Friday, December 26, 2008

Folded Factory Town

Folded Factory Town
Clay Ketter, 2006

The poor: a threatening and indispensable enemy. From the dangerous classes to the danger of the multitude.

The corsi e ricorsi of history are strange. It is renowned that throughout the history of capitalism the definition of ‘dangerous classes’ has been very flexible. In the era of manufacture the poor were the dangerous: the multitude of penniless and vagabonds agricultural workers and landless peasants forced to move towards cities and factories. In the era of large industry, the workers became the ‘dangerous class’: assembled en masse in the factory, they exercised a pressure that affected all social relations; the dangerous class had to be pushed on the path of poverty, unemployment, and the industrial reserve army. Today the poor is the enemy once again: in Postfordism, the flexible worker - mobile and precarious, capable of producing cognitive and intellectual surplus - is the enemy, threatened by means of exclusion, as if poverty was not enough. Precarious middle classes, taylorised intellectual labour and an immaterial labour force degraded through industrial instrumentalisation and the alienation of value: this is the fate of the new condition of poverty. However, never has the poor been in the condition of being as productive as he is now. In social production, since labour becomes cooperative, a concrete common realisation - and this common constitutes the core necessary condition for the production of commodities and services - exclusion would seem to be impossible. Despite the myriad of mechanisms of exclusion to which he is subjected, the poor expresses an enormous power of life and production. What is excluded through the legal and economic forms of capital is nevertheless included in the circuits of social and biopolitical production. Thus the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and wage less represent first of all a contradictory situation: they are excluded from a general social condition that conceives of value as built in community. This is the reason for the dangerousness of the poor, the substance of his ‘being foe’ to the actual form of capitalist command.

Despite its current crisis, the ideology of labour keeps producing negative effects. In the era of large manufacture, working class organisation never liked the poor: if the poor were excluded from the productive process, he was also excluded from any meaningful role in political organisation. Like the capitalists, the working class Left also conceived of the poor as dangerous, not only because the poor can appear to be unproductive social parasites (thieves, prostitutes, junkies etc.) but also because they seem politically unstable and basically irrational. In fact, at certain times in history fascists and reactionary populism used the poor as the social base and weapon against the working class, and counting on their disorganisation and resentment for their exclusion. The working class movement often imagined the poor to be part of the enemy, a full member of that industrial reserve army that could attack the wage relation and put workers’ employment in danger. Whilst communists certainly denounced labour aristocracies, the diffidence towards the poor would not cease so long as the ideology of labour hegemonised the minds of socialists.

In Postfordism the poor comes out of the picture into which he had been forced by large manufacture capitalism and the operaismo of that stage of social composition of labour. In many ways, the more the worker is positively inserted in social productive activity, the poorer he is today. The distinction between directly productive labour and unproductive labour has always been dubious, also in Marxian discourse. However, for Marx the poor were neither productive nor unproductive: they lied outside of production, as the savage lies outside of civilisation. But just as the savage fully resides inside globalisation today, so has the poor entirely re-entered social production. His productive capacity is not virtual - as it used to be when the vagabond was pushed from the countryside to new industrial cities. The labour capacity of the poor is now actual because the entire set of social relations is productive. However, the poor is still the enemy or has become again the enemy par excellence because he is necessary to production, rich in productive capacity and included in social production. All of this, just in the name of the need for inclusion, makes him dangerous and inimical. As it is always the case for the enemy of society, the poor must fight against poverty and thus recognise himself as his own enemy. Such was the case of the worker who, struggling against exploitation, had to conceive his own destruction. The suppression of poverty must then represent itself as the suppression of the poor. But the suppression of poverty is also a struggle against those who organise poverty as the basis of their wealth and of capitalist development.

If it is true that the poor is included in the biopolitical texture of social production, the struggle against poverty will be a constituent one. Poverty reveals the subversive content of the universal participation of the labour force to social production. In the era of large industry the struggles of the poor were always resistance struggles - whatever their outcome. In England, Germany, the United States in the 1920's, and again in Europe during the 1970's, the struggles of the poor were struggles for appropriation. Resistance and appropriation are the struggles of the excluded, but today, with the social inclusion of labour, the struggles of the poor merge and become entangled with those of the workers and they are constituent. They only become effective when they manage to halt the mechanisms of exploitation and hierarchisation of the global labour force. Because of this, citizenship income becomes the constituent political key of the struggles of the poor: it merges the political recognition of inclusion and the project of democratic management of globalisation. Thus the poor becomes the real enemy.

