Saturday, 31 December 2011

"When you don't see it. It is still there."

I've been reading Ken Knabb's edited volume Situationist International Anthology and came across a paragraph that reminded me of something Iain Sinclair discussed in a series in The Guardian in 2009, called 'Hidden Britain'. Sinclair explains how it is only at the point of near extinction that some buildings become visible to us for the first time: “When you don't see it, it is still there. And when you do, it is on the point of disappearance.” I think this is philosophically interesting from the perspective of a kind of reverse subjective causality. This is what the Ivan Chtcheglov says in 'Formulary for a New Urbanism (1953)':

We know that an object that is not consciously noticed at the time of a first visit can, by its absence during subsequent visits, provoke an indefinable impression: as a result of this sighting backwards in time, the absence of the object becomes a presence one can feel.

Please note: I have included one of Claude Lorrain's paintings, above, because the preceding paragraph mentions him in the context of creating 'situations', and also because of the SI's interest in 'ruins'.

Situationist International Online
Situationist International Anti Public Relations Notice

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Situationist International Anti-Public Relations Notice

I just found this excellent SI notice in Ken Kabb's edited volume Situationist International Anthology. I have also included, below, an interesting quote from Raoul Vaneigem from 'Basic Banalities (Part 2)', where he is discussing the spectacle in, what turns out to be, very Baudriallardian terms:

Time itself is deprived of a centre. In this concentration-camp world, victims and torturers wear the same mask and only torture is real . . . The tortuers condemn all hierarchical power, however organised or dissimulated they may be.

The Burlesque of Psychoanalysis
The Situation at the University
Guide Psychogeographique de University of Leeds

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Carrstone Affect

Hunstanton's Historic Buildings

During the wintery months, any visitor not wishing to brave the blustery beaches of Hunstanton with it's freezing winds, might like to take a walk around some of the town's notable historical buildings. This blog highlights some of those known in the town, three of which display Civic Society coloured plaques. For those of you not familiar with the area, please note the honey-coloured bricks that many of the buildings are made of. It is a sandstone known locally as Carrstone.

Valentine Court

According to Jim Whelam, writing in the Hunstanton Newsletter:
The establishment of a convalescent home at Hunstanton was first suggested in 1869 in Ely Cathedral, so that sick and poor people from Ely could recover their health with the assistance of sea air . . . The Prince and Princess of Wales agreed to officially open the home on Easter Monday, 14th April 1879. As soon as the date was known, all the villages between Sandringham and Hunstanton began making preparations on a grand scale to honour the visit. During the Easter weekend the weather was foul with keen east winds, rain and snow. The day of the visit commenced with a dull leaden sky, no apparent sign of an improvement, and not even the numerous decorations could make Hunstanton look anything less than miserable. However by noon the clouds lifted and the sun shone, crowds gathered, the railway brought in 3,000 visitors and thousands of others entered by road.
Now a block of flats, the building appears on google searches mostly under property sales. Jim Whelam's account in the local newsletter is really interesting and can be read here:
The Royal Opening of Hunstanton Convalescent Home

Old Police Station

This old police station is great. It just looks like a 'regular' terraced house. However from 1875 to 1954 it was Hunstanton's police station. I wonder if the three cells were in the basement. One can only assume that crime was a relatively minor issue in Britain until the mid 50s, as the current police station, on the main road, is pretty big in comparison.

Children's Recovery Home

Health, for the Victorians was a major concern, some would say even an obsession, and the seaside was a perfect place for convalescing. This, once, children's recovery home is now the council offices for the town. Now that our children are not dying of diphtheria, tuberculosis and typhus these old Victorian buildings are put to other uses. I don't have the mortality figures handy for Hunstanton, but in Leeds in 1867 most people who died were 4 years old and under, and in one book I have - To prove I'm Not Forgot - Living and Dying in a Victorian City by Sylvia M. Barnard - the under one's were classed separately, because their chances of living beyond one year old was so slim.

The Old Vicarage

This is the old vicarage and is located in Northgate, at the town end of the street. Again, it is now apartments and it is difficult to find information on it online other than that on estate agents sites. However, I have included another photo of the building (below). This type of architectural detail is very popular in Hunstanton, and manifests in various forms on a number of buildings.

Often this kind of inlay appears in a square shape, which produces a tiling effect. I really like it and I wonder if it is a common style from that period that was produced mostly in this area, or whether it is more generic.

My little psychogeographico-historical trip around Hunstanton was interesting. The more time I spend in the town looking at the architecture and soaking up the ambience, the more I get in touch with its aesthetic, which feels like it is very particular to the area.

For information on my other work on Hunstanton please go to: Reading the Arcades/Reading the Promenades and look for the links for Hunstanton

Hunstanton Civic Society

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Emotionally Mapping the Campus

University of Leeds Cartography Workshop

This week, as a change from teaching cultural theory to first year BA students, I decided to run a cartography workshop to support last week's lecture on space and the city. I set the task of making an emotional map of the campus. These are the three that were awarded first (Amy Dawson - above) and joint second prizes (Bob Palmer and Katerina Lee - below).

