traitorous moment that cast me among the creatures be forever erased from the lists of Time! My desires can no longer deal with this mixture of life and death in which eternity daily rots. Weary of the future, I have traversed its days, and yet I am tormented by the intemperance of unknown thirsts. Like a frenzied sage, dead to the world and frantic against it, I invalidate my illusions only to irritate them the more. This exasperation in an unforeseeable universe - where nonetheless everything repeats itself - will it ever come to an end? How long must I keep telling myself: "I loathe this life I idolize?" The nullity of our deleriums makes us all so many gods subject to an insipid fatality. Why rebel any longer against the symmetry of this world when Chaos itself can only be a system of disorders? Our fate being to rot with the continents and the stars, we drag on, like resigned sick men, and to the end of time, the curiosity of a denouement that is forseen, frightful and vain.

- E. M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay

The New Ennui Dictionary of Quotes



Life is only science now. The science of the sciences. Now we are suddenly taken up with nature. We have become intimate with the elements. We have put reality to the test. Reality has put us to the test. We now know the laws of nature, the infinite High laws of nature, and we an study them in reality and in truth. We no longer have to rely on assumptions. When we look into nature, we no longer see ghosts. We have written the boldest chapters in the book of world history, everyone of us has written it for himself in fright and deathly fear and none of us of our own free will, nor according to his own taste, but following the laws of nature, and we have written this chapter behind the backs of our blind fathers and our foolish teachers, behind our own backs; after so much that has been endlessly long and dull, the shortest and most important.

We are frightened by the clarity out of which our world suddenly is born, our world of science; we freeze in this clarity; but we wanted this clarity, we evoked it; so we cannot complain now that the cold reigns and we’re freezing. The cold increases with the clarity. This clarity and this cold will now rule us. The science of nature will give us greater clarity and will be far colder than we can imagine.

Everything will be clear, a clarity that increases and deepens unending, and everything will be cold, a coldness that intensifies ever more horribly. In the future we will have the impression of a day that is endlessly clear and endlessly cold.

Thomas Bernhard, Speech at the Award Ceremony for the Literature Prize of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen

The New Ennui Dictionary of Quotes



"There is nothing innocuous left. The little pleasures, expressions of life that seemed exempt from the responsibility of thought, not only have an element of defiant silliness, of callous refusal to see, but directly serve their dialectical opposite. Even the blossoming tree lies the moment is bloom is seen without the shade of terror; even the innocent 'How lovely!' becomes an excuse for an existence outrageously unlovely, and there is no beauty or consolation except in the gaze falling on horror, withstanding it, and in the unalleviated consciousness of negativity holding fast to the possibility of what is better. Mistrust is called for in the space of all spontaneity, impetuosity, all letting oneself go, for it implies pliancy towards the superior might of the existent. The malignant deeper meaning of ease, once confined to toasts of conviviality, has long since spread to more appealing impulses. The chance conversation on a train, when, to avoid dispute, one consents to a few statements that one knows ultimately to implicate murder, is already a betrayal; no thought is immune against communication, and to utter it in the wrong place and in wrong agreement is enough to undermine its truth. Every visit to the cinema leaves me, against all my vigilance, stupider and worse. Sociability itself connives at injustice by pretending that in this chill world we can still talk to each other, and the casual amiable remark contributes to perpetuating silence, that concessions made to the interlocutor debase him once more in the person of speaker. The evil principle that was always latent in affability unfurls its bestiality in the egalitarian spirit. Condescension, and thinking oneself no better, are the same. To adapt to the weakness of the oppressed is to affirm in it the pre-condition of power, and to develop in oneself the coarseness, insensibility and violence needed to exert domination.... For the intellectual, inviolable isolation is now the only way of showing some measure of solidarity. All collaboration, all the human worth of social mixing and participation, merely masks a tacit acceptance of inhumanity. It is the sufferings of men [sic] that should be shared: the smallest step towards their pleasures is one towards the hardening of their pains."
- Theodore Adorno, Minima Moralia

A New Ennui Happy Holiday Message


"Anyways, these ideas or feelings or ramblings had their satisfactions. They turned the pain of others into memories of one's own. They turned pain, which is natural, enduring and eternally triumphant, into personal memory, which is human, brief and eternally elusive. They turned a brutal story of injustice and abuse, an incoherent howl with no beginning or end, into a neatly structured story in which suicide was always held out as a possibility. They turned flight into freedom, even if freedom meant no more than the perpetuation of flight. They turned chaos into order, even if it was at the cost of what is commonly known as sanity."

