December 20th, 2012
‘Spannered’ is a fictionalised account of the free party scene, spanning a lost weekend in the mid-1990s. In this conversation with Neil Transpontine, the novel’s author Bert Random reflects on free parties then and now, the famous Bristol scene and much more. The book is available from http://www.spanneredbooks.com/
1. Spannered reads very much like an insider’s account of the 1990s free party scene – written by somebody who was intimately involved in it, rather than by a writer who stumbled into a party in search of material for a novel. Can you say a bit about your involvement at the time and the squat party scene in Bristol (maybe mention some of the sound systems, places where parties happened etc.).
There had always been squat parties and random dances in Bristol, ever since I was a teenager. Like loads of Bristol kids of my age, I was first drawn into skateboarding when I was 13 or 14, which led to punk and graffiti and hip-hop, and then into dance music and raving. There were things happening everywhere: in squats where my mates were living, in places like the Pink Palace (which was a four-story building right in the middle of town that was filled with skate-ramps and painted with huge pink balloons on the outside), in the basements and back-rooms of dodgy pubs, and in weird, derelict, places tucked around the edges of Bristol’s inner-city. [Read more →]
November 27th, 2012
The passing of time has not been kind to many of the “stars” of industrial music or “extreme culture”. Sought after limited editions often seem limp when finally downloaded, or ossified in expensive box sets. The futile attempts at commercial crossover look embarrassing rather than courageous in retrospect. And I’ve lost count of the people whose revolutionary ideas and references inspired me as a teenager now seem like pantomime versions of themselves.
Over exposure seems to be the main pitfall, and it’s surely no coincidence that the least prolific veteran of the extreme noise/art scenes of the early eighties remains the most interesting.
Jordi Valls worked extensively with both Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse in their earliest incarnations, organising live events for both acts in London and Barcelona.iii
In 1983 he released the first of a series of remarkable albums under the name of “Vagina Dentata Organ”. From the outset VDO’s work was characterised by a minimalistic and surreal approach to field recordings. His debut “Music For The Hashishins: In Memoriam Of Hasan Sabbah” evolved out of the recording sessions for Psychic TV’s classic “Dreams Less Sweet” album. [Read more →]
November 13th, 2012
Like the Internet, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was developed first with military applications in mind. GPS enabled a precise, autonomous, and facile location of any point on the globe. The development of this technology was critical to the broad merger of cartography with database technology and statistical analysis in the second half of the 20th century. This new science, termed Geographic Information Systems (GIS), has profoundly changed our views and interactions with physical reality at both continental and minute scales. The potential for highly detailed monitoring is exhilarating for scientists, but often terrifying for divergent or contestational voices. At the same time access to these technologies is not highly controlled, which has thrown open the door for popular participation in map creation and publishing. Through GIS and GPS, cartography has become a crucial new media for expression and critique. How we choose to map reality is a cornerstone of our consensus on what exists, has existed, or will be created in a place.
The science of cartography has always had deep implications for increased control. Creation of useable world maps in the colonial period was essential to developing global shipping routes. Better maps facilitated the massive transport of resources from less technologically developed regions to those holding the most accurate picture of the world. Among the most famous are the transfer of precious metals from Central and South America to Europe, and the middle passage of African slaves to North America. Maps have historically empowered control on much smaller scales as well. Violently enforced consensus on terrestrial boundaries is the defining ingredient enabling land ownership and regulatory extents. On the other hand, iterative improvement of maps has hugely augmented our concepts of physical reality. Without a ‘birds eye view’ our notions of Earth extend only so far as we have seen, perhaps a small area only reaching the borders of town. Without a map, all the rest is unknown, the other. Early maps highlight precisely this erroneous notion, placing a given civilization at the center of the world and filling the unknown space with nothing [Figure 1]. In modern times we can view the entire globe, explore its topology, civic organization, and boundaries without leaving the house. This constitutes a major widening of perception for the human race.
Still, greatly enhanced apprehension of geographic space has been a hotly contested arena. [Read more →]
November 9th, 2012
It is now more than five years since the start of the financial crisis with no sign of respite from austerity and increasing insecurity. Neither the old left of unions and parties or the newer social movements of protest and direct action seem to be up to the task of offering a way forward. In the search for new road maps to navigate crisis and the possibilities of life beyond capitalism, the concept of ‘communisation’ has become an increasing focus of discussion.
