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Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 01:32 pm
On shamanism

I recently had the strange experience of being interviewed by an ethnomusicologist about my relationship with, and use of, my neighborhood in Neukolln. The anthropologist was a musician herself -- she records under the name of Hilde Tropengold and will support Max Tundra on February 19th here in Berlin. When I told people I'd done the interview, they said "Oh, I thought ethnomusicologists only talked to people in Mali or Melanesia!" I guess the prefix "ethno-" makes people feel the interviewer and interviewee should be of different ethnicities and come from different cultures, but of course they don't have to.



I doubt I managed to be as interesting a subject as the shamans Swiss ethnographer Michael Oppitz captured in his amazing 1980 film Shamans of the Blind Country. This is classic anthropological field work amongst the Magar people of West Nepal, a pre-literate mountain tribe living in the vicinity of the Dhaulagiri range dividing India and Nepal. These people practice a shamanistic religion which Oppitz wants to preserve "the way the Iliad and the Odyssey have been preserved".

In Oppitz's brilliant, long film -- which has a slightly fictional feel thanks to a voice-over by William Burroughs -- the transhumance of sheep to new pastures becomes, in the Magar religion, the model for the departure to the netherworld of the soul of a dead man. Once the funeral rituals are completed, the young of the village engage in public sexual play, with the assumed approval of the dead man whose soul has just been sent out with the sheep.

In an interview with Swiss television, Oppitz explains the danger that the religions of preliterate cultures might be lost. Because these religions can't be summarised in a catechism or canon of texts, they rely on oral transmission from one shaman to his or her successor. Three things have threatened the Magar shamanic religion: colonialism, Christianisation and the pull of the big Indian cities.



I found it interesting to relate the rituals seen in this film to four things in my own life: the ethnomusicological interview I did, the performance art I'll do in New York later this year, the Shangri-La theme I wrote about in December, and a recent event in London, where flashmobbers disrupted Liverpool Street Station for a few minutes last week.

I guess the interview in which I became an ethno-musician linked to this particular area of Neukolln made me see something Oppitz talks about in his Swiss TV interview; that all forms of knowledge are linked to specific practices in specific places. If a Momus record is a "form of knowledge", it relies on Berlin to come into existence. Another city would create another sort of musical knowledge. This is a point about cultural relativism and rootedness; we cannot detach knowledge from location, which means that any "science" has a history tying it to the specific people and places where and for whom it's true.



The performance art thing relates to the influence of Joseph Beuys, who presented himself as a German shaman (in Beuys too we have this odd presentation of a Caucasian person as an "ethnic", a person ready to be investigated by anthropologists, a person with a system of fetishes, cures, spiritual knowledge). As the blurb for a recent Beuys show says, Beuys "integrated ancient cultural traditions and mythical imaginative worlds into modern-day scientific and epistemological thinking. His exhibits' mysterious-spiritual aura stems not least from the fact that 'fields of knowledge' on the point of disappearing such as shamanism, alchemy, magic, cosmology, animism, naturopathy and natural myths found their way into his artistic creations and were even an integrated part of his way of thinking and acting. In Beuys' comprehensive oeuvre we constantly encounter spiritual rituals and shamanic practices. According to Beuys it is only through the inclusion of these rituals that a process of spiritual renewal of the individual and society becomes possible."

I also recognised in the kinds of activities the shamans perform in the Oppitz film the sort of gestures Aki Sasamoto and I will be doing in our New York show in May. Aki, for instance, swings potatoes around on elastic or uses unusual cutlery to feed her partner. These are exactly the sort of things shamans do; they fire tiny bows and arrows in all directions, or make a representation of an animal out of baskets and plants. Their gestures are designed to meet the needs of an everyday situation; sickness, death, infertility. I like to think that performance art does the same thing. In Love is the End of Art, I hope the rituals we perform address some issues people are having with love and criticism.

The Shangri-La theme is to do with the fact that the Oppitz film provides a third film in the series we looked at in December. Lost Horizon and Black Narcissus, like Shamans of the Blind Country, are films about religious groups, set in the Himalayas. There's a recurrent theme, in all these films, of the rootedness or non-rootedness of the religions. The nunnery in Black Narcissus can't quite adapt to the local conditions. The foreigners who stumble on Shangri-La can't quite embrace its religion of moderation and contentment. Only in the Shamans film does the religion seem properly integrated, socially. But even this has a lost paradise sub-theme, because the shamanic religion is threatened by urbanisation, colonialisation, and evangelical religions.



