Interview in Dust Magazine

Magazines, Political

Dust cover

I had the pleasure of excellent conversation with Inma Benedito, and the final interview features in the new issue of Dust Magazine.  It’s an exciting project to participate in, one that fuses a cold and sexual aesthetic with brave art writing in an impressive magazine format. It’s probably also the coolest publication I will be in for the foreseeable future, at least since the CCS brochure…!

It’s a 5-page interview, the longest text piece in the issue, and the rhythm and temperature increases as the interview progresses. I map out a fair bit of new political terrain, under the influence of bad insomnia, a gap in writing and excessive reading of Ballard, as well as Inma’s own excellent ideas and observations. If you can, take a look at the new issue, which is also being launched in London this Sunday too. Otherwise you should find it in a good art bookshop soon.

http://www.dustmagazine.com

Negative_capitalism Dust

This skin

Magazines

Please take a moment to look at the new issue of Nyx, a Noctournal on skin – click the image below.

Nyx8cover-large

This is the publication I’ve been editing and co-editing with varying degrees of involvement since late 2010. The new issue brings together fine established and emerging artists and writers, including Stewart Home, Catherine Malabou, Hedi El Kholti, and more. Necessity compels the project, the necessity of sharing and circulating ideas, stripped of sectarian filters, jargon or pretentiousness. What else does this, in this way? The whole project’s not-for-profit and driven by a hard-working student collective. For £6, it’s ridiculously cheap.

http://www.nyxnoctournal.org

Nyx Noctournal: Skin call

Magazines

From Nyx, Noctournal :::

For its eighth issue, Nyx, a Noctournal seeks contributions that question the concept of skin: a border that demarcates inside and outside, a threshold that contains and translates identities, a tissue to be punctured and marked. Skin is the fleshy membrane that signals the point at which we become in-the-world, communicating our history as it weathers in the face of time. It is the interface of human embodiment, and the most ubiquitous signifier of self-as-object.

But skin also contains an infinity of parallel identities, a site of identity (and escapism), identification, and appropriation. The consumer industries demand it to be ever leaner and cleaner, whilst elsewhere it is criminalised, categorised or killed simply for its colour. This troublesome, protective and unstable expanse is a continual site of conflict, claimed and reclaimed in exercises, markers, inks and identities.

Nyx Noctournal
calls for contributions that caress, pierce or peel back skin, which could address:

  • blackness, whiteness, race
  • gender studies and identity
  • sex, pornography, pornification
  • tattooing as modern ritual
  • mutilation and the war-damaged body
  • self-harm
  • policing the skin, epidermic interventions
  • skin as limit/liminal border
  • skin as surface, phenomenon and facade

Please send abstract proposals of no more than 200 words / 5 images, inc. a very brief biog, to noctournal@gmail.com by 15th November 2012. Publication is aimed for early Spring 2013.

Nyx 7: Call for contributions

Magazines

Nyx 7: Machines


Nyx, a Noctournal
calls for abstracts and new work for its forthcoming spring/summer 2012 issue on MACHINES. Critical theorists, writers, artists, photographers, revolutionaries and wage-slaves are asked to consider: what do contemporary relationships and uses of machines reveal about popular culture; political structures; shifts in social or economic systems? What possibilities or dangers do they present? Have machines liberated us, as the early 20th century Modernists and social reformists dreamed, or have human beings become bound by machinery, tangled up in digitised information and intensive demands for productivity in the modern precarious workplace, made redundant by automation or reduced to passive cogs in a vast autopoietic network over which they no longer have any control?

Each era is defined by its usage and experience of machinery. Produced to wage war or save time, the machine is laden with exciting and horrific possibilities. What if the machines malfunction or revolt? Are machines a threat to the poor worker, as Marx feared, or is access to cheap electric goods a hallmark of the contemporary consumer social contract? What new sensations, perils and experiences of time have video games, smartphones, televisions, cars, gym equipment, e-books, the Internet and other machines brought? Is the organic obsolete, another health-food fad paid on credit card at a self-service checkout?

Nyx is a biannual print publication of new cultural studies, critical theory, design and flash fiction, based at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, London. Its previous issue on Monsters featured work from Nick Land, Eugene Thacker, Laura Oldfield Ford and Lucy Pepper, with interviews of Mark Fisher and Stik. The full call can be found on www.nyxnoctournal.org.