- Roberto Bolano, 2666

Now You Know


Cleaning up the spam in revealed this little gem: 

I love coming here and reading about all the intresting things on this site everyday. There is nothing better than learning how to make money online and coming here really helps.


Anything I can  do to help!

send + receive v. 12



For the 12th edition of send + receive, we are tying together threads of approaches with a loose string and wire theme…

Where wires are a constant at send + receive, simply by the nature of electronics and electricity, this year’s focus is unique in its extension from wires to strings and their uses in sonic exploration. We will see stringed instruments played in unorthodox ways by eminent and singular prepared guitarist Keith Rowe (UK), multi-faceted experimental violinist Spencer Yeh (US), earth-shaking drone violinist Anju Singh (VAN), and riveting tonal guitarist Oren Ambarchi (AU).

We will see piano wire used as a conducting instrument in a play on the historic minimalist work ‘music on a long thin wire’ by Alvin Lucier, in our Friday daytime installation Alvin Lucifer by Ontario artists living abroad,Brian Joseph Davis and Steven Kado.

Wires and electric currents are quintessential to the above mentioned artists as well as to performers like Erin Sexton (MTL), with her hand built oscillators, Montreal group Artificiel with their sonic and visual illustration of electricity through their hand-built Tesla coil, and to the distorted resonances of Michel Germain’s (WPG) cymbal tones.

For more information, click here! I'll be there every night, and so should you.

Put the Book Back on the Shelf 3: The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell


[These are really brief notes on an enormous book that was sparked by Douglas Murphy's post.]For a book that deals with some of the worst moments in human history, the most surprising thing to me about The Kindly Ones was how difficult it was to put down. Douglas Murphy supplies a few reasons – the mythological underpinnings, the Forrest Gumpery. The latter is particularly effective, for although Maximillian Au is no ingénue, there is something of the Good Soldier Schwejk (with admittedly less beer drinking and farting and more Mozart and gay cruising) about him. He is the very idea of the bureaucrat (although Murphy notes the family tragedy which lifts him from the banality of evil stereotype, more on which later) whose insistence of his lack of personal responsibility seems almost genuine; while he is in the middle of (in)famous historic events, they don’t particularly effect him as much as stress him out. Or so it seems. By making Au the main vessel of consciousness, Littell compels us to at least provisionally identify with him, at least if you want to get further than 50 pages into the book. Which is especially odd given what a neither/nor character Au actually is. On the one hand, we have a character right out of Visconti’s The Damned – a cruisy queer Nazi with incestuous feelings with his sister and homicidal feelings towards his mother. (Is there not something slightly clichéd about this? It seems as though Littell avoided the Eichmann-bureaucrat stereotype but fell right into another. Perhaps we should declare a moratorium on Queer Nazis; there weren’t that many to begin with, and by the 1940s there were a lot fewer.) On the other, there is the sentimental murderer, feeling sorrow over the possibility that he might never hear Bach again, or talk to someone about Tertullan. What Au signally lacks is mediation between the private fact of his psychopathology and the larger pathologies of History. The mediators haven’t vanished in a Weberian sense; they have been withdrawn. Try as one might, its hard to avoid the Zizek point about “the totalitarian personality”, for want of a better term): the inner detachment and cynically distance from power, the “I personally have nothing against the Jews, but the if that’s the Law, then that’s the Law” syndrome that manifests itself in his revulsion by the more virulent anti-Semites in the SS, the tactical withdrawal into the rhythms of personal gemuchlikeit (tea, decent food, musical scores, privacy). This purposed withdrawal of any affect mediating between personal and social might be linked to Au’s mental disintegration, as Murphy points out. (Confession: I thought that the sexual fantasies that take up part of the last third of the book were real.) What, for example, to make of the murder of his mother and step-father. Like the two detectives, we the readers are certain that Au probably did kill them, but there is nevertheless absolutely no textual evidence to support this, and Au retains not even a traumatic gap in his memory regarding what must have been a very bloody moment. This apparent absence of trauma is one of the things that is interesting about Au’s character. But at the same time, he is not the typically sociopath that one would expect him to be; if anything, he often resembles his erstwhile opposite number: Leopold Bloom, in his desire to make his way in the world with as little fuss as possible. In what sense, then, is Au’s psyche broken-down? Or more specifically, what is the cause of this breakdown? The fact that he finds himself present[...]