Antonio Negri
Source : Published on Global Magazine, Issue 2, May 2003. Translated by Arianna Bove

under construction

A collaborative artistic experiment based on the idea of re- construction

Artists :Iasonas Kontovrakis, Xanthi Kostorizou,Alexandros Laios, Spiros Nakas, Chrysanthi Papaxenou,Georgia Tourmouzi, Panos Famelis, Maro Fasouli, Kostas Christopoulos

Using improvisation as the central process, a group of artists embark on an adventure constructing a building using the remains found in the surrounding area. The final construction, while housing a common idea, simultaneously cohabitates differing artistic worlds and values. The whole process remains open to additional intervention and elaboration once the initial construction has been completed. Thus adding elements, which will determine the form and value of this experiment and symbolic cohabitation.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Losing it all to Win again

"Losing it all to Win again "
51 x 13 x 58 cm
wood, acrylic, wool, cloth

Friday, December 19, 2008


Base:Object brings together five new sculptures which explore the status of the pedestal in contemporary art. Strictly as a tool to present a sculpture, to clarify what is and what is not an art object, and to signify the importance of what is being displayed, the pedestal has been undermined in modern art history since Constantin Brancusi's sculptures in the earliest decades of the 20th century. All of the works in the exhibition subversively complicate the duality of the pedestal/art object relationship and unlike Minimalist sculpture from the 1960s, choose to work with and through the form of the pedestal without completely obliterating it. The pedestal can act as a kind of barrier between art and non-art, simultaneously anointing the displayed and effacing itself. When the pedestal becomes the art object, these hierarchies are crushed into a shimmering sea of infinite difference.

Do you know how diamonds get to us? Three hundred miles underground are heats and pressures that crush carbon into sparkling shapes, driven for months or days or hours along hotel corridors called diamond pipes until they erupt in a pile of taffeta and chocolate some moonlit afternoon, an event no human has ever witnessed.
-Anne Carson

The sculptures in Base:Object figure fragility and precariousness, constriction, binding, and fracturing. Surfaces are rough and raw and scarred. These works are experiments to set meaning in motion. These sculptures deny the autonomy of the art object and yet celebrate the motivations and compulsions to make art. The works in this exhibition and by this generation of artists short circuit the embedded ideologies of presentation and recast traditional signs of importance and value. This subversion is made manifest by working a kind of alchemy on the detritus and cheap materials overlooked in a society of consumption.

Sara Barker
abject posture

All of the works in Base:Object display a marked interest in materiality and the painstaking effort of creating an object both seemingly casual and formally rigorous. Eschewing bronze, porcelain, and carved wood, the works in Base:Object are constructed from the everyday materials of the urban world: concrete, Formica, urethane, nylon yarn, canvas, carpet, sheets of glass, bits of wood, foam, drywall. They are the children of Minimalist boxes, no longer simply reflecting the viewers gaze back into the world at large, but displaying their origins in that world. It's the Minimalist cube or the Rauschenberg combine infected by the desires and conditions of the society that bore them. Barker, Hill, Monahan, O'Brien, and Ruby are all working contemporaneously in a time of uncertainty, war, gross economic inequity, financial collapse, and unprecedented environmental destruction. Heats and pressures erupting form-possibilities of renewal built from the ruins of the present.

Sterling Ruby
Absolute Contempt for Total Serenity / DB Deth

Sara Barker, Patrick Hill
Matthew Monahan, William J. O'Brien
Sterling Ruby

Curated by Cory Nomura
Andrea Rosen Gallery

The Parthenon of Books/Homage to Democracy

Marta Minujin, "The Parthenon of Books/Homage to Democracy, Buenos Aires,"
(December 1983)

Ομόνοια blues

Ή το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο της πολιτισμικής παγκοσμιοποίησης

