When Buttons Detatch…


… the consequences can be life-threatening. Take, for example, the emergency button on the inside of a supermarket’s walk-in freezer. If that were to fall off, become detatched from its wire, then it would surely mean a frigid death for the fridge’s inhabitants. Such is our reliance on the button, the physical trace of humankind’s encasement in the symbolic. Turn your car’s steering wheel: you are no longer turning the car’s wheels, it is merely the symbolic residue of formerly real kinesis. In the nineteenth century, such was the concern that one might be mistakenly buried alive, that graves were fitted with bells that could be pulled from the within the coffin. How much faith could we have in a modern, electronically activated equivalent? What if the button detatched?

P.S. I survived

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Science Museum Lates talk: “Remember the Future? What ‘Jetsons: The Movie’ means for scientific progress”

From fellow Consortiumite and Static editor James Hawthorne’s website:

“On Wednesday 28th March I’ll be delivering a talk at London’s Science Museum as part of their Lates events series for adults. More details can be found at my FB event for the talk or at the Science Museum’s website. I’d love to see a few friendly faces there! Although, as the old cliché goes, everyone in London is friendly anyway. In any case, I thought I’d post a rundown of what I’m going to be talking about in a bit more detail.

A live-action movie version of the classic Hanna Barbera cartoon The Jetsons has been ticking along for some time now—apparently with Kanye West as creative director. Taking the prophecies of the first season of The Jetsons (aired in 1962) seriously, we should already be living in the scientifically-perfected future George, Judy, Elroy and the gang inhabited. What went wrong?

By examining the differences between the original 1960s rendering of The Jetsons and its 1980s rebirth (which accounts for 51 of the 75 extant episodes of the series), we can begin to pinpoint where the dream of enlightened scientific progress began to unravel. Was the later George Jetson a nostalgic throwback to a past where the future was—so to speak—present? Or is the future that the 1980s episodes portray fundamentally different to—and darker than—the naïve Googie vision of tomorrow that 1962 foresaw?

Utilising a number of humorous clips from the classic cartoon, I will attempt to explain why contemporary cultural visions of the future are key to historical understanding of the past. Moreover, we might ask what the new movie will tell us about our own vision of the future of science? What beautiful dark twisted fantasy does Kanye have in store for us?”

I don’t know – you tell us, James!

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Metalab presents: performer/audience/re-enactment

For the second of two preliminary workshops kicking off Metalab’s 2012 series, Maya Oppenheimer will introduce and facilitate an audience-focused re-enactment of Dan Graham’s performer/audience/mirror at Riverside Studios, the 1979 London performance site. Graham’s performance challenges the accepted boundaries of perception and presence within a performance field. Re-enacting his piece will allow for an active consideration of his construction but also provide the opportunity to explore differences that re-situate the project in today’s mediatised forums of interaction and observation, particularly within social media. The session, in sum, will address the challenges of using re-enactment as a method of critical and artistic inquiry. Participation encouraged (..and expected)!

This session is free, but booking is essential as places are limited.
To reserve your place, email us at metalabseries@gmail.com

Tuesday 27th March 2012, 7-9PM
Studio 4, Riverside Studios
Hammersmith, W6 9LR

a location map to the venue is available here.
closest tube station: Hammersmith, or a few minutes walk from Hammersmith bus station

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Unhappy Hipsters

I have glimpsed the future: http://unhappyhipsters.com/

It is never too late to arrive in the future!

The future will be spent mostly in the kitchen.

In the future, your kitchen will be clean.

Interior design will be the only job in the future.

All interior designers will be unemployed because all interiors will be so well designed already.

Standing in our kitchens in the future we will think about the past.

We will feel sad about the past because we will remember that people used to have such badly designed kitchens.

When we look around at our well designed kitchens in the future we will not feel smug, but rather a genuine sadness at the wasted, unhappy millenea streching out behind us like a long shadow in the early morning.

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The Kony Virus

I awoke this morning to a Facebook plastered with KONY 2012 videos, ‘like’s and statuses. The faecal-oral transmission of viral videos has left me bewildered and always slightly behind on such exchanges, if they are that. I think it’s important to look at the root of what exactly it is that we’ve just ingested and ‘shared’ with the expanse of the online community, rather than just clicking a button to ‘like’ or ‘share’ a worthy cause in order to somehow off-set or atone for the idle minutes spent flicking through a friend of a friend of a friend’s holiday snaps. Yes, it’s free (a big point) but all this sharing seems to engage in the same rhetoric of off-set exchange as that of the carbon footprint. By planting a tree, you have not mopped up and made good your international flights or the amount of time you spend on Google: by ‘liking’, and perhaps even watching, a half-hour video your social conscience isn’t free and easy, or at least it shouldn’t be.

Of course Joseph Kony is a Bad Man, and ANYTHING that highlights this fact is a good thing.

The way in which this is done is important, though. And I don’t intend for this post to in any way be detrimental to attempts to raise awareness of the terrible situation in Uganda but that it’s a good cause is certainly not reason to abandon all our (yes, I’m talking to YOU) critical faculties: in fact, if this project is as important as it makes itself out to be then it’s imperative to engage critically in order that the outcome is a successful (and sustainable) one.

I shan’t tell you what to think, you decide. Here are some things to perhaps set you on your way:






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‘A bag of wind’

I saw this letter George Orwell wrote to his editor Frederic Warburg at the Out of This World exhibition at the British Library last year. I’m glad I found a picture someone took of it as I had been thinking about it since and trying to remember exactly what Orwell says about Sartre towards the end of the letter. It makes me smile every time.

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The Ocelli

(ERRATUM: The Ocelli will be running till Saturday 7th April, NOT 7th March as I previously wrote. All the more time to go see it! Do!)