As for the flashmobbing thing, I'm shocked by the negativity of the tone of this ILE thread about a recent flashmobbing event in London's Liverpool Street Station. Most posters describe the flashmobbers as "random attention-seeking fuckheads... smug annoying wankers who think they're being clever/outrageous/individual/edgy". Two Scandinavian posters -- Dagmar and Tuomas -- are the only voices speaking "for experimentation, for play, for the unconventional". They're quickly condemned and marginalised as "concern trolls". The majority opinion is both that flashmobbing is aggressive and inconsiderate, and that it's twee, timid, self-indulgent and self-regarding; not aggressive enough. The flashmobbers should be beaten up or machine-gunned against a wall.

The hivemind here demonstrates a normatively aggressive concern to see public order maintained at all costs, and wants ritual rigidly separated from public space. If we think of the flashmobbery as a modern sort of shamanism -- an attempt to integrate ritual into everyday life -- then what we see in this thread is that attempt being repudiated. The majority opinion that prevails here is that "art has less right to use (and thereby necessarily to disrupt) public space than almost any other form of human activity". I obviously side with Tuomas and Dagmar, and I think the hivemind represents the worst sort of "aggressive normality" -- the "cosmic toryism" of the idea that whatever is, is right.

Interestingly enough, it's some notion of inequality which makes people reject the flashmob "shamans". Someone says of their performance: "It reminds me of that part in The Wasteland where the narrator is shaking his head sadly at all the similarly-dressed businessmen crossing London Bridge, and how I always want to yell: "Hey they're people, they have histories and families and friends and they're all different etc. you just want them to be faceless etc so you can feel special."



It's this attitude, I think, which is at the core of the normative aggression which refuses the fusion of the everyday and the shamanic. There was flashmobbing during the Hide and Seek Festival last year, in which Hisae and I performed as "shamans" of a sort, alchemizing London into Tokyo via a ritual on the South Bank. We encountered our fair share of disgruntled security staff telling us we were "on private property" even on the esplanades of the South Bank. Our intervention no doubt inconvenienced a few people and annoyed others -- it was, after all, in public space. But I personally think such "disruptions" are extremely valuable. They bring shamanic practices back from the margins into the cultural mainstream. They devise new rituals and provide solutions to problems like boredom, alienation, the mechanical quality of everyday life in a big city.

Shamanic practices aren't meant to designate some people "faceless" and others "special". T.S. Eliot himself was a banker -- one who sometimes put on pale green makeup before heading to work, to emphasize his sense of the inner deadness work made him feel. He could see himself in the crowd that flowed over London Bridge, and also see the need within this crowd of "the dead" for something ancient and extraordinary and poetic to arise, and to re-integrate with everyday reality. It's something the Magar have, and we lack.

29CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)

There's no problem with flash-mobbing but there is often a problem with flash-mobbers. In Britain, especially, they appear far to self-conscious and don't really have the confidence to give themselves over to the moment. They are like guys with bad pick-up lines trying to get a girl but expecting to fail.


ReplyThread
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)

Predictably I'm not as much of a fan of flash mobbing as you are.

Without going into the way it's already been co-opted by advertisers like Vodaphone as some kind of witless example of group-think it also demonstrates something that I think is the opposite of what you describe in your comments about the Magar.

The Magar share a culture. It is inclusive and binds the people together. Activities that others might find objectionable don't matter, because all participate and understand. I don't think it is necessarily good or bad, but it is nothing if not inclusive.

Flash mobbing is pretty Thatcherite in principle, predicated on an idea of freedom that makes it more important for and individual or a privileged group to get its satisfaction doing what it wants to do than to consider the effect on others. I've been caught up in a similar demonstration at Victoria, it was aggressive and unpleasant and inconsiderate. It intimidated and it divided. It's also just fashion. Next year they'll have moved on to something else. The opposite of the Magar.

The crowd is defining its freedom in its opposition and defiance of others. And the others it is in opposition to aren't representatives of "the mechanical quality of everyday life in a big city" but people who quite possibly are opposing that alienation in far less flashy and more interesting ways, perhaps through reflectiveness, politeness, consideration, quiet, for instance. The flash mob doesn't know, or consider this because it is, in itself, a perfect representation of "the mechanical quality of everyday life in a big city" it doesn't care about the needs of anyone else. It just wants to plug in its corporate headset, communicate through using its corporate mobile and do what everyone who thinks like them does because it makes them feel superior. It's a fairly typical example of western narcissism, surely?