Frued after Derrida Conference at University of Manitoba



Engaging Freud’s work as it continues to inform and provoke research and discussion across the disciplines (e.g., architecture, film, history, literature, philosophy, religion, science), and particularly, as it opens through and “after Derrida.” Topics to be considered include: psychoanalysis and the literary text, temporality, space, technics, responsibility, animality, embodiment, memory, dream, writing, the uncanny, life, death, desire, repetition, law, sovereignty, sexuality, silence, mourning, testimony, the unconscious, repression, identity, family.

Further information here.

What's up Vienna! What's Up Montreal! What's Up Winnipeg!


WHAT'S UP VIENNA! WHAT'S UP WINNIPEG! A two-part, two-city encounter of sound, film and video Curated by Michaela Grill, Christof Kurzmann and Steve Bates FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010 CKUW 95.9 fm, the West End Cultural Centre and send + receive present : RADIAN TIM HECKER with MICHAELA GRILL and BILLY ROISZ DIDI BRUCKMAYR+Film and video work by Ernst Schmidt Jr., Albert Sackl, Jan Machacek, VALIE EXPORT, Kurt Kren, Didi Bruckmayr and Michael Strohmann West End Cultural Centre 586 Ellice Avenue Doors 7:15 pm Film/video: 7:30 pm, music to follow Tickets $12 in advance/ $15 at the door available at Ticketmaster, Music Trader and the West End. SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 2010 CKUW 95.9 fm, and send + receive present : CHRISTOF KURZMANN and MICHAELA GRILL NTSC CHRISTOF KURZMANN and crys cole dieb 13 and MICHEL GERMAIN and MARTIN BRANDLMAYR (Radian)+Film and video work by Tina Frank, Martin Arnold, Peter Tscherkassky, Billy Roisz, Michaela Grill and Martin Siewert, [n:ja], Peter Kubelka, Gustav Deutsch Urban Shaman 203-290 McDermot Avenue Doors: 7:30 pm Film/video: 8:00 pm, music to follow Tickets $10 at the door What’s Up Vienna! What’s Up Montréal! A two-part, two-city encounter of sound, film and video Curated by Michaela Grill, Christof Kurzmann and Steve Bates What’s Up Vienna! What’s Up Montréal! is both a celebratory championing of exciting work emerging from the two cities as well as a challenge to keep innovating. It is a coming together of the experimental music, video, and film communities active in each city played in and off the other. It is a look and listen to the work that exists just under the radar, perhaps happily so, but destined to make reverberations later in the larger culture they come from. The artists involved in What’s Up Vienna! What’s Up Montréal! come together for two intense periods, once in Montréal (and Winnipeg) and again in Vienna. They will perform their own works and instigate new collaborations through this encounter. Winnipeg is also included in this first edition as the initial connections between the curators came about when Steve Bates, (then living in Winnipeg) presented the work of the Viennese quartet, My Kingdom for a Lullaby, at Send + Receive: A Festival of Sound in 2003, of which Michaela Grill and Christof Kurtzmann, co-curators for What’s Up Vienna! What’s Up Montréal! are members. For the Winnipeg edition of the exhibition, Tim Hecker will be on hand from Montréal while two local artists, long associated with experimental sonic forms, Michel Germain, long –time technical director of Send + Receive, and crys cole, the current Artistic Director of the festival, are included in the line up. Artists selected for the program cover a wide breadth of technique but all possess a singular approach to their artistic practice. This program, consisting of live music, film and video art, features Radian, an electroacoustic band that combines microscopic sonic detail into its rock dynamic. Emotional and cerebral in the same song, the group expands the rock palette to new extremes. Didi Bruckmayr has a doctoral degree in economics, is a performance artist, a musician and extreme vocalist. Christof Kurzmann is interested in improvised music and electropop songs. He is an internationally respected improvisor of electroacoustic music, conscientious objector, and concert organizer/label owner. Michaela Grill is a video artist who frequently collaborates with improvising musicians. She was recently the recipient of a major awa[...]