Heads up!

Starting this Saturday (3rd) running until Saturday 7th April, Space In Between in Hackney will be showing a new film The Ocelli by ARKA group‘s Ben Jeans Houghton & Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau.

Fellow consortiumite Vanessa Bartlett has worked with the artists to produce a text to accompany the film, which can be found following this link.


“The Ocelli – a film in 25 parts – is a study of perception, vision and myth which charts the development of a 2000 year-old mushroom, Armillaria, from dormant state to sentient being, alongside an investigation of human vision and perception. Combining archive 16mm footage from the British Museum of Optometry, acted film, specific visual effects, music and narration, the ARKA Group’s The Ocelli creates a complex web of ideas and visual materials.

The film builds on processes that the ARKA group have collaboratively developed; mixing archived, documentary and acted film to create worlds where mythology and factual research are muddled and combined. As part of The Ocelli the group worked with students from Bangabandhu Primary School in East London, inviting them to illustrate and describe in their own words visual perception, threading this throughout the narrative elements from Armillaria’s story.

The Ocelli is the fourth project produced by the ARKA group and was supported by IdeasTap, London.
Writer Vanessa Bartlett has worked with Ben Jeans Houghton & Matthew de Kersiant Giraudeau to produce an accompanying text.

The Ocelli runs from 03/03/12 – 07/04/12.
Screening times: on the hour between 1-5pm. The last viewing will start at 5pm and the gallery is open from 12pm.
Private View; 01/03/12 from 6-9pm”

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London Consortium at Science Lates

Tonight (Wed 29th Feb) the London Consortium is presenting Wendy Moore as our guest speaker for Science Lates, at the Science Museum in London.

Wendy is a Sunday Times Best Selling author holding a diploma in the history of medicine with the Society of Apothecaries.  As an award-winning journalist specializing in health issues, Wendy has written for national newspapers, including The Times and The Observer, as well as magazines such as the British Medical Journal.

Her 2005 book, The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery, won the Medical Journalists’ Association Consumer Book Award.

Her second book, Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match, was picked for Channel 4’s TV Book Club in 2010 and reached n. 1 in the Sunday Times bestseller list.

She will be speaking tonight on the very interesting topic of bodysnatching.

Doors open at 6:45pm

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Slavoj Zizek do the Police in Different Voices: The Giant of Ljubljana on ‘The Wire’, Birkbeck College, Friday 24th February 2012

Sall in the game muthafuckaz!

Slavoj Zizek warns us against the ‘withdrawal into wisdom’, a position he characterises, quoting the great Ben Elton, as the Circle of Life thesis. This, he argues, is the ultimate and problematic tendency of David Simon’s TV series The Wire. David Simon has explicitly compared The Wire to Greek tragedy; however, we are in Baltimore not Athens. The Gods have been replaced by a new resignation to an equally irrational fate, the citizens of Baltimore espouse a metaphysics of the marketplace which is dressed up with the ludic appeal of a casino.

Zizek shows us the opening scene of the first episode of The Wire, McNulty questions a witness on a murder scene. We learn that Snot, the victim, had snatched the stakes from a weekly game of craps, he always used to do this but for some reason this was one time too many. McNulty asks why they let him play in the first place and gets the epigrammatic reply: ‘You got to. This is America man.’

Is it game-over from the very first scene? It’s hard to resist the hard-boiled, gritty, pithy wisdom of the Man On The Street. This is where, Zizek argues, despite the many virtues of The Wire, it finally reaches its limits. This species of Realism (as an aesthetic genre, as a political philosophy) can only get us so far.

The question, of course, is what else to do. The conversation turns once again to Athens, a member of the audience poses the merits of several possible solutions to the Greek crisis: Zizek looks bored. He is re-animated by an accusation from another audience member that all he is advocating is a different kind of inaction, resigning himself to another bastion of detached wisdom: Marxist materialism. ‘Fuck Marxism’, Zizek shouts, giving us the finger, ‘what does this mean?’.  This is followed by a deviation in which we are also advised to ‘fuck Belarus’. Zizek is a thoroughly antagonistic thinker, and apparent contradictions in his thought are revealed as opportunities rather than defeats. Occasionally this often confusing but always entertaining to-ing and fro-ing crystallises into something that might be described as lucid: ‘I am not saying sit down and await communist revolution. I am saying don’t get caught up in the wrong panic’. Then we’re off again.

The final scene of The Wire: McNulty is returning to Baltimore having possibly won a small and ambiguous victory over The System at a high cost to himself. He stops his car on a bridge, gets out and looks wistfully into the middle distance. We are shown a montage of Business As Usual. Resistance is futile? This is the central problem. Capitalism, Zizek suggests, would have collapsed long ago if it weren’t for the humanitarian movement. The conundrum: doing something can also be the same as doing nothing if you take a long-term perspective. When pushed, however, Zizek refuses to advocate doing nothing as an adequate response to the world’s problems. In yet another combative manoeuvre, he positions himself against post modernist thinkers such as Jameson: he refuses to empty the political of the ethical.

For all his various and boisterous rebuffs, the main focus of the lecture was the denunciation of Ben Eltonists with a circular motion of his hand. Nevertheless, it still remains hard to see how Zizek has broken the circle himself, or if he even really thinks that he has. Amongst the confusion, Zizek’s hand gestures draw an unspoken parallel. Beyond references to The Lion King, the only other topic which elicits the circular hand gesture is that of revolution.

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Record of a conversation I had with a stranger with a rucksack in Bloomsbury Square

Stranger: Everything in London is dispensible, you know.

Me: Yes.

Stranger: It’s all just pocket money.

Me: Good.

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