University of Leeds
Emotion Maps - Christian Nold

Thursday, 8 December 2011

In people all over the world...we find ourselves.

I picked up this lovely little second-hand pamphlet online called The Revolutionary Pleasure of Thinking for Yourself while looking for Situationist journals. It was printed in 2003 in the US and the introduction states that the essay therein was originally published in The Spectacle in 1975.

There is one paragraph that gives an excellent example for helping explain Marxist abstraction, alienation or even the Debordian spectacle. Here it is:

Suppose that you want a cup of coffee from the vending machine at work. First, there is the cup of coffee itself: that involves the workers on the coffee plantation, the ones on the sugar plantation and in the refineries, the ones in the paper mill, and so on. Then you have the workers who made the different parts of the vending machine and the ones who assembled it. Then the ones who extracted the iron ore and bauxite, smelted the steel, and work for the electricity utility which supplies power to the machine. Then all the workers who transported the coffee, cups and machine. Then the clerks, typists, and communication workers who coordinated the production of all things necessary for the others ones to survive. That gives you a direct material relationship to several million people, in fact, to the immense majority of the world's population. They produce your life, and you help produce theirs. In this light, all artificial group identities and special group interests fade into insignificance. Imagine the potential enrichment of your life that at present is locked up in the frustrated creativity of these millions of workers, held back by obsolete and exhausting methods of production, strangled by lack of control over their own productivity, warped by the insane rationale of capital-accumulation which pits one against all and makes life a mad scramble for economic survival. Here we begin to discover a real social identity - in people all over the world who are fighting to win control over their own lives, we find ourselves.

AK Press and Distribution

Saturday, 3 December 2011

There's Summat Going on at Leeds

Click here for film

I made the above film while helping out at Gerry Turvey's Walk+Talk workshop at the Leeds Summat Gathering on Saturday November 26th 2011. It is shot on the University of Leeds campus. The old building that is featured is now a private Halls of Residence but used to be a priory. The university owned it for a period of time.

Gerry Turvey
The Priory of St Wilfred

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

J30 N30 ?30 Go!

November 30th 2011 - Public Sector Strike

Well, I've just got back from the public sector strike which took us from outside Old Mining Building, at the University of Leeds, to Woodhouse Moor (see above picture) and then into Leeds city centre. The title of my blog (for those of you old enough to remember) is taken from the Bow Wow Wow single C30 C60 C90 Go! (1980), which doesn't appear to be very revolutionary on a superficial viewing, but in the song the protagonist does challenge a copper for threatening to arrest her for taping a single! My title alludes to the June 30th 2011 strike and today's, obviously, plus any upcoming ones, which I'm sure there will be!

This is where we started our protest, outside our school at the university, on Woodhouse Lane (The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies). This is Daniel looking very determined and sporting a couple of signs saying 'strike' in different languages.

Here is one of the revolutionary dogs we met during the protest. She was wearing a bandanna and a union badge. Her owner was part of the Socialist Revolutionary Organisation who were carrying the following banner.

Above is our union's banner, the UCU (The University and College Union). But mostly our group carried handmade banners, made by the PhD students/Teaching Assistant's in the school, in an attempt to add a creative flavour to our input to the protest.

There was also face-painting carried out by Sybil, and Gail provided a performance element to the proceedings by reading out notes of support from lecturers who were unable to attend.

I particularly like the following posters which were outside one of the university entrances.

According to the lunchtime news, there were more of us than anticipated. So, it took us a while to get into the city centre. Once we got there there was not enough room for us all to gather outside the Leeds City Gallery and we flooded onto the road and consequently blocked part of the Headrow.

Today's strike was extremely heartening in terms of support, not just from those attending but also from those passing by in their cars, vans and trucks. There was a great communal spirit and plenty of fervour to take us to the next step. Watch out Cameron!

To close my blog I'd like to add a few Situationist slogans that were used in the 1960s and are still relevant today:

No replastering, the structure is rotten!

We'll ask nothing; we'll take, occupy!

Action must not be a reaction, but a creation!

Reform my ass!

Public Sector Strikes - The Situation at the University
J30: The City is on Strike

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Anti-University

While looking up the situationist Alexander Trocchi online, I came across the above super poster on Peter Watts blog I noticed the anti-psychiatry franchise are on the list (Berke, Cooper and Laing), along with some radical writers and artists of the time. What a great poster it is, not especially for its artistic aesthetic, but because it represents a moment-in-time which is connected to a place - a truly historical document which pinpoints people in space, while attributing them to a specific revolutionary action.

As Peter Watts states on his blog: "The London Anti-University was formed after participants at 1967′s Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation at the Roundhouse decided they wanted to continue to explore some of the themes and conversations that had started there (sample debates: The Future of Capitalism; Black Power; Imperialism and Revolution in America)." I love the titles of these classes. They are pretty much standard university modules in Cultural Studies nowadays, even if the titles then were much more polemic than the contemporary ones. Today we like to seduce our students with 'Postcolonial Theory' and 'Capital and Critique', in order that they don't get too scared and sign up for something more innocuous - and less revolutionary - instead.