The word itself has been around since the early days of the communist movement. The English utopian Goodwyn Barmby, credited with the being the first person to use the term communist in the English language, wrote a text as early as 1841 entitled ‘The Outlines of Communism, Associality and Communisation’. He conceived of the four ages of humanity as being ‘ ’Paradisation, Barbarization, Civilization and Communisation’, while his wife and collaborator Catherine Barmby anticipated current debates about gender with early feminist interventions arguing for communisation as a solution to women’s subordination (Goodwyn Barmby is discussed in Peter Linebaugh, ‘Meandering on the semantical-historical paths of communism and commons’, The Commoner, December 2010).
The Barmbys’ use of the term to describe the process of the creation of a communist society is not a million miles away from its current usage, but it has acquired a more specific set of meanings since the early 1970s when elements of the French ‘ultra-left’ began deploying it as a way of critiquing traditional conceptions of revolution. Communism has often been conceived of by both Marxists and anarchists as a future state of society to be achieved in the distant future long after the messy business of revolution has been sorted out. For advocates of communisation on the other hand, capitalism can only be abolished by the immediate creation of different relations between people, such as the free distribution of goods and the creation of ‘communal, moneyless, profitless, Stateless, forms of life. The process will take time to be completed, but it will start at the beginning of the revolution, which will not create the preconditions of communism: it will create communism’ (Gilles Dauvé & Karl Nesic, ‘Communisation’, 2011).
Today this broad notion of communisation is used in various different ways, but arguably there are two main poles in current debates – albeit with many shades in between. [Read more →]
November 8th, 2012
Despite the fact that at least 140 people (AIB 89) were killed by Neo-Nazis in Germany since re-unification in 1990, officially there was no such thing as Nazi terrorism in the Federal Republic. Indeed, if one looks at the book “Extremismus in Deutschland” (Extremism in Germany), published by the Ministry of the Interior in 2004, one could conclude that there is no such thing as violence from the extreme right, let alone murder and terrorism.
The yearly report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) for 2010 categorically states that “in Germany no right wing terrorist structures can be detected” (Verfassungsschutzbericht 2010, p.57). The report describes far right violence as “predominantly spontaneous”, and claims it occurs mainly between right and left wing “extremists”.
This view in mainstream politics and media forcibly changed on November 4, 2011, when the dead bodies of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos were found in a burning trailer in Eisenach, Thuringia. After a initially successful bank robbery by the suspects, police found their trailer and approached it, and then to avoid arrest, Böhnhardt apparently shot Mundlos, set the trailer on fire and then shot himself in the head. Meanwhile in Zwickau, the third of the terror trio, Beate Zschäpe (who had earlier taken part of the bank heist), was busy burning down their safehouse to destroy evidence. A few days later she gave herself up, and has since refused to make any statements.
The murder weapons used in a series of killings between 2000 and 2007 were found in the burned house along with other weapons.
The three right wing militants formed a cell called National Socialist Underground (NSU), and murdered nine men, who were small business owners (eight of Turkish and one of Greek origin), and one police woman in the course of those years. They were also responsible for a bombing in 2001 that severly wounded one woman, a nailbomb attack that wounded 22 people in Cologne in 2004, and for 14 bank robberies between 1999 and 2011.
The “Döner-killings” as they were called derogatorily in the press were heavily investigated by the police, but they did not follow any leads that suggested that the motives could have been racist and from a far right background. Instead the police assumed that the killers were from the migrant community, which often went along with the racist insinuation that the murdered men were somehow involved with criminal networks. This of course added insult to injury to the families and friends. Similarly in the case of the murdered policewoman, the suspicion was directed onto a “clan” of Roma that had parked near-by. The Bavarian police even opened a döner kebab shop in Nuremberg in the course of their “investigation”, while other police units went to consult two different fortune tellers who “contacted” victims and told the investigators completely bogus stories. So not only were the killings racist, the police operations to solve them were as well! [Read more →]