"I envisioned This Land Is Mine as the last scene of my potential-possible-maybe- feature film, Seder-Masochism, but it's the first (and so far only) scene I've animated. As the Bible says, 'So the last will be first, and the first will be last.'"
Fig.1 Nina Paley (2012) "This Land Is Mine".
"The writerly text is a perpetual present, upon which no consequent language (which would inevitably make it past) can be superimposed; the writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world (the world as function) is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages."
(Roland Barthes, p.5)
1). Roland Barthes (1970). "S/Z" translated by Richard Miller, Blackwell Publishing.
2). A British one penny coin from 1903, which has been defaced by Suffragettes. Crown copyright.
"Last November I visited Australia and the arts community was buzzing with talk about the country's proposed new cultural policy. So I took a look at the discussion document and I turned green with envy - why can't we have one of these in the UK?
In Britain we've never been good at framing a coherent approach to culture. Back in 1996 a senior civil servant at the Department for National Heritage told the Sunday Times: 'It is not part of our culture to think in terms of a cultural policy,' and not much has changed.
The Australian example shows what can be done. It's a remarkable and mercifully brief document that has many virtues.
First, it sets out the beliefs on which any serious cultural policy must be founded: 'The arts and creative industries are fundamental to Australia's identity as a society and nation, and increasingly to our success as a national economy.' It adds that 'the policy will be based on an understanding that a creative nation produces a more inclusive society and a more expressive and confident citizenry.'
Everything that follows in the document is built on this bedrock of ideology. Without such clear and transparent beliefs, and the commitment that flows from them, policies are doomed to endless wrangling about measurement and evidence.
But the document does acknowledge evidence where it exists, and uses it wisely. For example: 'Research shows that arts education encourages academic achievement and improves students' self-esteem, leading to more positive engagement with school and the broader community and higher school retention rates' - therefore 'the new national curriculum will ensure that young Australians have access to learning in the creative arts.'
But in the UK we have to suffer the non-evidence based approach of abolishing what went before just because the other lot invented it.
The next virtue is that the proposed policy not only encompasses the arts, heritage and creative industries, but extends into other areas like education and infrastructure. Culture is deemed relevant to every department of government, from the role that it plays in international relations (British Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to its economic importance (HM Treasury), from its impact on the need to build airports for cultural tourists (Department for Communities and Local Goverment) to cultural scholarship in Higher Education (Department for Education).
That relevance is a two-way street: for example, the cultural uses of high speed broadband affect hard infrastructural requirements, while the existence of the hardware creates cultural opportunities."
(John Holden, Monday 6 February 2012)
Fig.1 Australia's 1988 Bicentennial $10 Note.
"George Crofutt, publisher of a fashionable western travel guide series, commissioned the creation of 'American Progress' by the Brooklyn resident, painter, and lithographer, John Gast. Crofutt reproduced the petite painting, done in 1872, as a color lithograph poster and also engraved the image in the guidebooks he published widely circulating the image. The painting depicts a sense of technological development’s advancement upon the untamed land like the coming of an impenetrable, inevitable militia with one uncharacteristic exception--the company is led by a feminine figure.
In the wake of four years of Civil War, the creation of the promotional material of 'American Progress' portrays a spiritualized feminine that provides nurturing, protective guidance and fortitude for the extension of civilization over wilderness and the 'uncivilized,' the enigmatic, and the primal. Disembodied, the idealized feminine portrays the evolution of the split of spirit from daily life as well as the sanctified superiority of the immigrants above human beings who lived in harmony with the spirit of the land.
The dominating and centralized angelic being’s paradoxical innocence and sensually alluring presence has the effect of distracting and softening the reality and the violence of this movement to 'win the west' where Native Americans depart the frame as non- natives stake claims in the form of prospectors, as settlers: farmers, homesteaders, and travelers. One of the popular artists of the times, Maynard Dixon speaks of the untruth of the romanticized representation of facts as he complained he was being paid to lie in his artwork and portrayals of life on the wild prairie (Dixon).
Fueled by an underlying desire to be free from tyrannical government and the prospect of a new life and livelihood in a world new to them, Euro-Americans manifested suffering and persecution similar to the very situation they sought to escape."
(Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism)
Fig.1 John Gast (1872). "American Progress", painting: oil
"The new series, called All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, takes complicated ideas and turns them into entertainment by the use of the vertigo-inducing intellectual leaps, choppy archive material and disorienting music with which all Curtis fans are familiar. The central idea leads Curtis on a journey, taking in the chilling über-individualist novelist Ayn Rand, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, the 'new economy', hippy communes, Silicon Valley, ecology, Richard Dawkins, the wars in Congo, the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory, and the computer model of the eating habits of the pronghorn antelope.
You can see why Zoe Williams once wrote that, while watching one of Curtis's programmes, 'I kept thinking the dog was sitting on the remote. ...'
Now he has moved on to machines, but it starts with nature. 'In the 1960s, an idea penetrated deep into the public imagination that nature is a self-regulating ecosystem, there is a natural order,' Curtis says. 'The trouble is, it's not true – as many ecologists have shown, nature is never stable, it's always changing. But the idea took root and spread wider – people started to believe there is an underlying order to the entire world, to how society is structured. Everything became part of a system, like a computer; no more hierarchies, freedom for all, no class, no nation states.' What the series shows is how this idea spread into the heart of the modern world, from internet utopianism and dreams of democracy without leaders to visions of a new kind of stable global capitalism run by computers. But we have paid a price for this: without realising it we, and our leaders, have given up the old progressive dreams of changing the world and instead become like managers – seeing ourselves as components in a system, and believing our duty is to help that system balance itself. Indeed, Curtis says, 'The underlying aim of the series is to make people aware that this has happened – and to try to recapture the optimistic potential of politics to change the world.'
The counterculture of the 1960s, the Californian hippies, took up the idea of the network society because they were disillusioned with politics and believed this alternative way of ordering the world was based on some natural order. So they formed communes that were non-hierarchical and self-regulating, disdaining politics and rejecting alliances. (Many of these hippy dropouts later took these ideas mainstream: they became the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who decided that computers could liberate everyone and save the world.)...
He draws a parallel with those 1970s communes. 'The experiments with them all failed, and quickly. What tore them apart was the very thing that was supposed to have been banished: power. Some people were more free than others - strong personalities dominated the weak, but the rules didn't allow any organised opposition to the suppression because that would be politics.' As in the commune, so in the world: 'These are the limitations of the self-organising system: it cannot deal with politics and power. And now we're all disillusioned with politics, and this machine-organising principle has risen up to be the ideology of our age.'"
(Katharine Viner, 6 May 2011, Guardian)
Episode 1: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: Love and Power', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 23 May 2011
Episode 2: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 30 May 2011
Episode 3: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: The Monkey In The Machine and the Machine in the Monkey', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 06 June 2011