The London Anti-University seemed like a great idea (check out the excellent film on Peter's blog at the above link). I especially like the hotch-potch of donated chairs for the students.

Notes on institutions, anti-institutions and self-institutions
Revolutionary educational practice

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Student Movement / Moving the Students

The recently published The Assault on Universities (edited by Michael Bailey and Des Freedman) contains a very up-to-the minute essay, by John Rees, on the current situation as it pertains to students and education cuts. Here I shall include a couple of paragraphs from the essay with some anecdotal commentary of my own.

The student movement of 2010 was the largest for a generation. It transformed the political atmosphere around the Tory-Liberal Democrat Coalition government’s cuts programme and popularised the 'rejectionist' argument that the deficit could be paid for by taxing the rich, the corporations, and the banks or by cutting Trident and the war budget for Afghanistan. It undermined the legitimacy of the government by exposing a larger democratic deficit: the election of 2010 had revealed an electorate that voted centre left, but the government they got was a monetarist and right wing. (page 118)

Having been, prior to this moment, someone who was questioning the general lack of engagement in political life that appeared to be happening in some of the young people in society, I was very impressed by the student protests of 2010/11. As a mature undergraduate student, and now a teaching assistant at university, I have been exposed to many young people since 2005. While I don't want to make generalisations, nor conjure up stereotypes, I was a bit puzzled by the lack of fervour in relation to current issues in some students prior to this point. And, while I would not use the term 'apathy' in the way it was being used, I didn't really understand why the young of today were different than 'we' were in the 1970s.

By the time I was fifteen years old we had been on strike twice at my school (in regards to school policy). I had also had my own one-woman revolution. We striked 'at the drop of a hat'. It was our default position. If we were unhappy about something we were going to have our say. Which is interesting, as this was a period when children had even less of a voice than they do today.

While doing my BA in Cultural Studies (2005-08) we read Mary Wollstonecroft's On the Vindication of the Rights of Women. At the time our teaching assistant asked us if we thought that women had now reached equality in society. As a 45 year old who can remember a time when there was not a law for equal pay in regards to gender, since I thought the answer was pretty much overdetermined I decided that I would not answer it and would allow someone else to offer their opinion. No-one answered the question or even made a comment until I allowed my exasperation to be expressed. After the seminar I was left feeling confused: their parents were the same age as me, had they not communicated these issues to their daughters? Was there a certain level of wealth in particular groups in society that created a buffer of comfort and therefore there was no reason to question political life? Or, was something much more disturbingly hegemonic going on?

I didn't, and don't, still have a simple answer to this. However, the recent student protests have been inspiring and I hope that students and public sector workers can come together over current government cuts, and that students will realise that education cutbacks are actually situated in a larger context of capitalist ideology, the repercussions of which don't only just effect them.

This is what John Rees says about strikes and protests in relation to students and workers supporting each other:

The students can...cause a social crisis into which workers...are drawn. But for this to happen the student struggle itself, the occupations and demonstrations, need to be sustained and spread. The trade unionists in the education unions will find it easier to become involved in the struggle if this is the case, and this can be a bridge to other workers becoming involved. Occupations are key to this because they make the campuses ungovernable for the university authorities and present the staff with the question of taking sides in a way that demonstrations alone do not. (page 122).

Public Sector Strike Flyer
The Students are Revolting
University and College Union

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Public Sector Strike - The Situation at the University

My university and school are currently preparing for next week's Public Sector Strike (Wednesday 30th November 2011). The Guardian newspaper says that Britain's three largest trade unions are backing the strike.

I have created a Situationist stylie flyer (see above). Please feel free to download, distribute and print. It is in jpg format and A5 size, so two fit neatly onto a landscape A4. Or you can enlarge it to A4 size for a poster. The stats on there are 'generic' and apply to both students and lecturers.

University and College Union
The Students are Revolting

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Students are Revolting

This week I came across the Situationist International inspired document On the Poverty of Student Life created by the students of Strasbourg University in 1966. It opens thus: "It is pretty safe to say that the student is the most universally despised creature in France, apart from the policeman and the priest." I also found a really interesting recently reworked version of this document from 2006 It comes in a handy pdf format and was reproduced and distributed at the eindexamen exhibition of the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

The recent student protest in London (9 November 2011), in regards to tuition fees, spawned placards that stated "Scrap Tuition Fees" and "Free Education". And, according to the Guardian newspaper, chants included "David Cameron – fuck off back to Eton". While reports say there were 4,000 police on the streets, the protest 'passed off peacefully'.

Paris in May 1968 showed a different picture, when the students came out in support of the workers. The students and the authorities had been in conflict for months leading up to this event. Slogans said "The more you consume, the less you live. Commodities are the opium of the people." and were accompanied by Situationist graffiti.