Η σύγχρονη πόλη ζει μια πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα αντίφαση. Από τη μια είναι χτισμένη με αδρανή υλικά και μεταβάλλεται αργά, στη λογική της μακράς διάρκειας που χαρακτήριζε πάντα τα οικοδομικά κελύφη της αρχιτεκτονικής της. Και από την άλλη είναι ο φυσικός φορέας της κοινωνικής και πολιτισμικής δραστηριότητας που μεταλλάσσεται διαρκώς με έναν φρενήρη ρυθμό κυκλοφορίας ανθρώπων και εμπορευμάτων, πληροφοριών και εικόνων κάθε είδους και μορφής. Είναι δύσκολο να συλλάβει το μυαλό μας την κινητικότητα αυτή, διαρκώς κινούμενο και το ίδιο, μέσα στο φυσικό του σώμα και στο δίκτυο της πληροφορίας, βιώνοντας την καθημερινότητα του χώρου ζωής και εργασίας, του αυτοκινήτου και του μέσου επικοινωνίας. Ολα γύρω είναι ή φαίνεται πως είναι σταθερά και αμετάβλητα. Η τριλογία της οδού Πανεπιστημίου- Βιβλιοθήκη, Πανεπιστήμιο, Ακαδημία- είναι όπως ήταν προτού γεννηθεί οποιοσδήποτε από εμάς, με εξαίρεση την πρόσφατη «επένδυση» ενός κτιρίου με «hondos» πίσω από τη Βιβλιοθήκη, στην οδό Ιπποκράτους, που έχει αλλάξει δραστικά το βάθος πεδίου. Και όχι μόνο δεν αλλάζουν τα κτίρια, αλλά συντηρούνται επίμονα και συστηματικά για να φαίνεται ότι δεν αλλάζουν. Το ίδιο ακριβώς συμβαίνει- παραδόξως- στην πλατεία της Ομόνοιας. Λέω «παραδόξως» γιατί οι περισσότεροι θα υποστήριζαν πως η πλατεία αυτή άλλαξε πολύ τα τελευταία χρόνια. Και όμως, η πλατεία, που ορίζεται από το μέτωπο των περιμετρικών κτιρίων, διατηρεί την τετράγωνη μορφή που είχε πάντα και περιβάλλεται από τα κτίρια που γνώρισα και εγώ σαν παιδί. Και εδώ τα κτίρια έχουν συντηρηθεί, καθαριστεί και αναδειχθεί για να εξασφαλιστεί το αμετάβλητο του αρχιτεκτονικού κελύφους, με εξαίρεση ένα, «ντυμένο» και αυτό με «hondos», στη γωνία της 3ης Σεπτεμβρίου. Αυτά που αλλάζουν περισσότερο από οτιδήποτε άλλο σε μια πόλη είναι τα κάθε είδους κινητά συστατικά της, οι άνθρωποι, τα αυτοκίνητα, τα εμπορεύματα, η εικόνα των εμπορευμάτων (τα «hondos» δηλαδή). Σε αυτά υποτάσσεται η οργάνωση των ροών της κίνησης και των εφήμερων στάσεων, αυτά εκφράζουν το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο και την πολιτισμική παγκοσμιοποίηση στο σύγχρονο αστικό τοπίο.
Η Ομόνοια ήταν και είναι ζωτικός πυκνωτής στη σύγχρονη μεγαλούπολη στην οποία ζούμε. Ο Δρομέας ήρθε και έφυγε, όπως έρχονται και φεύγουν οι δημοτικοί άρχοντες. Το σιντριβάνι του 1960, έργο αρχιτέκτονα και γλύπτη, διαρκώς μεταβαλλόμενο στη ροή της μέρας και της νύχτας, μείξη χρωμάτων και υδάτων, αυτοκινήτων και ανθρώπων, ήταν μια εφήμερη «εγκατάσταση» στη μακρά διάρκεια της πλατείας. Και η σύγχρονη πλατεία είναι το έδαφος μιας πολιτισμικής εντροπίας επειδή προσφέρει την ευκαιρία για λίγο μεγαλύτερη στάση στη διαρκώς μεταβαλλόμενη σύνθεση της κοινωνικής συγκρότησής της. Η αταξία αυτή είναι χαρακτηριστικό πύκνωμα της πολιτισμικής παγκοσμιοποίησης στην οποία αναφέρομαι. Οι διασταυρούμενες ροές φύλων και φυλών, συναλλαγών και ανταλλαγών, αυτοκινήτων, τουριστών και δύο γραμμών μετρό με οκτώ δρόμους που οδηγούν σε όλες τις γειτονιές της Αθήνας είναι το αποκορύφωμα της αστικής πλατείας της μεταβιομηχανικής κοινωνίας. Το πρωί και το απόγευμα, στο φως του ήλιου, στον ηλεκτρισμό του υπογείου, όλη τη νύχτα στις ανταύγειες του γενικού φωτισμού, η πλατεία είναι εξαιρετικά ζωντανή χωρίς να είναι ίδια. Μοιάζει με πλατείες από όλον τον κόσμο, που υλοποιούν το μητροπολιτικό ανάλογο της καρδιάς, Τimes Square και Αlexanderplatz, αλλά είναι ταυτοχρόνως διαμορφωμένη με ισχυρή αστική τυπολογία και είναι γεωγραφικά ορισμένη σε σχέση με το πολιτισμικό αποκορύφωμα της πόλης, την Ακρόπολη, ώστε να επιβάλλεται και ως κλασική πλατεία. Το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο της σύγχρονης μεγαλούπολης είναι μια σύνθεση αντιθέσεων που γνωρίζαμε ήδη από τον περασμένο αιώνα, αλλά τώρα εκρήγνυνται ως πολιτισμική παγκοσμιοποίηση και επιταχύνονται σε πείσμα της αδράνειας του οικοδομικού περιβάλλοντος. Συγκρίνοντας την Ομόνοια του Γιώργου Ιωάννου με τη σημερινή μπορούμε να μετρήσουμε αυτή την αλλαγή και ίσως να ορίσουμε ένα υψηλότερο συντελεστή ρευστοποίησης των διαφόρων κοινωνικών δράσεων, αλλά δεν πρόκειται να εκπλαγούμε. Και όμως, η έκπληξη του ιθαγενούς κοινωνικού συνόλου ήταν απρόσμενα ηχηρή όταν σχεδιάστηκε η «τελευταία» Ομόνοια με το πρόσωπο της πόλης του 21ου αιώνα, ψηφιακή, διεθνής, κοινωνική, ως ιδανικό πλαίσιο της πολιτισμικής παγκοσμιοποίησης.
Η γενικευμένη αντίδραση απαίτησε αναδρομικά το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο της πόλης του 19ου αιώνα, την πλατεία του μεγάλου χωριού, με τραπεζάκια έξω και δεντροστοιχίες, με την ευτυχία γραμμένη σε όλα τα πρόσωπα και βεβαίως με «καθαρότητα» σε όλες τις ταυτότητες και τις ανθρώπινες σχέσεις. Και το ζήτησε πάνω από μια τεχνητή πόλη, στην «ταράτσα» του πολυώροφου επικέντρου της, στο roof-garden, έχοντας ήδη «απωθήσει» τη μη καθαρή σύνθεση των κοινωνικά και πολιτισμικά επίμεικτων δράσεων σε όλη την υπόλοιπη χώρα, στις γειτονιές και τα σπίτια, στα εργοστάσια και τα χωράφια, έχοντας εξορκίσει επιδεικτικά το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο και την πολιτισμική παγκοσμιοποίηση για χάρη μιας πόλης-θεάματος του εξιδανικευμένου εαυτού της. Ποιο μπορεί να είναι λοιπόν το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο της πόλης σε μια εποχή της πολιτισμικής παγκοσμιοποίησης; Τι άλλο από ένα πεδίο συγκερασμού των πολιτισμικών και εθνικών ταυτοτήτων, των κοινωνικών και οικονομικών αποκλίσεων, των φυλετικών, των θρησκευτικών και ηθικών διακρίσεων. Στη Νέα Υόρκη, στο Λονδίνο, στο Παρίσι, στις μεγάλες πόλεις, η διαπολιτισμικότητα αυτή ήταν εγκατεστημένη από τον περασμένο αιώνα και αποτελούσε
ένα δεδομένο που έτρεφε, μέσα από την αντίθεση και τη σύγκρουση, την πολύβουη σύνθεση του αστικού προσώπου τους. Τόσοι και τόσοι από μας έχουν ταξιδέψει και έχουν απολαύσει τις «βρώμικες» πλατείες, έχουν περπατήσει σε ανήσυχους δρόμους των δυτικών μητροπόλεων, χαμένοι στη βαβούρα της πολιτισμικής συνύπαρξης και στο θέαμα των αντιφάσεων. Μαύρα, άσπρα και κίτρινα πρόσωπα, πολύχρωμα ρούχα, ακατανόητες γλώσσες και μουσικές, σε πλατείες και πεζοδρόμια, πραγματικό μωσαϊκό πολιτισμών που συναντιούνται αλλά δεν σμίγουν και όμως πορεύονται μαζί, τη μέρα και τη νύχτα, στη δουλειά και στη ζωή. Το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο της πόλης του 21ου αιώνα θα είναι το πρόσωπο μιας αμοιβαίας αναγνώρισης των διαφορών, μιας πολιτισμικής συνάντησης που «οικοδομείται» ως ανθρώπινη σχέση στο εσωτερικό του αργά μεταβαλλόμενου αρχιτεκτονικού κελύφους κάθε αστικού περιβάλλοντος.

