cruising the metro on premium petrol
At a school, pretty much all of the kids came in one day having watched the same documentary the night before on telly. They are all twitching and swearing, all through the day. Whenever they can. The programme was about a boy with Tourette’s syndrome. Images of conditions such as Tourette’s gain an independent existence which often end up providing people with some interesting techniques. In the middle of a supermarket you could call a tin of baked beans a cunt.
from crack-whore to president
Objections to Gangsta rap were often made on the basis of data collected in 1991 through Soundscan, a computer system which records the demographics of people buying records in the US. This survey showed that the major audience for gangsta rap was white suburban middle class males. The survey showed that white suburban middle class males were also the biggest purchasers of grunge, dance and metal. The survey did not show that Soundscan computer systems are mainly installed across middle America, specifically in mainstream record stores and record stores located in suburban shopping malls.
police van covered in blood
Criminal mindedness forms itself along the lines of sensibility transfer: a seam of interlocking perspectives that repel, dither, and co-mingle as a repository of micro-techniques in realisation. Watching, arranging, guessing, making gestures. Standing around waiting for something to happen more often than actually making one thing move to somewhere else. For the search devices of a multitude of capitalisms and anti-capitalisms, it forms a grey area of R&D within which to operate.
Crime is formulated as transgression of the law, or of law. In the first case it is defined by the boundaries and ambitions of a bureaucratic schema; in the second, produced in the horrific ablation of the just. The schema of the law is constructed in order that citizens may turn their backs on horror. Understanding this, De Sade – through verbal violence – turned the compositional technique of law into a motor of horror.
Criminality as sensibility, cannot easily develop an archive. It cannot found itself on statutes or the centuries old accretion of judgements. As far as it is systematic, of itself, it is nervous. It lives in, or within the smell of, horror. When attempts are made to specify these micro-techniques, and to capture them into a new counter-schema – as for instance in the case of Steal This Book by the Yippie Abbie Hoffman where the specifics of shoplifting, scamming, free circulation were subject to grandiose public definition and thus sealed up – they cease to operate, or effectively become traps for the unwary.
Inside a metal and plate glass display cabinet on a wall in Waterloo rail station: deluxe luggage tag; pocket torch; worldwide travel plug; travel clock; mini combination padlock; mini key padlock; ‘Body Bank’ de-luxe neck wallet organiser (female model); ‘The Insider’ pick pocket-proof travel pouch attached by loops to belt and folded inside trousers (male model); ‘Inflater’ travel cushion; ‘Snoozer’ yoke style inflatable cushion; ‘Fold-a-flight’, foldaway shoulder bag; mini umbrella; ‘Fold-a-case’ foldaway overnight case. Here, on display at last, are the devices with which to gain the security of self and property; to ensure the wise traveller’s bodily comfort and connection to the grids of power and time. Gadgets attempt to induce a relationship of transcendence, and in the form of this display case, pose a question. What combination, number or variety of these devices is optimal: would provide the traveller with unperturbed movement in any context; or would enable the savouring of the maximum of divergent or perplexing sensations whilst maintaining the requisite happy cohesion?
quick-cuffs, pager, mag-lite, handcuffs, baton, walkie-talkie
The best way to involve someone in a fraud is to initiate them by what they consider to be a minor illegality.
Shopping Strategies: End of Season League Positions
1. conspicuous non-consumption as badge of moral superiority
2. looking good in the face of capital
3. bootleg acessorisation
4. false consciousness
5. wilful semiotic contamination as act of solidarity
A CID cop, buying his clothes in BHS. Anything will do. He may be seen attentively to assume soft, sporty, casual attire. His purchases are strictly neutral. They must be made. The humanity outside never stops begging for his marks of attention. Movement on the street and amongst the clothes racks wheedles for the one safe and understandable response from him. He must obtain these clothes in order to pass amongst them; to countervail the tumult of responses that their bodies will press against him. He must liquidate their authority over his senses. Even peripheral involvement with these human suckholes is of the most draining horror in their demand for the humiliation and punishment that only he is able to bring down upon them.