Deeper Into Movies 7


Pickpocket - Robert Bresson My first Bresson film, which is frankly a little embarrassing. First remark - this isn’t a completely anti-psychological film. At the very beginning, Michel does seem to be getting some sort of sexual release when he opens the woman’s purse and removes her money. Similarly, the remarks he makes to Jeanne about his alcoholic father and disinterested mother get uncomfortably close to a banal sociology of the “anti-social personality” that Bresson goes out of his way, in the opening statement, to avoid. But, as with the sexually compulsiveness suggested at the beginning, this is some pretty attenuated characterization. Michel, Jacques, Jeanne and the police chief/Grand Inquisitor all speculate as to his motives, but it is as thought we the audience were only getting a mere fraction of the conversation. For example, Michel’s self-imposed isolation from the world on which both Jacques and Jeanne remark is never really explained. It is treated as a donnée, just something Michel does to the perplexity of his friends. In fact, there is a decided famine of motivation in general - a couple of pseudo-causes as to Michel’s kleptomania, if that’s what it is - but nothing to explain the relentlessness of his decision to take on the role of criminal. Second remark - obviously, Michel is a Raskolnikov in palimpsest, but the difference between the luridness of Dostoevsky’s novel and Bresson’s film is worth noting. The pleasure of Dostoevsky in general is this luridness, of too-muchedness: pedophiles and prostitutes and bone-crunching poverty collaged with lengthy disquisitions on God, morality and politics. While he may be a little too worthy, its hard not to see Doestoevsky as a kind of pulp-modernist in the way that Lovecraft and P.K. Dick are. Bresson, on the other hand, seems to operate in a more unstable terrain. Michel does not finally confess in order for resurrection to occur. The love affair, if that’s what it is, between Michel and Jeanne seems to be little more than a narrative device with little to do other than provide a means by which the film can continue. In this sense, it is little different from the vaudeville routines that Vladimir and Estragon use to pass the time in Waiting for Godot. The action is not where the action is in this case. Which leads us to… Third remark - purely at the level of sheer visual pleasure, the ballet of hands, arms, wallets, pockets, newspapers and overcoats was astonishing. This is where the interest lies, and why it is easy to appreciate the enthusiasm that a Godard or a Truffaut would have had for Bresson. Pure cinema, without extraneous content. Its concepts visible in movement and time.I have a feeling I have a new hobby-horse.[...]

Happy Holidays from the New Ennui



Something to tide everyone over until some new posts, soon to be coming thick and fast. In the meantime, I heart Chris Marker, and so should you.

And the rest is cinema - 4


Enter Structuralism. It is my firmly held conviction that Structuralism, after Freudianism and Marxism, was the last great intellectual adventure of the twentieth century, and so I sometimes get touchy when it is taken in vain. However, not having seen A Married Woman (the context of Godard’s first overt use of structuralist-inspired film work), I’m reticent about discussing Brody’s analysis. Is this, for example, true?A Married Woman firmly established Godard as a politically and socially engaged artist. It placed him fully within his times and put the times firmly on his side. It also established the tonality of his work to come, both in its forthright assertion of the cinema as an analytical instrument and in its unique permeability to the events, moods and ideas of its day. Yet the specific view of the contemporary work that Godard offered was not favourable. Instead, he further developed the moralizing and puritanical critique of a modern life… - in other words, a critique of the world in which it was plausible for Anna Karina to leave him [as had happened at this time.] Godard’s intellectual and documentary engagement with his times would converge upon the burning point of his romantic agony, which it would reveal and salve, and to which it would offer the prospect - or dream - of a favourable resolution, literally a conservative revolution [I.e. the abandonment of adulterous passion for conjugal bliss.]If Godard’s social outlook was conservative, his filmmaking was frenetically radical. The film’s startling fragmentation and abstraction reflect the modern philosophy [I.e. structuralism] that was on Godard’s mind - and his loss of faith in familiar Hollywood styles. Paradoxically, the frustrating uncertainty behind its conception lent The Married Woman an air of desperate urgency that seemed not merely the filmmaker’s but the era’s. (190-1)There is a certain obfuscation at work here, or, perhaps, a core ambiguity around the term “conservative”. Cultural conservatives, as Brody understands it, implies the tradition of the old High/Low distinction in the art: that there is a Tradition of Great Works that cohere - important elision here - into a moral unity. Thus Brody can play on a received idea of aesthetic morality/moral aesthetics and contrast it to the hedonism ascribed to mass culture. There are three points that should be made here:1. The assertion of an aesthetic-moral Tradition was, I think, as much tactical as anything else for Godard, who never ceased making the claim that the inheritor of this Tradition was Cinema as such. This legitimizes Cinema as an art form and also allows Godard to postulate it as Other to mass culture.2. I personally find it somewhat touching, even a little charming, that these aesthetic conflicts, clearly felt very deeply by Godard, had a human-all-too-human source: “Godard could only assume that, were [Anna] Karina authentically free, liberated from the false consciousness of media propaganda, she would discover within herself her authentic nature, her true desire, her natural virtue and would come back to him”(199).[1] I think that part of the power of the films that Godard and Karina made together does to some degree depend on the evident pleasure on Godard takes in filming her, as Rossellini did Ingrid Bergman, and Ingmar Bergman did Liv Ullmann, as Pasolini did Ninetto Davolia. Obviously, there is a less pleasant side to this: men fr[...]