Σε ένα κέλυφος σαν και αυτό, σε μια «Ομόνοια» ολοκληρωμένη όπως σχεδιάστηκε, για τον 21ο και όχι τον 19ο αιώνα, πρέπει να δοκιμαστεί η δυνατότητα να αποκτήσει ο χώρος της συλλογικής μας ύπαρξης το όποιο κοινωνικό πρόσωπο επιθυμούμε. Χωρίς αμφιβολία, η συνάντηση αυτή θα είναι μια σύνθεση πραγματικών αντιθέσεων. Το κοινωνικό πρόσωπο θα είναι οπωσδήποτε ένα πρόσωπο με τα ίχνη των συγκρούσεων που θα έχουν αφήσει ουλές, που θα έχει «φάει» το δέρμα του ο συγκερασμός, όπως «τρώει» το ανθρώπινο πρόσωπο ο καιρός και ο χρόνος. Η πολιτισμική συνάντηση, αυτή η πανάρχαια πρακτική των λαών που κινούνται πέρα από θάλασσες και από στεριές, θα οξύνει τις ανταλλαγές, θα ωριμάσει τις επιρροές, θα γονιμοποιήσει. Στην Ομόνοια λοιπόν- συμβολικό ανάλογο της σύγκλισης που ορίζει το όνομά της- κρίνεται το πρόσωπο που θα αποκτήσει η πολιτισμική παγκοσμιοποίηση. Και αυτό το «πρόσωπο» δεν θα είναι τελικά ένα ζήτημα του χτισμένου αλλά του ανθρώπινου περιβάλλοντος. Θα είναι το δικό μας πρόσωπο.