As he runs his fingers into the pockets of a navy blouson jacket, checking the size of the pockets, he remembers his Father reading out loud to the family.
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Out of the corner of his eye he sees the studious upturned faces of the other children pressing up against the edges of the table. Mother impassive at the other end from the reader gestures his eyes back to him.
“One ever feels his twoness – an American and a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unrecognised strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”1
The reverie leaves him. Working with his hands hidden inside the racks of other jackets he bunches one up, and turning away from the camera tucks it under his left arm where it is concealed by the folds of his coat. He walks out of the store.
no drugs, no hats, no trainers
Where the rich use accountants, the rest of us make use of personalities. “Protective alienation of the real person from the performing individual.”2
A chameleon skin is worn. It is tailored not of photographic film, to bring pictures to please the master back from the darkness, but of mirrors. The mirrors are bent. They throw back everything just as it should be.
Keeping it real
On 15th October 1997 four men were sent down for up to eight years. The first to be caught via a nationwide use of the National Criminal DNA Register, they were convicted of stealing and selling RAM chips. As part of the historical shift of agency towards the specifically traceable genes and electrons they were trading in the commodity that allowed their capture. Large scale gene isolation, mapping and recording was only made possible by the advent of computers.
The sole inhabitant of this world is a logic machine. The machine consists of two parts: a finite set of operating rules, built somehow into the works and unchangeable during operation, and a tape of unlimited length, upon which changeable information can be stored.
The tape is divided up into cells. They may each contain only one symbol. There is a marker to dictate which cell is being inspected at any given moment. The tape holds the information that the machine is to process.
The machine knows no compunction, no remorse, no guilt. It stutters signs of equivocation only when nothing is running through it; when nothing is happening.
Events piling up of their own accord. There is something insane about the momentum with which the marker slides now back and now down. The machine is sequential: it operates by activating one rule at a time, performing the actions prescribed by that rule, and then activating another. What had taken ages to build was demolished at a touch. Everything crumbled in the twinkling of an eye, rewritten. If the machine chooses to write any output it must do so somewhere on the same tape. It may write over input information. The number of cells growing is without limit.
Before and after each operation the machine enters a state. The machine only knows two things: its current state and the current cell pointed to. This is all it needs.
When it gets into a state the current cell begins to grow. It forms another – anywhere along the tape. Thick white flesh string of knots. Covered in a sheath of mucus. Never exposed to sunlight. It just grows, just records, devours time. Coils piling up. Kills time. Operation after operation. Kills thought. Growth upon growth.
Two men from a large organisation are assigned to transport an object from one section to another. The journey is hundreds of miles. They use a special white transit van normally used to transport prisoners. Moving this thing is a secret. It is obvious that the object is some sort of security risk and that completing the task will stretch their capabilities to their limits.
One of the men is older, disciplinarian, intolerant. The other is younger, involved in misappropriation of the organisation’s resources. He is shortly to leave and start up a new life. He will sit on top of a bank account made up of secret shavings from thousands of the organisation’s transactions. Smiling into an overdraft. This thing that he was forced to do mustn’t get in the way of his plans. Throughout the journey it is unclear quite what the object is. At one time it breaks loose from the van and they panic, but it is recaptured. It appears seductive, profitable, homicidal. The men are not sure how to deal with the situation.
They drive through the edges of the city, the suburbs. At a petrol station they stop and fill up. At the petrol station an incident occurs which nearly compromises – which means to destroy but politely – the security of the operation. Because there are two men and only one object they are able to outnumber it and catch it by pretending to be two different people. By working together in their different ways to catch the object the men are able to change their understanding of each other.
The object seems to be organic. During one of the stops one or the other of the men attempts to discover what it is. The documentation that they carry only attends to who is responsible for every aspect of the security and care of the object at any given moment. At the moment they are responsible. They have hundreds of miles to travel before passing it over to the next organisation.