I love the way that people find space for themselves in the city while considering the feelings of others at the same time. Much more interesting. And that can be poetic. Not being part of a mob. But then I think large gatherings of people are nearly always bad, by definition...


ReplyThread
krskrft
krskrft
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)

This is a great point. In a way, the flashmob is no different from the asshole in the SUV who turns on red as pedestrians are trying to use the crosswalk, with the exception that the flashmobbers realize what they're doing, whereas the SUV driver does it automatically as part of some larger feeling of entitlement. The former is actually worse, I think.

But as with any demonstrations of this sort, I think it depends on the dispositions of its participants and organizers. The moment it becomes about drawing unfair assumptions of "the normals" (I guess one could say the whole idea is perhaps predicated on this notion, but I allow for that not to be the case) or intimidating those who aren't in on the performance, that's when it crosses the line and becomes just another example of hamfisted mass culture.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)

Like anonymous, I don't see anything wrong with flashmobs, per se, and I don't really have an opinion on them one way or the other. But as with a lot of public art of this sort, which seems to be sociological in nature (i.e. how will those not "part of" the exhibition react to a silent rave, or whatever), it seems like more of a passive-aggressive disturbance than anything else. The goal almost seems to be to get the non-participating people (yes, I understand that part of the idea is that they're "participating" simply by being there, but I'm speaking of those who are not in on it from the start) to have an adverse reaction, to voice criticism, because it's believed that this expression reveals something interesting or important about them, about society, about culture, etc.

In other words, the event, which purports to be an experiment, actually has, it would seem, a fairly narrow and well-defined goal: to create a disturbance that elicits a negative response, in order to prove that public art is considered a disturbance and that it elicits a negative response. And this, of course, upholds the notion that society is not open to art, and is full of closed-minded, provincial pricks.

And all of that may be true. But it's not interesting, and it's not a particularly generous way to prove the point, in my view. I mean, it's like walking up to some middle-aged guy and slapping him in the face, only to act surprised and offended when he calls you "asshole" and kicks you in the knee. And then you go on a blog and write some entry about how middle-aged guys are soulless bastards who can't stomach art in the public space.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)

I can certainly understand mixed feelings about flashmobbing -- I covered this in a big last year entitled Pervasive Urban Gaming: count me out, and in.

Searches on YouTube bring up videos of events in Liverpool Sttreet Station organised as adverts for Nokia and T-Mobile, as well as a "Rickmobbing" event (in which hundreds of people start singing "Never Gonna Give You Up"). The one I mentioned in this piece wasn't connected to advertising (it was organised by an anonymous Facebooker), but does seem to have been inspired by it. The video I watched of it wasn't attractive. Better are the Taipei pillowfight and the performances organised by New York group ImprovEverywhere.

But I don't agree that flashmobbing has "a fairly narrow and well-defined goal: to create a disturbance that elicits a negative response". I guess that logic leads to saying that flashmobbing is "trolling in meatspace" and that people who defend it on bulletin boards are "trolls". I personally have problems with the word "troll", anyway -- most artistic provocateurs that I've loved could be called "trolls", from some narrow perspective.

No, I think we have to trust the stated intention of Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere: "We get satisfaction from coming up with an awesome idea and making it come to life. In the process we bring excitement to otherwise unexciting locales and give strangers a story they can tell for the rest of their lives. We're out to prove that a prank doesn't have to involve humiliation or embarrassment; it can simply be about making someone laugh, smile, or stop to notice the world around them."


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)

You'll note that I never used the word "troll." I also said in my other response that, as always, these types of mass performances will depend on the dispositions of their participants and organizers for success/failure. Again, I'm not "against" flashmobs. I'm actually rather ambivalent about them.

But I do think that jermynsavile's post makes a lot of sense. The act of imposing on "unexciting locales," without regard for others, or without properly examining the chain of assumptions one must make in order to deem a locale "unexciting" in the first place (according to whom? as opposed to what?), can be slightly problematic.

I think we have enough of the "I'ma do what I want, I don't give a fuck what anybody thinks" mentality in the West without artists staking their claim to that attitude as well just to make an intellectual point. Again, it's not inherently bad, but there are so many ways it can go wrong.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)

The thing is, you can't pass this off as libertarian individualism or maverick rudeness -- these are groups coming together to express a collective emotion, and organising the "spontaneity" very carefully in advance.