The above is an iconic image from May 4 1970. This student, from Kent State University, was shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard along with three others. Consequently this became known as the May 4 Massacre. While this protest was over the US invasion of Cambodia, the strikes that followed involved a nationwide closure of universities and colleges.

I wasn't sure when the next upcoming student protest was in the UK, so I typed 'next student protest' into google. I found a student website where students were asking the same question. One answered: "Not sure... I hope the police know in advance so they can be ready with their water cannon and student-eating dogs." Someone else had also voted for this remark. However, I think it is the 29th January 2012 in London.

The next public sector strike is Wednesday 30th November when university lecturers will also be striking.

Students at the Heart of the System by Anna Chism
Guardian Blog - Student Tuition Fees
Situationist-inspired animated strike map

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Students at the Heart of the System

UK Higher Education Government Strategy

by Anna Chism

I'd like to comment on the use of the word 'heart' in the UK government higher education strategy in light of the recent student protests (November 9th, London)

In June 2011 the Higher Education White Paper was released. How the coalition can pinch Browne's soundbite from his 2010 report and use it as the title to this document is beyond me! Only somebody who has no access to the media, or lives in another solar system, could possibly think that the government are putting students at the 'heart' of the education system. The only thing at the heart of the education system, as far as the current government is concerned, is £££££££s!

This frankly disturbing use of the word 'heart' is also used again in the conclusion of the government document Higher Ambitions: The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy The conclusion is subtitled: 'The heart of a knowledge economy and a civilised society'. The word 'heart' also appears in another part of the document, in this context: "How we will further strengthen the role of universities at the heart of our communities and shared intellectual life, and as one of the key ways in which we engage with the wider world." (italics author's own) This is clearly intentional and must be some kind of ameliorating tactic to lessen the blow of all the education cuts - which don't only extend to students but also lecturers in the form of redundancies, cuts in pensions and in greater workloads.

This is what the verb 'heart' means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:
a.trans. To give heart to, put heart into (a person, etc.); to inspire with confidence, embolden, encourage, inspirit, animate; = hearten v. 1. arch.
While I appreciate that the government are using the term 'heart' to represent 'centre', they are, however, not using the word 'centre' but the word 'heart', with all the connotations attached to that. Hello government! Using the word heart does not inspire future students with 'confidence', nor does it 'encourage' or 'embolden' them. You are expecting them to be in debt for decades to come, with little prospects of getting a job or EVER buying a house. This has got nothing to do with 'heart' nor has it got anything to do with putting them at the centre OF ANYTHING! The only thing it puts them at the centre of is the capitalist economy, while at the same time marginalising those who cannot afford to go to uni, which is 'technically' the opposite of the centre, I would say!

Students are out on the streets protesting again, as they were in 2010. And, applications for places are already down for next year. How many future young people are going to be effected by this before the government rethinks its 'selling out' of higher education. I predict even more disenfranchised young people, and I don't mean of the demographic of those on the streets over the summer of 2011, but a new group of disenfranchised middle-class young people, in-line with the May 1968 Paris students.

So, coalition, put that in your pipe and smoke it to your hearts content!

Bureaucracy in the Corporatised University
The Semiotic System of Capitalism
Input/Output at the University of Excellence
The Scene of Teaching

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bureaucracy in the Corporatised University

I would like to look at the activity and ethos of the corporatised university as it pertains to bureaucracy by first providing a definition of the corporatised university by Henry Steck:
the corporatized university is defined as an institution that is characterized by processes, decisional criteria, expectation, organizational culture, and operating practices that are taken from, and have their origins in, the modern business corporation. It is characterized by the entry of the university into marketplace relationships and by the use of market strategies in university decision making. (1985: 74)

Bill Readings explains that it is excellence in its manifest bureaucratic forms - for example, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) formed in 2007 - which is the driving force behind harnessing the university function of the past and in postmodernity placing it under the forces of the market (1999: 38): "Like the stock exchange, the University is a point of capital's self-knowledge, of capital's ability not just to manage risk or diversity but to extract a surplus value from the management." (1999: 40)

The decentralised movement of capital from its original position in the nation-state into what in postmodernity appears in the form of globalised flows, also recapitulates the process for the postmodern individual: what once was the centred humanist subject oriented in their singular culture, now becomes one with a capital-oriented consciousness, a worldview that is legislated to the level of a norm. Jean-François Lyotard explains that this is done through "formulat[ing] prescriptions" which appear in the form of utterances that legitimate particular statements. (2004: 31) This means that it is difficult for those who operate in the institution to not take up these narratives and continue to promulgate them. Readings explains that in capitalist society we are no longer citizen-subjects but "operatives" that take part by adopting a "corporate identity". (1999: 48) Felix Guattari says that we all have a number of different subjectivities available to us, depending on our relationships with other individuals, groups and specific social processes. However, he sees capitalist subjectivity as being the most extensive.