Παναγιώτης Τουρνικιώτης
Panayotis Tournikiotis

Πηγή:ΒΗΜΑ ΙΔΕΩΝ - Τεύχος 05/12/2008

And Now?

Nicos Charalambidis, "Cport", 2008

Jonathan Callan, "Samson", 2006

Other Artists
Nikos Alexiou, Katerina Apostlolidou, Dimitra Vamiali, Kostis Velonis, Yiorgis Yerolympos, Steve Yianakos, Vagelis Gokas, Jonathan Callan, Sam Herbert, Aikaterini Gegisian, Yiannis Theodoropoulos, Lina Thedorou, Eleni Theofylaktou, Dionisis Kavalilieratos, Lizzie Calligas, Panos Kokinias, Maria Konti, Alexis Kyritsopoulos,Daphne Lianantonaki, Nikos Markou, Irini Miga, Maro Mihalakakos, Vassili Balatsos, Kostas Bassanos, Nikos Navridis, Antonis Ntonef, Zafos Xagoraris, Maria Papadimitriou, Leda Papakonstantinou, Nina Papakonstantinou, Eftihis Patsourakis, Paris Petridis, Hrair Sarkissian, Dimitris Skalkotos, Su Mei Tse, Jan Fabre, Makis Faros, Maria Finn, Nicos Charalampidis, George Xadjimihalis, Katerina Christidi, Petros Chrisostomou, «» (Yiannis Gregoriadis, Lina Theodorou, Yiannis Isidorou).

And Now? - Greek State Museum, Thessaloniki
Curated by Christina Petrinou
December 17 - February 22, 2009

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Non Conformist Chair

Design by Eileen Gray (1925)

Eileen Gray explains the non conformist shape of this model. "We deliberately left out one armrest to give more ease to the body. You can comfortably lean over to one side or turn around when sitting on this chair".

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"You'll Live, But I'll Not..."

You'll live, but I'll not; perhaps,
The final turn is that.
Oh, how strongly grabs us
The secret plot of fate.

They differently shot us:
Each creature has its lot,
Each has its order, robust, --
A wolf is always shot.