I think the difficulty with the argument that inner and individual forms of rebellion are sufficient is that any change that has ever happened in society has happened through organised collective action, and this argument would just see us all wandering through a shitty over-rationalised world as "sunken dreamers", making up for the ugliness by massive efforts of solitary inner compensation. Sure, I've lived a big chunk of my life that way, but something about collective dreaming and collective action excites me.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)

But the problem is that, in America or Britain or Canada, everybody is doing the big, loud, making-it-known routine already. We never try the "inner and individual forms of rebellion" in this part of the world. When you think about it, flashmobs are far more suited to places like Japan or Korea, where breaking outward uniformity would stand a decent chance of shocking (and perhaps provoking thought), instead of simply annoying.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)

We never try the "inner and individual forms of rebellion" in this part of the world.

Well, something has to account for all those Radiohead sales!


ReplyThread Parent
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)

I think that this is exactly the point. Incidentally, I have more of a problem with Momus's attitude towards flashmobbing that flashmobbing itself, but do think it is as you say, that it all comes down to "everybody is doing the big, loud, making-it-known routine already."

I find myself arguing that individuals changing, but en masse is something very different to becoming part of a mob or a group and, potentially, becomes far more radical in its implications. History tells us that change is due just as much to these quiet kinds of alteration in attitude as it is to flashy public displays. After all, that is how different social conventions develop in cultures in the first place.

Ironically, I think that when Momus makes claims about a Japanese trend towards postmaterialism, exemplified, as always in his work, by commercial developments such as magazines like Ku:nel ("A kind of good-heartedness, some sentimentalisation of the very old, the very young, and the countryside. Kitchens, modesty, practicality, with a few touches of elegant Mid-Century Modern thrown in") he is inadvertently supporting much the same point.


ReplyThread Parent
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)

Well, most change in society, for good or ill, has involved killing of one sort or another. But we don't find serial killers exciting and claim that they're advocates for change because they kill.

And that is as daft as claiming that there is a link between, say, the civil rights movement and flashmobbing as it is to claim that football hooligans are exciting because they also come together to express a collective emotion, and organise their "spontaneity" very carefully in advance, ironically using similar techniques to flashmobbers. I also easily pass that off as "libertarian individualism or maverick rudeness" and don't see why it's being a group makes any difference.

I'd argue that collectives change things only when they have change in mind. I've yet to see any evidence that flashmobbers do. I'm not even sure you could claim that they're "dreaming" of anything.

But then maybe I'm wrong, perhaps one day we can all feature in a mobile phone advert? What a wonderful changed new world that will be!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
Karkonosze and Dhaulagiri

Wonderful to see Shamans of the Blind Country covered -- a little-known, nearly three-decade-old treasure. Though having for many years until his retirement served as Professor at the University of Zürich and Director of the Ethnographic Museum there, Michael Oppitz is German, not Swiss, and was born in the Karkonosze mountain range, which divides Poland from the Czech Republic.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)

Where I live now, Nepalis run a convenience store and also the very best coffee shop in the county. Another Nepali friend who lives in Nepal is a writer and documentary maker--she has been working on a film about an associate of Burroughs'--so things have perhaps come almost full circle. (Of course, these people are probably not closely related to people from the tribe discussed here--a tribe that undoubtedly has changed a lot since 1980, and no doubt not for the better.) Another friend is the major (only?) translator of Nepali novels into English, which really are quite shamanistic in their nature and not quite like anything else.

Interesting how flashmobbing, love it or hate it, has suddenly acquired such negative connotations--the other day I read about this international ATM theft ring that was described in the media as a "flashmob" crime.

As for that ILE interpretation of "The Waste Land"--how utterly simplistic!


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)

Well, it's about time that social networking had a moral panic all of its own! Otherwise, there'd be no reason to talk about it in the media, at dinner parties, and on blogs!


ReplyThread Parent
kementari2
kementari2
The green fuse
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)

"He could see himself in the crowd that flowed over London Bridge, and also see the need within this crowd of "the dead" for something ancient and extraordinary and poetic to arise, and to re-integrate with everyday reality. It's something the Magar have, and we lack."

I was utterly surprised to read your last sentence here, since Christianity deeply addresses and answers this need. The implications of the communion of saints - the connectedness of past, present, and future Christians - and the incarnation - God's being made human - are profound in their integration of the ancient, extraordinary, and poetic with everyday reality. They also emphasize both the universality and individuality of God's love, dignifying the people that most would consign to facelessness. Awareness of these truths permeates Catholicism especially.