Mark Fisher makes direct reference to university bureaucracy, including providing an extensive list of documents a module leader has to complete for each module they oversee. (2009: 41) Fisher says that the constant checking, monitoring and production of figures does not provide "a direct comparison of workers' performance or output, but a comparison between the audited representation of that performance and output". (2009: 42) We no longer have a system focused on knowledge (learning and teaching), instead we have a system that concentrates on measuring performance and output, and disseminating that data: “The true goal of the system, the reason it programs itself like a computer, is the optimization of the global relationship between input and output – in other words, performativity.” (Lyotard 2004: 11) It is essential for the functioning of the bureaucratic university that this system is open, even if its process of self-defining (for example, in using terms like 'excellence') is internal and closed. The university needs to reduplicate itself internally, and also express that reduplication externally, in the form of representable data. What this means for the university is a spectacle-like appearance in the form of signs that appear as representable data, the output of the excellence process. These signs present the university in the guise of what Guy Debord would describe as "commodity as spectacle". Debord explains that the spectacle is "where the tangible world is replaced by a selection of images which exist above it, and which simultaneously impose themselves as the tangible par excellence." (2005: 36) This is problematic for the university because it means it can become removed from its original idealised functions - the pursuit of knowledge, high quality academic research, education for all - meaning that others might also see it in purely economic terms too (anyone who works in the university knows that some students see their degree only in the form of exchange value: a degree for a job)

Bureaucracy, as a measure of excellence in the corporatised university, as Fisher describes, "floats freely, independent of any external authority" (2009: 50). It produces a style of surveillance culture for academics that is rather like an invisible postmodern semblance of the time and motion study that constantly hovers over them in the form of a bureaucratic superego.

Input/Output at the University of Excellence
Schizoanalysing the University Campus
Austerity and the University of Excellence

Debord, Guy. 2005. The Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black and Red).
Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Winchester: Zero Books).
Lyotard, Jean-François. 2004. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press).
Readings, Bill. 1999. The University in Ruins (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press).
Steck, Henry. 'Corporatization of the University: Seeking Conceptual Clarity', Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 85 (2003), 66-83.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A Walk Around St Chads Church

To take advantage of today's sun, following the scuppering of yesterday's planned outing due to the bad weather, I decided to take a walk around the ground of St Chads Church in Far Headingley, Leeds. I really liked the gold fish gate to the entrance of the church itself.

There were two information boards telling you about the wildlife in the graveyards. Interestingly, they share a similar nature demographic as the graveyard down the road at St Michaels. It seems that the redwings visit both graveyards in the winter, on their trip down from Scandinavia. Early this year I watched a number of redwings spend a good few days in St Michaels graveyard, before heading down south.

This is my favourite image of the day. The light catching some of the leaves makes them look really bright green in places. Also, you can see the red holly berries piercing through the green on the top right of the image (click on the photo and zoom in to take full advantage of the colour).

Above is the Garden of Rest which has a message at the entrance saying it is a place for contemplation. Much of the graveyard is slowly deteriorating, as you can see in the image below. This is quite similar to St Michaels. I am assuming there isn't enough money to maintain them nowadays. The fronts of both graveyards looks fine, i.e. the part that faces the street and entrance. However, venture further in and you can see that they require a lot of work and care. Nevertheless, I find the higgledy-piggledy gravestones and creeping undergrowth much more interesting than a well manicured cemetery.

I found this strange switch panel out at the back of the church, near the boiler room (well, it was near some cellar entrance where a sound of humming machinery was emanating). I think it must have belonged to an organ. While you can't tell from the image, it did have buttons which had the word 'pedal' and 'soft', etc, printed next to them.

I like this stone detail on the church (see below). It says anno dom and a date which I can't work out. I don't think it's the date of its consecration though (1868), as I typed that into a Roman numeral converter (how fab that we can can do that online) and it definitely wasn't that date.

I had a really nice stroll around the church. You get the sense that you are soaking up the social history of the lives of all the people interred there. Also, they are peaceful, relatively secluded places where one can - just by taking a few steps away from a busy high street - get away from the buzz of traffic and contemplate the fragility of life.

I only saw magpies and wood pigeon's though - pretty much everyday cemetery birds in Headingley. I didn't get very good shots of the whole of the church, due to the position of the sun in the sky, shading caused by trees, etc. However, I did get a nice picture of the spire against a lovely crisp, blue autumn sky (no photoshopping done here!).

Friday, 4 November 2011

Bonfire Night on Woodhouse Moor - 4th November 2011

Above is a photo of the bonfire, still under construction, at 2.30 today (4th Nov) in Hyde Park, Leeds.

This is what the University of Leeds Student Union says:

"Bonfire and firework display will be taking place on Woodhouse Moor from 6.30pm. The Terrace and Old Bar are wellie friendly so pop in and enjoy the sausage and ale festival in the Old Bar or have a few post fireworks drinks in the Terrace.

