Tuesday, July 29, 2014

German Autumn

Gerhard Richter, October 18, 1977
When it became clear that the government was unwilling to entertain a further prisoner exchange given the experience of the kidnapping of Peter Lorenz two years earlier, the Red Army Faction (RAF) tried to exert additional pressure by hijacking the Lufthansa aeroplane Landshut on October 13 with the help of the allied Palestinian group PFLP. After a long odyssey through the Arabian Peninsula and the execution-type killing of Captain Jürgen Schumann, the hijackers and their hostages landed in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

After political negotiations with the Somali leader Siad Barre, the West German government was granted permission to assault the plane Lufthansa 181. This was carried out on October 18 by the special task force GSG 9, which had been formed after the 1972 Munich Olympics hostage crisis. Only one GSG 9 member and one flight-attendant were injured; of the hijackers only Souhaila Andrawes survived.

On the same night, three of the imprisoned RAF members – Gudrun Ensslin, Jan-Carl Raspe and Andreas Baader – were found dead in their cells.

The official investigation into the deaths of the imprisoned RAF members concluded that they had committed suicide: Baader and Raspe using handguns smuggled into the Stammheim maximum security prison by their lawyer Arndt Müller, Ensslin by hanging herself. Irmgard Möller, who was imprisoned with them, survived with four knife wounds in her chest. She later claimed that the suicides were actually extrajudicial killings. On November 12, Ingrid Schubert was found hanged in her cell.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Views in the Rear View Mirror

The sacred fires are cold,
O Love! O Heart of Gold!
Beyond the sobbing of the sundering sea
A spectre sits and waits
By Memory’s bolted gates,
And calls, and calls across the years to me.

Nor wreath of rose or rue
Fate wove for me or you:
The sands run out, the blackening brands expire
Where passion sits and moans
With eyes as dry as stones
Beside the ashes of her lost desire.

Nor spark shall warm the clay,
Nor gold shall gild the grey,
The harvest ripes for other hands to win;
No more for Love’s dear sake
Shall the old sweet music wake
Where the “glory-sky” leaned low on Ta Mahinna.

The sacred fires are cold,
O Love! O Heart of Gold!
Life’s red wine dyes the desert at our feet,
But aye from years behind,
A restless, homeless wind
Comes laden with hearts’ incense, bitter-sweet.
- Marie E. Pitt, "Bitter-Sweet" (1911)
Ah Ta-Mahinna! My heart is yearning
For life’s full measure — and life is o’er,
And I am hungered and sick with learning
The weary wisdom of world-old lore.
This is the end! God! — the slow sands turning —
And then the darkness — for evermore.
- Marie E. Pitt, "Ta Mahinna" (1911)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Welcome to Consumerist Hell

During a recent visit to California, I attended a party at a professor's house with a Slovene friend, a heavy smoker. Late in the evening, my friend became desperate and politely asked the host if he could step out on the veranda for a smoke. When the host (no less politely) said no, my friend suggested that he step out on to the street, and even this was rejected by the host, who claimed such a public display of smoking might hurt his status with his neighbours … But what really surprised me was that, after dinner, the host offered us (not so) soft drugs, and this kind of smoking went on without any problem – as if drugs are not more dangerous than cigarettes.

This weird incident is a sign of the impasses of today's consumerism. To account for it, one should introduce the distinction between pleasure and enjoyment elaborated by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan: what Lacan calls jouissance (enjoyment) is a deadly excess beyond pleasure, which is by definition moderate. We thus have two extremes: on the one hand the enlightened hedonist who carefully calculates his pleasures to prolong his fun and avoid getting hurt, on the other the jouisseur propre, ready to consummate his very existence in the deadly excess of enjoyment – or, in the terms of our society, on the one hand the consumerist calculating his pleasures, well protected from all kinds of harassments and other health threats, on the other the drug addict or smoker bent on self-destruction. Enjoyment is what serves nothing, and the great effort of today's hedonist-utilitarian "permissive" society is to tame and exploit this un(ac)countable excess into the field of (ac)counting.

Enjoyment is tolerated, solicited even, but on condition that it is healthy, that it doesn't threaten our psychic or biological stability: chocolate, yes, but fat-free; Coke, yes, but diet; coffee, yes, but without caffeine; beer, yes, but without alcohol; mayonnaise, yes, but without cholesterol; sex, yes, but safe sex …
- Slavoj Zizek, "Fat-free chocolate and absolutely no smoking: why our guilt about consumption is all-consuming"
Artist - Hong Hao

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Repurposing Rebellion

“And [he] sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day
and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot”
― Maurice Sendak, "Where the Wild Things Are"

Monday, July 21, 2014

Conspire to Perspire!

Silent morning
where mists crochet patterns
upon a sky-cloud reverie
Wheeling birds bring nets tight around themselves
Chatterbox crows with blue-black wings
fuss, sinking back to wires
bringing the day
- Sherry Asbury, "A Conspiracy of Crows"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Birth of Modernism in Stravinsky's Bacchae

"I saw in imagination a solemn pagan rite; sage elders, seated in a circle, watched a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring.”
– Igor Stravinsky (1911)

“No one had ever heard music like it before; it seemed to violate all the most hallowed concepts of beauty, harmony, tone and expression. Never had an audience heard anything so brutal, savage, aggressive and apparently chaotic; it hit the public like a hurricane, like some uncontrollable primeval force."
– Roman Vlad after witnessing the premier of The Rite of Spring

Source of Inspiration for post.