But then I realized that when you said "we," you were probably referring to yourself and other nonreligious Westerners rather than to all Westerners. And after that, I remembered that demographically, Christendom at this time is more a non-Western group than a Western one - as it was for its first 500 or so years as well. So I am guessing you were probably not talking about Christianity at all?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)

I actually disagree with you about Christianity's integration with everyday life. I said recently on this blog that we'd have to imagine Christ leading his disciples towards carpentry and fishing rather than away from them to see that. I also think there's been a ghettoization of spirituality, in Christianity, into certain times and places: churches, Sundays, etc. Christianity has mostly replaced animistic folk religions which were much better integrated with agrarian crop cycles, and therefore everyday life. The Christian calendar hijacks the pagan winter, spring and harvest festivals, but in an abstracted, fraudulent way, integrating them with nebulous events in Christ's life (mostly involving his death) rather than crops and fertility. Japan has been very vigilant against Christian intrusion, and as a result has protected its agrarian animistic religion, Shinto, much better than, say, Britain was able to.

So when I say the Magars have this integration and we lack it, I do mean we Christians. Of course, there's a price to pay for integrating, say, medicine and religion, which is that someone who isn't a specialist doctor is treating a real disease. But the Magar shamans do admit that Western medicine has its place alongside their shamanic practices.

Oppitz, by the way, specifically cites Christianization as a danger to these tribes and their fragile oral culture. Christianity is -- as you suggest in your last para -- a dangerous monoculture which spreads and blights the pluriculture of local religions wherever it goes. I think the Japanese were right to resist it very staunchly.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)

(Plus look what Christianity did to T.S. Eliot's poetry!)


ReplyThread Parent
kementari2
kementari2
The green fuse
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)

I agree with you that in some circles there's a regrettable tendency to restrict the practice of one's Christianity to certain times and places.

I also agree that most animistic folk religions are much better integrated with agrarian crop cycles than Christianity. Much of the time, if an existing religion blends community practices with the worship of its deit(y/ies), adherents to a new religion have difficulty separating them and often err on the side of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." It saddens me that we've lost the community practice, though not the theological justification, of celebrating the seasons as a church for more organic and immediate reasons than their coincidence with feast days.

But while we lack a common ritualization of agrarian life, I think that the implications of the incarnation still give astounding value to and solidarity with the human experience, both everyday life and extreme or even destitute circumstances. Most churches don't have a celebration for carpenters or farmers or fertility in particular. But there is a long tradition of cherishing how the work we do with our hands is ennobled by Christ's working with his hands, through carpentry, washing others' feet, etc. Choosing everyday bread and wine, the fruits of the earth, as his most revered symbol has given pause to many about the role of farmers and the agrarian cycle. And Advent, which celebrates the time Mary was pregnant with Jesus, urges us to bear Christ into the world through our lives, reminiscent of how he was formed of Mary's life. It's a celebration of the creative and formative process in ways physical, artistic, soteriological, spiritual, and eschatological.

While many folk religions value the agrarian crop cycle in a communally beneficial way, they're often limited to one lifestyle or to a focus on one facet of life. Christianity, on the other hand, imputes value to all parts of the human experience.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)

Thank you--now, may I buy one of those new, improved indulgences from you while I help organize the next kinder, gentler Crusade? (The Crusades, come to think of it, really were the flashmobs of the Dark Ages--go tell all the kids, we're boarding a boat to Palestine to wrest Jerusalem from the evil Saracens!)


ReplyThread Parent
sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)

I'd be rather wary of intimating that the vigilance against Christian incursion in the pre-Meiji era was motivated by a desire to protect Shinto rather than defending Tokugawa hegemony and class interests. Vigilant in this case sounds a bit like Radio Moscow speak for what was the brutal oppression of a rather insignificant minority. In more recent times, once Christianity was no longer banned, the more intriguing response is one of general indifference to the missionaries' message. This would seem the more preferable means of dealing with Christians if you don't want them around or getting in the way.

Perhaps Christianity did hijack various pagan festivals, but it's not as if these festivals and other events weren't an area of conflict between competing interpretations prior to that. I don't believe there's some halcyon period without the equivalent of people standing outside/around the synagogue/stone circle and arguing about the rabbi or how the sacrifices are being conducted.