Date: Friday 04 November 2011
Time: 6:30pm - midnight
Location: Woodhouse Moor"

Have fun students, and other locals! Also, I do hope the nutkins, and all the other Hyde Park critters are not too scared!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Existential Affects as a Catalyst for Personal Transformation

In ‘The Autonomy of Affect’, Brian Massumi describes affect as “intensity owned and recognised” (2006: 221). Because it is different from emotion, and because it best describes the sensations felt in the event of a personal transformation, I shall adopt this term for what I understand to be the sensation experienced prior to existential change.

Massumi explains that language operates on two levels which resonate with each other: these are “suspense” and “expectation” (1996: 220). Every expression culminates in an event enacted upon by suspense and expectation, in always differing proportions (ibid.). We see parallels with Gilles Deleuze’s description of the resonance between the signifier and the signified in The Logic of Sense, and Massumi acknowledges Deleuze in his essay. For Massumi, affect is this two-sidedness (2006: 228). And, I maintain, it is in these oscillating moments that the individual has the opportunity for a greater awareness, a self-mastery attained from self-reflection brought about through some kind of conflicting state.

Félix Guattari, in his essay ‘Ritornellos and Existential Affects’, discusses affect within the framework of the aesthetic. He explains how expressions of an aesthetic nature can become catalysts for the individual. Guattari believes, in special circumstances, that this can induce “aesthetic ecstasy, a mystical effusion” (1996: 165). In Chaosmosis he uses the phrase “poetic-existential catalysis” (1995: 19) to explain a trigger operating within a particular enunciative domain. This can be considered as a “molecular rupture, an imperceptible bifurcation capable of overthrowing the framework of dominant redundancies, […] the classical order.” (1995: 19-20).

Massumi alludes to Deleuze’s folded subject when talking about self-reflection: “Conscious reflection is a doubling over of the idea on itself, a self-recursion of the idea that enwraps the affection or impingement, at two removes.” (2006: 225). And, if the subject is always folded, then it seems that the individual always has this capacity available to them, whether they choose to utilise it in any profound way or not. But, maybe the individual needs to be reminded of this ability, shaken from their self-forgetting, by receiving a kind of shock, a jolt, which will take them out of their familiar everyday frame of reference. The individual can be so caught up with the daily routine of just surviving on a subsistence level or instead tangled up in playing whatever game society deems appropriate for them, that active self-reflection is a luxury. We can see this elucidated in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, with self-actualization (B-cognition) offered as a potential only after all basic needs are met.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2004a. The Logic of Sense. Trans. by Mark Lester (London and New York: Continuum).
Guattari, Félix. 1995. Chaosmosis: An ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Trans. by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press).
Guattari, Pierre-Felix. 1996. The Guattari Reader. Ed. by Gary Genosko (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers).
Massumi, Brian. 1996. ‘The Autonomy of Affect’, Deleuze: A Critical Reader. Ed. by Paul Patton (Oxford: Blackwell) pp. 217-239.

Schrödinger’s Box or the Purloined Letter

letterbox flaps
document falls
doormat cradles
letter lifted
envelope torn
words read
person cries
letter stored
box confined

With mischief-making on his mind
he finds the box hidden behind
the dolls thrown in so carelessly
all broken…twisted. Secretly
he fumbles in the quiet house
to carry out his mission of revenge
of which his sister’s punishment will end
the hurt he feels.

Upon returning from church Flo brushes Sunday off her hat and places it back in the box.
The green-felted brim smiles up at her, alluding to future outings.
Replacing the lid she notices the fragment of a stamp lying in the corner of the box and goes downstairs to make some tea.

Monday, 31 October 2011

To the Ordinary Man - Michel de Certeau

I'd like to post this beautiful and poetic forward (I believe it is not really a forward but a for-forward, if that is a real term in bibliographical parlance) by Michel de Certeau from the beginning of his book The Practice of Everyday Life.

The reasons I like it are multifarious: it is inspiring and hopeful (even utopian). It contains the history of the 'man in the crowd' and the metropolitan personality. Also, it heralds the onset of the multitude and introduces the postmodern subject that exists in a textural space. But, I guess, more importantly, it offers up the city to us as an "anonymous subject" in its own right - the city that proffers us a particular appearance that is desirous of political administration, of the streamlining of processes and systems, of geographic zoning and capital accumulation. An appearance that disguises the hidden consequences of social reproduction. One that tells a different tale of the city, if only we can spend the time to reveal it behind the spectacle. One that is open to interpretation.

To the ordinary man.

To a common hero, an ubiquitous character, walking in countless thousands on the streets. In invoking here at the outset of my narratives the absent figure who provides both their beginning and their necessity, I inquire into the desire whose impossible object he represents. What are we asking this oracle whose voice is almost indistinguishable from the rumble of history to license us, to authorize us to say, when we dedicate to him the writing that one formerly offered in praise of the gods or the inspiring muses?