In freedom, wolves are grown,
But deal with them is short:
In grass, in ice, in snow, --
A wolf is always shot.

Don't cry, oh, friend my dear,
If, in the hot or cold,
From tracks of wolves, you'll hear
My desperate recall.

Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

Building's Facade after the Riot in Athens

Better Living Through Chemistry

Mosanto House of the Future, Disneyland, Anaheim (1957).

According to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the House of the Future "was a design anomaly: though fabricated from materials concocted in an industrial laboratory - the company's motto was "Better Living Through Chemistry" - the house took the shape of a flower from another galaxy, an abstract sculpture with four, lobate wings or blossoms budding from a central stem.
No longer Le Corbusier's "machine for living," the family home was a work of modern art, in which function was subordinate to the dramatized forms of eyes, legs, fingers, lungs, and a pliant skin of sleek white plastic. The all-plastic wings were composed of modular panels in contoured shapes filled with foam insulation.
Each one featured a picture window - a huge eye with the proportions of a TV screen."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Working Class Family

Oscar Bony
"The Working Class Family" (1968)

Ω, Τι Ωραίο Πλιάτσικο!

Uploaded from inlovewithlife

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tribes of clutter

The Comfort of Things
Daniel Miller, Polity Press

This book sums up how far social anthropology has progressed since Henry Mayhew wrote about the skull shapes of costermongers in the 19th century. Daniel Miller's approach is more in keeping with that of the wild and weird Tom Harrisson and the pioneers of Mass Observation in the 1930s. Having studied cannibalistic tribes in the New Hebrides, Harrisson despatched researchers to Bolton and north London to spy on the British working class at play. They reported on, among other things, the fixation with astrology, the football Pools, and "the cult of the aspidistra". These brief expeditions were undertaken as a tentative consumerism began to lighten the lives of the masses. At the time, George Orwell, having returned from his sojourn in Wigan, suggested that fish and chips, tinned salmon, radio and strong tea might have averted revolution.