Neither do I think that Christianity is a monoculture. Prosletysing missionaries perhaps! But there's plenty of history describing the accommodation of Christianity with local systems and people go to church and they still keep the festivals. If anything, had Japan not banned Christianity, it may have actually developed into something else other than the dour sermons of travelling Protestants in later times.

But I feel the agrarian pull of a vegetable stock that needs stirring...


ReplyThread Parent
gothikfaerie
gothikfaerie
sade mae wolfkittenleisurepirates
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)

This is a point about cultural relativism and rootedness; we cannot detach knowledge from location

This is precisely the point i tried to make to a friend a few days back, who didn't understand why people were taking the death of Lux Interior so hard. i tried to explain that, aside from the fact the man was a trailblazer, the Cramps were *entirely* shaped by his roots in small-town Ohio.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
Flashmobbing is on par with Big Brother

The idea may begin with some sketchy psychology about what we can learn from one another, or playfulness (preventing people getting to the Barbican in time for that concert they paid £30 for) but ultimately it runs on pain. Bored? Vote with your feet and get out of the City, or stop hanging around with too-tedious 'professional class' people


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Flashmobbing is on par with Big Brother

Ultimately it is a little bit too Debord (the cuckoo, detached, annoying end of Situationism).


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Flashmobbing is on par with Big Brother

Or Ian Sinclair's 'occultist psychogeography' (walking round the M25). Or urban gaming. Or any kind of lightweight, classless, home counties, fun-and-games version of revolutionary tools.


ReplyThread Parent
endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
On a side note

How about this little bit of Japan-ness?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5725915.ece


ReplyThread

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

(Anonymous)
Sat, Feb. 14th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
Re: On a side note

This is also the case in Korea, where we actually have at least 4 Valentines-type days: Pepero Day, which is about buying Pepero (basically Korean Pocky, made by the Lotte Corporation) for someone you like; Valentine's Day, where women give men candy; White Day, where men give women candy; and Black Day, where single people who didn't receive gifts on either day can get together and celebrate/commiserate, apparently.

It would seem that these days, however corporate they are, do attempt to reinforce or affirm various social dynamics that exist, and that they feel useful to Korean people. Perhaps the reason why people are so cynical about Valentine's Day in the West is because it's no longer useful, and feels more like a compulsory annoyance than anything else. In Korea, with the 4 holidays, it's almost impossible for anybody to be left out, but Valentine's, in the West, feels like an insult if you don't fit into a rather narrow, specialized path in life. And this path, as it were, actually seems to be on the wane. We're not following the hyper-traditional path of "date, get married, buy a house, have kids" anymore, and Valentine's in the West seems fitted inextricably to this tradition that no longer appeals to us.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that when you compare the West and Japan (whose Valentine's-related days are quite similar to Korea's as I understand it ... at least with Valentine's and White Day), you're not really comparing apples and apples. They have an entirely different historical understanding of the general event, one that is seemingly not fraught with mythologies that are incompatible with modern society and culture.


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)

Spritual or not?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Feb. 14th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC)

Definitely emitting some vibes!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Feb. 14th, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)

my "two cents":

Like anonymous, I don't see anything wrong with flashmobs, per se, and I don't really have an opinion on them one way or the other. But as with a lot of public art of this sort, which seems to be sociological in nature (i.e. how will those not "part of" the exhibition react to a silent rave, or whatever), it seems like more of a passive-aggressive disturbance than anything else. The goal almost seems to be to get the non-participating people (yes, I understand that part of the idea is that they're "participating" simply by being there, but I'm speaking of those who are not in on it from the start) to have an adverse reaction, to voice criticism, because it's believed that this expression reveals something interesting or important about them, about society, about culture, etc.

In other words, the event, which purports to be an experiment, actually has, it would seem, a fairly narrow and well-defined goal: to create a disturbance that elicits a negative response, in order to prove that public art is considered a disturbance and that it elicits a negative response. And this, of course, upholds the notion that society is not open to art, and is full of closed-minded, provincial pricks.

And all of that may be true. But it's not interesting, and it's not a particularly generous way to prove the point, in my view. I mean, it's like walking up to some middle-aged guy and slapping him in the face, only to act surprised and offended when he calls you "asshole" and kicks you in the knee. And then you go on a blog and write some entry about how middle-aged guys are soulless bastards who can't stomach art in the public space.

-Aaron


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