One of the men feels around the object with his fingers. It is full of holes. During one stop the other man is asleep. He, the younger man, takes the object out of its secure holding to investigate further. He even puts his penis inside it. He is clearly insane. This is done in secret. This act compromises the ability of the vehicle to go in a straight line. They crash miles from anywhere. They are lost from the over-view of the schedule and the organisation. To make matters worse the young man, his behaviour, becomes more and more contaminated by the object. They are now between the organisation that sent them and the one they are going towards. The young man’s reason has gone, he has become sicker and sicker. He is unable to make a judgement. The older man knows the best way he can help him is by becoming hard and making the power of horror overcome the temporary weakness of his body. He is brutal and skilled in the application of small terrors.
This situation makes the younger man’s head seize up. He can do nothing except keep trying to snatch glances, trying to understand what it is. His is filled with a liquid terror that seems to hammer in side him and come out of his skin like some evaporation. This is something he doesn’t want the older man to know about. At one stop, he gets out of the van and puts his head up against a wall and pukes. He does not register to the object. He knows he will never be at its level until he destroys himself completely. The older man doesn’t believe that this is happening. They fight.
The younger man is being digested by the object, from touching it. When they fight this helps him. When they finish and he has won the fight he feels sad because he knows he is now completely outside of the organisation that the older man is inside. He is outside the law but in outside it in a way that’s more drastic than when he was inside of it but ripping it off. The older man’s shirt is black with dried blood. He respects the other man now.
Because he is outside, the young man can now speak to the woman. It’s obvious, but this is what he has now found out that the object is, that’s the way it occurred. She is intelligent and strong – she’s tried to escape twice – and blonde and beautiful and pretty so much so that it makes it tedious to contemplate.
They are hundreds of miles from where they started and because of the escape attempts they are nearly a day late in bringing her to the other organisation. This other organisation is a separate one inside of a larger organisation which also contains the one the older man is still inside and which the younger one has been cut off from. There is no way they can even appear to go wrong.
They take a short cut across some deserted country. It is freezing cold. The van breaks down. They wander across the frozen moor to look for some help. They are lost, then they fall down an abandoned mine-shaft. They see death. They know they are going to starve or freeze or fall to death as they are unable to climb out of the hole. In the hole is complete and utter blackness. The rocks are softly shaped from running water and the years of the mine workings.
Despite the fact that they are taking her to be consumed by the other organisation which they understand to mean her death, after a long time in the mine the two men see that the woman has gone and found some rope which she lowers down into the mine shaft. They had not noticed that she had not fallen into the hole. This means they still have something to learn so that the story can go on. The rope is brand new and very expensive looking. This means that the film maker still has something to learn. They climb up the rope.
Because the woman saved them when they didn’t expect her too, or didn’t even notice that she could the two men are now joined with her in another kind of organisation. A counter-memory of owed favours, shared bullshit and intimidation. It also mean that the younger man and the woman love each other without saying it but fucking. This new organisation is different. Being part of it means that the two men have to help the woman escape the other organisation which is part of the larger organisation that the organisation which owns them is part of and that they now also have to escape from.
gimme some raw data
Application forms, like history, are written by the victors. The difference between a B1 and a form applying for a grant from the Arts Council is that whilst the former just requires straight points of fact to be supplied with whatever degree of veracity, the latter requires more subservience, more socialisation, from the applicant. When shall we see the day when requests for unemployment benefit are made under such romantic headings as: ‘proposal’?
freephone the cops
Police live the form-filling and waiting life of doleys improved only by a license to spastic bursts of occasional violence, a diet of Tagamet and the ready availability of enough over-time to ignore whatever they need to ignore. There’s a book called Death Scenes published by Feral House in the States. Most of their books are to do with showing how much death they can stomach. This book is different though because it is quite openly a topology of a cop’s mind. A testament that because it is pulled documentarily out of a third person doesn’t get quite so trapped into being simply transgressive. That of course, would be up to the reader.
DEATH SCENES is a facsimile of a photo-album collected and put-together by Jack Huddleston, a Californian cop working between the Twenties and Fifties. The collection is prefaced by a brief signed introduction. The intent is apparently purely didactic. “To show the story of the peace officer and his problems.”3 That just as surely as cops form the only wall holding back a tidal wave of unrelenting criminal chaos, that ‘Crime does not pay’ – either that or a thin masking device for a private selection of the choicest cuts.