Flying ducks and flock wallpaper: possessions mortared with memory

Ultimately, if hope lay with the proles it lay with them as consumers. This, at least, was the contention of Dr Gallup, whose market research techniques attempted to understand the British as consumers, just as Mass Observation attempted to understand them as citizens. In The Comfort of Things, Miller investigates the citizens of contemporary London by way of their consumerism - or at least their material possessions, in an era of unprecedented mass consumption.
Initially Miller - currently a professor of anthropology at University College London - took the conventional approach to his craft, using expeditions to India, Trinidad and the Solomon Islands to investigate contemporary humanity "through the material form". In this new book he challenges the assumption that an attachment to things makes us more materialistic and superficial, consequently ruining the true potential of relationships. It is an assumption that environmental fundamentalists and certain psychologists line up behind when blaming the "affluence" of the masses for every earthbound evil. It is these and those of a similar mindset that you hope Miller might be addressing when arguing that such clichés and assumptions are seldom put to the test. "Possessions often remain profound," he says, "and usually the closer our relationships are with objects, the closer our relationships are with people."
But this is only part of the wider question he addresses in The Comfort of Things. It's a question that goes to the root of social science: what rituals and customs do human beings create to bring each other together? He argues that contemporary Londoners do not live their lives according to the cosmology of a religion or a belief in society. In fact, he echoes Margaret Thatcher in suggesting that there may no longer be such a thing as society, simply individuals in relationships with other people and objects. The latter is the impetus for this book, and a year and a half of research spent interviewing the inhabitants of a street in south-east London.
The "Stuart Street" of The Comfort of Things is an arbitrary choice, but its very ordinariness makes it interchangeable with other neighbourhoods in the capital. Diversity rather than homogeneity is what interests Miller, and this is what distinguishes the endeavour from the Britain that Mass Observation investigated. Only 23 per cent of the inhabitants of Stuart Street are London-born, and many of the 30 individuals allocated a "portrait" in this book hold allegiances to foreign localities. The modern London is fragmented, and the loss of identity has become its defining characteristic. In Miller's findings collectivism and community do not have an effective role to play in Stuart Street or elsewhere in the metropolis. "If ever we lived in a post-society, whose primary focus is on diversity rather than shared or systematically ordered culture, the London street is that post-society."
As such, for Miller, the study of material culture is the clue to understanding modern values. However, it is the characters less defined by the objects that surround them which prove to be the biggest finds in this book. There is Malcolm, a man whose email address is more of a "home" than his accommodation on Stuart Street, where his desire to embrace a digital existence has him jettisoning ornaments and accoutrements for a virtual life on the laptop. And the opening chapter of the book, "Empty", is the story of George, a 76-year-old who is more the stuff of fiction - the missing link between Melville's Bartleby and Miss Haversham. "It was after meeting George that we found ourselves in tears," writes Miller. "Because in every other instance there was a sense that at least that person had once lived. This was a man more or less waiting for his time on earth to be over, but who had never seen his life actually begin."
George is someone whose existence has been entirely dependent on the say-so of others, ranging from his parents to the state. Even the business of obtaining objects and decorating his flat requires decisions that are too big for him to deal with. His environment is beyond that self-conscious minimalism, that ethical thrift or that anti-consumerism which becomes its own lifestyle choice. His is a home where nothing survives as a clue to the history, or even the existence of its sole inhabitant: no mementoes, ornaments, photographs.
George is therefore the character who rattles part of Miller's thesis: "People sediment possessions, lay them down as foundations, material walls mortared with memory, strong supports that come into their own when times are difficult and the people who laid them down face experiences of loss."
Each portrait in The Comfort of Things is a chapter that reads like a short story. Miller has a tenderness and an affection for these characters, and his descriptions sometimes soar like passages in a novel, although there are moments when the author's projections tend to hint more at his own limitations than those of his subject. One such is the suggestion that George's lack of identity and passion for royalty make him ideal fodder for fascism.
Between the alienated and dysfunctional figures unearthed by Miller's research are those who find a joy and a passion in the things that help them nest and settle in a fragmented city. There is the cockney Londoner of old here, too, the breed whose bones lie beneath the city's paving stones; those forgotten by the new model "Londoner" who has rebranded the capital by way of a beloved multiculturalism that is as mythical as the "Middle England" he or she loathes. Working-class Marjorie accumulates things that, according to Miller, "never lose their rapport with the present". She is constantly changing the gallery of framed photographs that shroud her living room and watching old videos in an abode stacked with images of her family, as well as those of celebrities from the Beatles to television newsreaders.
Marjorie, perhaps more than any of the other characters in The Comfort of Things, best epitomises the theory that Miller is left with when his work in Stuart Street is done: in modern London, households and individuals alike have themselves to create the values that once defined us as a society. This is the departure that, here in the 21st century, has made social anthropology embark on a rethink. In losing the opportunity to study something known as society, it has been forced to focus solely on the individual and the home.
To the contemporary anthropologist such as Daniel Miller, "This street is New Guinea and every household in this book is a tribe."

text by Michael Collins

Για τη Μεσσαλίνα, ακολασία κι άρνηση

Σε κάθε σιωπηλή πτυχή των ημερών μου
ελλόχευε ένα ποίημα,
όχι απ’ αυτά που γράφουν στο χαρτί,
αλλά από κείνα που ‘ναι διάχυτα στον άνεμο
ή που κυλούν με το αίμα μας στις φλέβες
και που ‘ναι αυτό καθεαυτό το αίμα πιθανόν
μεθυσμένο από το χρώμα, το ρυθμό και την ιδέα
μιας ακολασίας μουσικής

Η κάθε νύχτα, μου μιλούσε με ένα ποίημα
που ‘σπρωχνε και φούσκωνε τα τζάμια
σαν ιστία πλοίου επειγόμενου να φύγει
κι η καμάρα μου τότε ναυαγούσε σε κυκλώνες
πυρετού και φαντασίας εξημμένης
απ’ το χρώμα το ρυθμό της ιδέα
μιας ακολασίας μουσικής.

Στα μπρούτζινα κορμιά των μονομάχων
στα διψασμένα μάτια των φρουρών
ελλόχευε παντού, με τόση λυσσαλέα επιμονή
αυτό το διψασμένο κι αδηφάγο ποίημα
ώστε μ’ άναψε και μ’ έκαψε και μ’ έκανε
ολόκληρη κι εμένα ένα ποίημα, που αναπτύχθηκε
και τέλειωσε στο χρώμα, το ρυθμό και την ιδέα
μιας ακολασίας μουσικής.

Σταύρος Βαβούρης
από τη συλλογή Τρία ποιήματα, 1954


Monday, December 1, 2008


New leader in the lively art of electronics | Motorola, 1961