This anonymous hero is very ancient. He is the murmuring voice of societies. In all ages, he comes before texts. He does not expect representations. He squats now at the center of our scientific stages. The floodlights have moved away from the actors who possess proper names
and social blazons, turning first toward the chorus of secondary characters, then settling on the mass of the audience. The increasingly sociological and anthropological perspective of inquiry privileges the anonymous and the everyday in which zoom lenses cut out metonymic
details—parts taken for the whole. Slowly the representatives that formerly symbolized families, groups, and orders disappear from the stage they dominated during the epoch of the name. We witness the advent of the number. It comes along with democracy, the large city, administrations, cybernetics. It is a flexible and continuous mass, woven tight like a fabric with neither rips nor darned patches, a multitude of quantified heroes who lose names and faces as they become the ciphered river of the streets, a mobile language of computations and rationalities that belong to no one.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Maps of Competence - Félix Guattari

Extract from The Machinic Unconscious (1979) by Félix Guattari:

Maps themselves are like laboratories where experimentations on tracings are set in interactions. Thus, here the map is opposed to the structure; it can open itself in all its dimensions; it can also be ripped apart; it can be adapted to all kinds of assemblies. A pragmatic map can be started by an isolated individual or a group, it can be painted on a wall, it can be conceived as a work of art, it can be conducted as a political action or as a mediation. For a type of performance, a particular assemblage of enunciation, or a redundant tracing being given, what is important is determining whether or not it modifies the unconscious map of a local pragmatic competence. (page 172)

Axis of Exploration and Failure (schizocartography)
Guattari's Schizoanalytic Cartographies
On Massumi's Logic of Relation

Saturday, 22 October 2011

40647? Qué?

I took this image on the University of Leeds campus this morning while on a psychogeographical trip around St Georges Field cemetery. I then went into the union to get a coffee and picked up the Leeds Student newspaper and found this short article:

On returning home I checked it out on the University of Leeds website, but they are clearly keeping tight-lipped. However, there is much speculation on twitter with #40647 now having its very own hashtag. This is what the University of Leeds official twitter account says in response to all the conjecture: "Lots of you are asking what the 40647 numbers on campus mean. All will be revealed soon..."

University of Leeds on Twitter

Monday, 10 October 2011

The University of Leeds and its City - Part 3

Town and Gown, Trade and Industry

This is what the Pro-Chancellor Hubert Stanley Houldsworth said about the university's relationship with its city in The University of Leeds Review: Jubilee Edition (1954):
There must [...] be a strong extra-mural department to take the torch of learning into towns and hamlets around the University; and within the University precincts there must be opportunity for both members and non-members of the University to join together in the cultural pleasures, of music, poetry, and literature, in the appreciation of painting and other works of art, in lectures on general matters, or even in some of the more specialised lectures which, of necessity, must be an attraction to a smaller section. The University must be a focus of learning and cultural life to the whole community. (1954: 47)

We can see Houldsworth's vision for an outreach programme that forges a cultural and educational relationship with the city that bore it. However, this relationship was not just one-sided: the Redbrick universities were meant to be an expression of civic pride and a symbol of national identity to the local citizens. In his article on 'Town and Gown', Houldsworth provides a list of chancellors that preceded him and their achievements that impacted the region. He concludes his text with the motto: "'Town and Gown' in unison is our endeavour. At Leeds, 'Town' helps 'Gown', and 'Gown' helps 'Town'. The contributions of each to the other must continue to grow, to the advantage of each, and, we trust, to the advantage of the world." (1954: 52)

A. N. Shimmin's chapter on Town and Gown (The University of Leeds: The First Half Century) is replete with gifts from notable local businessmen - for example, Edward Baines and Frank Parkinson - whose legacy we are reminded of in the form of existing university buildings that were built in their honour or indeed with their money, as was the case with the Parkinson Building.

Michael Sanderson provides much detail on the University of Leeds and local business in his book The University and British Industry 1850-1970. He discusses the success of the university's early days of specialising in areas of study which enabled them to create alliances with industry, such as industrial chemistry; coal, gas and fuel, tinctorial chemistry for textiles, and textiles and material. (1972: 85-86) Most of Shimmin's discussion on industry appears under his chapter 'The Faculty of Technology'. Broken down into sections on agriculture, mining, textile industries, colour chemistry and dyeing, engineering and leather (which all make up individual departments within the faculty), it becomes apparent how significant for the university this faculty was at the time of his text. These departments still existed in 1954, however today the faculty no longer remains, with those departments that still do exist being made parts of other faculties.