Either way, Deathscenes is a form of moral database, a leaky property cupboard damning the viewer with culpability for membership in an insane species: Scene of Crime photographs, the contents of morgue drawers, accidents, suicides, murders, explosions, fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, bodies thrown amongst blood-spattered trinkets, tatty curtains, landlord furniture, a guy who drowned sleeping in the bath, mug shots of prostitutes, petty criminals, lesbians, safe blowers, dealers…
This archive to be viewed through eye-shaped stab-wounds produces a diagrammatic stations of the cross for a religion based on the repeated dumb epiphany of the fragile surface tension of skin and the exquisite facility of control. As the victims, details and freaks pile up in its pages, two thresholds are achieved. The first is the ‘distance’ that a professional must hold from the horror within which he works. The second is something that oozes into existence the more that is encompassed within its pages.
In the city, tens of thousands of variables are acting on each other. At a certain threshold of interrelation the results of certain behaviours end up glued into this book. The data it incorporates goes in torrents of overflow, past the minimal array of sets applied to them. The cop can’t handle it, so into his personalised circle of hell he pulls in photographs of victims of illnesses labelled hydrophobia, leprosy and elephantiasis; of the genitals of a hermaphrodite wrenched open for the camera by thick rubber gloved hands a guy covered in ‘lewd’ tattoos; on facing pages, photos of a shrunken head, and of a strangled cat with one head and two bodies. In and between the collapsing pages, connective vectors are formed: the reflection of certain textures of light; glassiness thrown from a screaming eye and a broken plate; the moistness of sets of wounds as a factor of a relational category of morbidity mapped onto the celerity or stupidity of death; black patches under chairs, in corners of rooms, spilling out from a head torn off by a shot-gun blast. Things that mean nothing begin, by the sole virtue of a ruthless proximity, to eke out a generative texture of horror.
double memory campaign
Lying nonchalant, stretched out on the floor, shoulders propped onto the wall, one hand loose in an impact shrug. Legs crossed, absent mindedly showing a length of white almost hairless calf and the clean undersides of his shoes. The left side of his head, it has crumbled into a mass of jelly. A greased back widow’s peak gone all awry on top. Thick blood streams out of both nostrils following the creases in his relaxed face down over his chin to turn his white shirt black. Face, the remaining side, the animation of the muscles gone. Face so pale and heavy you wouldn’t ever have see it that way in sleep. A shapeless mess on the other. Nothing else to be said. He’s about forty-so and is recently emptied.
He’s holding up a small card to his right eye. It’s some promotional thing.
‘This is the program:
one: eat, drink and look sharp
two: fuck as much as you can
three: get as much dope as you want without working for the money to buy it with
In order to achieve these ends we have to construct an assault on existence in a system that attempts to construct everything in terms of an answer to the following questions:
do you want flowers? would you like a new haircut? are you looking for a gift? do you require stationary? are you looking for clothes? fruit and vegetables? books? records? health and fitness facilities? health and fitness supplies? do you need a lawyer? where can I book my holiday? get my hair styled? where are the games centres?
The voice when it comes is slow. Around him, a collapsed stack of aerosol starch. Some splayed over like accidental petals and some finished rolling, a couple of metres away maybe, from where he fell. The voice, locking into place:
“I have on a black and white,” The jaw flapping up and down, not mechanically but like something getting knocked about in the wind, as the crushed side of his head starts to glisten with fresh juice, “…Checkerboard Versace chain. I have some Versace sandals that have the gold heads all around the ankles. I have on Versace spandex, a Versace top and a Versace belt…” He pauses. Everything shuts up. “Everything matches.”
The immobile bulk of the figure starts to itch into movement again.
“It’s part of my image and I love nice things; I love nice clothing. I’m always gonna shop top-notch. This latest look, it helps me like a healing medication. You’re dead. You’re happy. It makes you look like you’ve got no worries in the world. I like it. Death? The dead are innocent. It makes me happy. People may ask what lounge of stupidity, what gaming table of depravity has this foul carcass minced its way out from? They don’t know. They’re jealous. It’s simple. I’m buffed, waxed and detailed and they look like shit.”
