Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Was a very fun night. McGowan and I attempted to foment a riot in the audience, and the Psychick Self Defenders did their Velvet Underground/Drunk and nasty Hawkwind thing. There was a bear as well. The whole thing was deliberately ritualistic confrontational; McGowan's attempt to split the audience in two and get them to fight each other, and the band, then me, screaming threats and imprecations over a background that throbbed and droned like "Sister Ray." A good night for all. I have posted a video of the performance here, I appear somewhere towards the middle.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


Tonight I perform at the Anti-Design Festival with Mark McGowan and Rex Nemo and the Psychic Self-Defenders. As is usual, but perhaps more so than usual, I have no clue what I will be talking about. There will be some sort of reference to football hooliganism - or at least that's what Mark's piece will be. I think that I will be touching on this, largely due to the EDL's chant, borrowed from the terraces: "You're not English any more". The "any more" part is telling; you were English, but now you're not. However, you are still included in the category English, as "Un-English"; an entirely different matter from "You're not English". It is a clear example of the state of exception in spatial practice.

McGowan's recent video plays with a similar disjunction, Irish music accompanying scenes of what one assumes are English (possibly nationalist) hooligans disporting themselves.

The festival itself is a manifestation of a clapped out aesthetic, full of "punk" references and "interactive", if not "relational" elements that needs a design context to look subversive rather than simply tired.

I'm intrigued by the statement on the website that claims that the festival is "a response to 25 years of cultural deep-freeze". I can't work out where the twenty five years comes from - why not 13? Election of New Labour, or 31 - the Tories? Or, in my personal opinion -21 - fall of the Berlin Wall? I suspect that twenty five would be about the average age for someone graduating from an art or design M.A at this time, and roughly half the age of a good few of the participants, but I don't know what this might mean.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


I liked Shane Meadow's film largely for its performances - the kid was especially good - but was less convinced by the "period detail" (music, dad killed in Falklands) that quite a lot of the critics enthused about. I'm also more than a little ambivalent about skinheads, anyway; I know there were anti-racist skins around, but there weren't any where I grew up. What seemed to get a lot of people excited when the film came out was its apparently shocking premise that the working class were not all knuckle dragging xenophobes.

Anyway, to the series - which follows the characters from the film a few years on. I haven't yet watched the second part, so maybe what I'm going to say will be proved redundant. Brendan O'Neill in Spiked has already pointed out what is probably the most telling sequence of part one:

"One of the most striking things about the first episode is how people-free the settings were. This was most clear in the scenes in the hospital...Utterly bereft of other patients, doctors and nurses, the hospital becomes a playground for the good skins to muck about in...having a wheelchair race...or to resolve their personal differences in..."

There are no other people. The whole point about youth subcultures is that they were oppositional, you defined yourself by your tribe and your tribe was defined against not just other tribes but society in general. Meadow's skins exist in a bubble, they are not in opposition to anything. In this, it is absolutely unfaithful to the 1980's in particular and to the meaning of youth cults in general. However, in this it is faithful to the 21st century.

O'Neill makes the comparison to "Friends", which I think is pretty accurate. That enormously successful sitcom was a quintissential product of the "Happy '90's", its protagonists occupied a de-politicised (one assumed that they were vaguely liberal/left)and largely depopulated void. Their semi-incestuous inter-relationships were posited not just as a defense against the world, they were the world.


This in the Guardian.