Deeper Into Movies 6


Blue - Derek Jarman I caught myself looking at shoes in a shop window. I thought of going in and buying a pair, but stopped myself. The shoes I am wearing at the moment should be sufficient to walk me out of life.Cezanne: “Things are looking bad. You have to hurry if you want to see anything. Everything is disappearing.”The Mediterranean blue is fading on the 35mm film, so badly spooled that it took three tries before the chimes would ring. Scratches that appeared like boils and sores on a retina, black starlings flocking and dispersing. At times, the blue seemed washed out altogether, fading. But if there is one thing that we are sure of by the end of the movie, everything fades eventually. Sometimes in the time it takes to boil a kettle or break a heart. Or to watch a film.I seem to recall a white screen the first time I saw it, at the beginning.Proust: “…the memory of a certain image is only regret for a certain moment”Jarman’s blindness was as monstrous as Baudelaire’s aphasia or the madness of philosophers. Do we lose the vital things first, leaving the juddering, wracked body to trail in its wake? Until there is only a spasm of lucidity, longing for its own annihilation?But the origin of “monstrous” is the same as “to demonstrate.” In response to blindness, Jarman bathes our eyes in lush blues in what is in some ways his most straightforwardly narrative work. We leave the hospital and end in a reverie of blue skies, soft breezes, lapping water. Slender cool fingers reach to touch an antique smile. This is a demonstration of Jarman’s generosity, as is his installation of compassion and courage at the heart of the infinity he allows us to glimpse at 24 frames per second.And there is righteous indignation. The virus rages fierce. I have no friends who are not dead or dying. The flashes of rage, protest (a demonstration), sorrow are mixed with the blue of bliss, the impatient youths of the sun dancing amid emerald lasers and coral amphora. A life lived with eyes open.Blanchot: “The quick of life would be the burn of a wound - a hurt so lively, a flame so avid that it is not content to live and be present, but consumes all that is present till presence is precisely what is exempt from the present. The quick of life is the exemplarity, in the absence of any example, of un-presence, of un-life; absence in its vivacity always coming back without ever coming.” My ghostly eye.In Blue, Jarman creates the ultimate film, a film which exists only as film, spirit in matter (as he used to say). The point of minimal difference between not-film and Film. In this, he is a fellow traveller with Malevich, Cage and Beckett, other artists who marked the barely necessary condition for the work of art (film, painting, music, literature) to exist. An interstitial zone prior to recognition, where ghosts reside. Jarman hears their voices, and they flicker at the edge of the screen, made bold by the rising forth of Blue. The voices of dead friends: David, Terry, Graham, Howard, Paul. Of dead possibilities, stranding us in an agonized world (Sarajevo, the woman in the taxi crying before the helpless Jarman). The world is dying, but we do not know it. Filling up with spectres, ghosts.Derrida: “The spectre, as its name indicates, is the frequency of a certain visibility. But the visibility of the invisible. And visibility, by its essence, is not seen…. The spectre is also[...]