“Now you take a look at that one over there, quite classy. Almost. She’s so cadaverous that when a fart occurs within – such velocity is reached that it takes two full minutes for her buttocks to clap back together again. It’s nice, but the clothes…. ” Skin covered in greasy cling film layers and gaffer tape, ten layers thick, scuffed and leaking. “Cheap.”
You’re like that?
“How do I keep my gaping wounds so fresh looking and juicy without resorting to such things? Easy. I have cells secreting mucus by exocytosis – no that’s not a label, it’s a biological process… They are built into my wounds. They are constantly refreshed and moist at all times. Thousands of these cellular factories are embedded into my skull to produce as much glycoprotein as I need to express my real me to the outside world in a safe and hygienic manner.”
ecouté et repeté
There is a class of visualisation devices that are constructed of perceptual mechanisms whose perspectival instructions permit viewing only by the most perfected of subjects. Virtual worlds locked into the conventions of Renaissance sight machines, singular vanishing points, parallel lines disappearing towards a maths-induced horizon; golfing worlds with perimeter fence on perpetual repeat; anti-radar missiles that are blind without being captured in the signal of the anti-aircraft station they are fired to destroy; paintings whose double contents only reveal themselves once the correct lense has been placed over them; stereographs inducing eyes to drift out of one and into another kind of focus;
They manufacture their own viewer in the act of being seen. Users of interactive art installations know this and are thus always trying to find ways in which take make themselves the perfect recipient of the art, or at least to not spend too much time trying to interact with the dumb or perhaps broken parts of the set-up when they know they have a whole show full of such conundrums ahead of them. Thus, the acute visitor to a show of electronic art first makes sure that before anything else they know where the video camera, the motion sensor, the pressure pad, the infra-red beam expects them to be. This is the only crucial part of the work.
toilet stalls, voting booths, telling counters, betting booths, language lab
An unfilled form is a desiring machine hungering for completion. If a random selection of Lambeth Council’s finest examples were buried in a timecapsule to be opened in a thousand year’s time they would be sufficiently powerful to wipe out any future perfect civilisation.
Forms are the key component in dysfunctional bureaucracy. Forms are printed on paper and designed to be read by a computer in one or more of three ways:
- mechanically scanned using character-spacing forms and optical character recognition, the requisite yesses or noes stripped out of it in a procedure culminating in another negative or positive.
- rather than letting the client directly at the machine which adjudicates the way in which the form has been filled the information is entered by an employee into the database. This employee may or may not have to interface with the client.
- Schedules of form filling are designed for employees. Records that the correct forms have been filled, that specified tests have been carried out at the correct time are filled in a
second level reading of an employees’ records. Recording the fulfilments of minimal responsibility becomes the process by which a job is kept for an individual, the process by which a contract is kept by a sub-contracting organisation, the way accusations of negligence can be disproven. It is the record that something was done – even if only an act of form-filling.
Forms are designed to receive the information that they are designed to receive and to create an unmistakable alert when this need is not met. In this way, they automate the process of protective alienation but in doing so they abnegate ‘care’.
This can work in two ways. In the context of performing a benefits application where all that is required by the ‘client’ is for the money to be extracted from the state for as long as is possible and by the person processing the client for the form to be filled in with as little disruption to the smooth processing of the claim as possible. Things go wrong in this case when either of them has an undue regard for finding out the actual context of the form filling. The impact of computation is not to make the situation any more – or even potentially more – efficient, but just to make it faster to process.
Protective alienation via forms is also used for instance in the Health Service where a patient will be summonsed to an appointment only to find out that their physical presence is solely required as a corroboration of the act of filling out the form by the health service employee. Any actual concern beyond the schedule-determined well-being of the patient is solely at the operative’s discretion and must not interfere with their ability to discharge their duties within the required time.