David Jones opens his chapter 'Founders and Benefactors' with the remark: "The civic universities were built upon charity." (1984: 164) While I think this is an overly simplistic statement, it is clear that without endowments from outside the institution that these universities would have not been able to develop and grow. Indeed, were it not for the Clothworkers' generous endowment when Leeds was working towards its university charter, it would not have been granted in 1904. Bruce Truscot's remark that the university's responsibility to industry should be secondary to its pedagogic one does not reflect the blurred boundaries between these two areas, as is clear when it comes to the subjects taught historically at the university of Leeds. If the Redbrick university wished to provide a good education to the local bourgeois, enabling them to become successful businessmen, then educating the sons of local middle-class merchants is both an obligation to local industry and also an educational undertaking. The historical relationship the university has had with trade and industry appears in the legacy of the subjects taught. While in modernity this relationship grew out of a direct response to an economic need which meant the university reacted to the demands of a certain type of knowledge requirement, in postmodernity the university has acquired the mantle of a business-oriented philosophy in its own right, meaning that attempting to demarcate industry and institution as separate entities is a far more complex move. In order to compete in a globalised market the contemporary university is expected to think and operate as if it were a business. This means that it has to be run like one and therefore take up the procedures and practices of commerce.

Houldsworth, Hubert, Stanley. 'Town and Gown', The University of Leeds Review: Jubilee Edition (1954), 44-52.
Jones, David R. 1984. The Origins of Civic Universities: Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International).
Sanderson, Michael. 1972. The University and British Industry 1850-1970 (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul).
Shimmin, A.N. 1954. The University of Leeds: The First Half Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

The University of Leeds and its City - Part 1
The University of Leeds and its City - Part 2

Friday, 7 October 2011

The University of Leeds and its City - Part 2

The Birth of a University

It was in the local newspaper, the Leeds Mercury, of 1826 that plans for a university in Leeds first appeared. Its formation was also considered to be a reaction to the Paris Exhibition of 1867, when local businessmen became fearful of foreign competition. (Jones 1984: 91; Sanderson 1972: 66; Taylor 1975: 3) However, it would not be until 1904 that the University of Leeds got its Charter as an independent university. The origins of the university lie in the philanthropic orientation of a number of the founders, including John Marshall, a local MP and pioneer in the area of textiles (flax). In the 19th century, Marshall, inspired by the education system in London, recommended a range of cultural and educational subjects that would be offered to boys in Leeds, enabling them to remain at home and reduce the cost of travel and accommodation. This dream of Marshall's eventually manifest itself in the form of the Yorkshire College in 1874 (this was not a college in the usual sense, but a secondary school with similar aims to that of higher education). As A. J. Taylor explains, the Yorkshire College was part of a "second generation" of colleges that came about as a challenge to the privileges enjoyed by those who could afford Oxford and Cambridge. (1975: 1) It is also important to note that while the forming of the Yorkshire College was a reaction against an exclusive higher education for just the upper classes, the college was providing education for the middle-classes only, in the form of an education for the sons of local merchants in the area of science and the arts. These colleges were a response to the need for an improved technological education to support local industry: in the case of Leeds this was primarily textiles, clothworking and mining.

The early part of 19th century Victorian England saw a raised awareness of class consciousness, with the working classes seeing the apparent polarised positions of themselves and the middle-classes as not just being one of a disparity in wealth but also in literacy. In 1870 the Education Act was formed to provide elementary education for children in Britain, and schools were set up in areas where there had previously been none. But it was not till 1880 that another act was put in place to make education for children compulsory for those aged up to ten years. A number of acts followed, covering older and disabled children.

During this same period the medical school grew out of Leeds General Infirmary (formed in 1767). The Medical School was founded in 1831; its formation stemmed, in part, from the Apothecaries Act of 1815, which meant surgeons needed formal qualifications. Doctors taught in their spare time, often in the evenings at the end of their day working in the infirmary. The Yorkshire College and the Medical School did not amalgamate until 1883-84. Over the next few decades expansion was supported by funding, for example from the Clothworker's Company who maintained a textile department at the college. (Shimmin 1954: 3-13) In 1887 the college in Leeds became part of the Victoria University, which had already existed jointly as Manchester and Liverpool colleges. This meant that finally it received university status and could now endow degrees. But it was not until 1904, following a generous gift of £70,000 from the Clothworker's Company, that full university status was secured. (Shimmin 1954: 28)

While the university had to drop some courses in 1904 in order to be competitive and hone its resources, a post-war run on courses before the 1921-23 slump, followed by economic problems in Japan that benefited the British textile industry, meant that the university expanded rapidly leading up to World War II. (Shimmin 1954: 30-39) This expansion was not only in the case of students and staff, but also in regards to geographical growth. Nevertheless, many of the plans for the post-war development of the university were scuppered by World War II. For example, the Parkinson Building (an art deco, neo-classical building that was designed as the entrance hall to the Brotherton Library) was designed in the 1930s but was not completed till 1951 due to a suspension in building during the war.

Jones, David R. 1984. The Origins of Civic Universities: Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International).
Sanderson, Michael. 1972. The University and British Industry 1850-1970 (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul).
Shimmin, A.N. 1954. The University of Leeds: The First Half Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Taylor, A.J. 1975. 'County College and Civic University: An Introductory Essay', Studies in the History of a University, ed. by P.H.J.H. Gosden and A.J. Taylor (Leeds: E.J. Arnold). pp. 1-41.

The University of Leeds and its City - Part 1
The University of Leeds and its City - Part 3