Forms are essentially a digital medium transferred into analogue form. They are based on yes/no switches. Things start to go wrong – and traps are laid to catch the unwary – in the sections where situations and reasons have to be described. It is in these sections that life among forms becomes a performative act and protective alienation of the real self from the performing individual becomes an essential skill.
The key aspect of the existence of forms in and between series of binary and analogue operations- that they are on paper – is also one of their key advantages with regard to dysfunctional bureaucracy. Data stored on computer is always very easy to back up. The costs of duplicating and storing paper records is extremely high. Storing records on paper means that loosing an individual document or file is far more effectively, convincingly and even ‘naturally’ done.
Elimination of Vice and Propagation of Virtue Squad
One kind of political demonstration goes like this. The marchers assemble. They mill around until the organisers move things on. The march is accompanied by a light police presence. There is a van at the front videoing the front of the march. There is a helicopter above the march, filming it and feeding information to vans of reinforcements in side streets. There are a few police accompanying the march on foot and on motorbike.
As the march progresses through the streets, key junctions are blocked off by police vehicles. At the turning points there is a special operations officer with four officers surrounding him taking photographs. His camera has a large metal shield. He is also a member of the camcorder revolution and has one ready. At the moment though he just picks off photographs of known activists and those with scarves or other clothes that could later become masks.
If these turning points are at a crucial junction, for instance at a road leading to a right-wing headquarters, genetic engineering laboratory, factory gates, government building there will be cameras hidden and visible recording the march. They will be on roofs or behind lace curtains (the depth of field set to go beyond the net). If the police choose, they can attack the march at this point and use the substantial amount of documentary evidence gathered by their action to send people to prison.
As the march progresses towards its end, the number of police accompanying it increases. The march will pass by a government ministry and the gated road to the home of the prime minister. Luckily, the police have already mounted a large, remotely operable TV-quality camera on an immense bright yellow crane and also stationed a number of mounted officers nearby.
As the march passes by they chant more loudly and toss a few placards over the gates. Some of the march stands still. Some flags are torn down from official buildings and a window is broken. Anarchy symbols are sprayed very neatly on various government buildings and monuments.
During this time, the crane mounted camera, moves about three to four metres above the heads of the crowd, recording everyone. As the crowd run out of ideas, the police horses charge into the crowd. People in the crowd fight back with fists, bunched up newspapers, empty drinks cans and more placards. At this point some of the crowd pull scarves over their mouths and noses. The bright yellow camera moves overhead, changing its position as the action moves. Apparently no-one sees it. No attempts are made to attack it.
Minimal amounts of arrests are made during this skirmish. That will come much later. Two lines of police move in support of the mounted officers. After drawing two lines across the road, they separate the marchers into two sections. The end section of the march denied entry to the square is largely made up of people with children. The two sections of the march are gradually pushed away from each other.
In the square the majority of the marchers have arrived. There are police lines across every road into the square. people are allowed to leave, but not to enter. There is music to dance to and some sort of rally over a bad PA. Police photographers with their minders wander through the crowd taking records of people. Anyone doing any technical work, people tying banners to lamp-posts, anyone moving anything. No one attacks them. No one attempts to get in their way or the way of the lense. No one follows the video camera with a car battery and electro-magnet, wiping the tape. No one wears a mask or any kind of disguise. The camera is allowed to operate freely.
let me put my axxe up your cxxt
Security guards in shops always have names. The ones in uniform have names so that they can identify themselves. It’s on the plastic badge. The plain-clothes guards, detectives, use their names in a different way. A shoplifter just walked out of a shop with something under his coat. A man walks up and says, “Excuse me sir, my name is Paul McCartney”. The thief’s mind gags. It goes: uh… that wanker? He stands still. He doesn’t also notice that the man is also saying, “I’m a detective for blahblah. Could you please accompany me back into the store.” By this time, it’s too late to run.
1 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks, Signet Classics, Harmondsworth 1985, p.45
2 Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb, The Hidden Injuries of Class, Faber and Faber, London 1993, p.196
3 Death Scenes, a homicide detective’s scrapbook, edited by Sean Tejaratchi, with an introduction by Katherine Dunn, Feral House, Portland 1996