Email images, abstracts or ideas of around 300 words with a short bio to noctournal@gmail.com by 1st February 2012.

Monstrosities

Magazines

No, I’ve not gone ahead and managed to fake my own death, despite many years of fighting talk. The problem is that one needs money to even travel abroad to some region where disappearance at the hands of narcotic-crazed paramilitiaries is even conceivable, money even for a generous life insurance policy. In the vein of fictions, even my poverty is Dickensian, an absolutely glib term. I would offer photos of my recent travels but ach, I couldn’t afford the batteries. Haha! It’ll make for a charming story one day.

In the meantime I’ve been busy on two particular publications. The first I can’t talk about just yet, but it is fucking bodacious. The second is Nyx, a Noctournal. I’ve been heavily involved in producing the sixth issue on the monstrous, and it promises to be very interesting. The launch will be on the 28th October at a disused police station in Deptford, a suitably spooky site in place and time. Aside from this, many merry-go-rounds. I’d resent the passing of days but for the  depth of recent dawns and sunsets. South London will always trump any other location for its sunsets, believe it.

Nyx 6 – call for ideas on the Monster

Magazines

Currently working at light-speed at the moment, such motion that all else appears as darkness. Here we begin another Nyx adventure. I’ll treat you to the extended call for ideas for this sinister magazine. We’ve sold out of issue 5, which is reassuring indeed. Will update with other businesses soon enough. Love to all beings, over and out, here we go:

 

Nyx 6: Monsters

Call for Papers – Extended version.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, “Insult to Injury” 1993.

Goya, “Sad Presentiments of what must come to pass”, from Disasters of War, 1810s.

 

“The wriggling of serpents, in the depths of swamps and in dungeons their strange intertwinings, their combats with fangs, knots or venom will always be the exact image of human existence shot through from top to bottom by death and love.” – Georges Bataille et al, “Reptiles”, Encyclopedia Acephalica.

‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡

 

Nyx, a Noctournal returns in the autumn of 2011 to consider the MONSTROUS, and seeks contributions from writers, artists, photographers and theorists for its forthcoming edition. Who are the MONSTERS of our time? What would a BESTIARY of contemporary capitalism look like? Jihadi terrorist, immigrant without papers, Bradley Manning, military drone, obese unemployed single-mother, financial derivative product, alien, vampire, corporate executive, world leader?

 

After all, we are clearly terrified: beastly bodies and desires continue to threaten, erupt and disrupt our ordered, organic and nutritionally-balanced lives. Rolling news, tweets, films and email updates saturate our psychic inboxes with images of the grotesque: mangled bomb victims, limbless soldiers, murdered children, impending evil from megalomaniac traitor, food shortages, disease outbreaks and zombie invasions. Some contagion is always on the cusp of corrupting the system.

 

Francis Bacon, “Study for Portrait II (after the life-mask of William Blake)”, 1955.

Detail from “Dawn of the Dead”, dir. George A. Romero, 1978.

Sieving through this intense media-effluence, a recurrent figure or disorientating buzz of evil emerges. We consumers are right, of course, but our morally good, clean, safe lives are in jeopardy against some monster. But who is the monster? Or rather, what is the process of becoming monstrous? Is it, as Elaine L. Graham suggests, a study of human integrity transgressed? Or a reflection of how Western modernity has constructed and denied its outsiders as others? ‘Dead are all the Gods’, said Nietzsche, and yet why wherever we bury our ghosts, demons, witches and dead they mysteriously come back to life as melancholy aliens, capitalist zombies, mutating diseases and teenage vampires? Why, in a supposedly ironic, secular and digitised age, do we still dream of these fiends? Is the monstrous always an excess of what needs to be repressed, what remains impure?

The monster enjoys a rich history, with the notion of evil and the devil slithering into the Judaic-Christian imagination via Zoroaster’s distinction between good and evil, infusing into the demonologies of the Book of Revelation and the early Christian church. St. Anthony’s temptations in the desert played out the earliest conflicts of infernal monstrous temptations. Etymologies as ever are revealing: the monster is a warning, a bad omen, whilst devil comes from diabolus, a half-circle maybe, that which halves and destroys the whole. Grotesque takes us back to the grotto, of underground religious sites shrouded in darkness, an appropriate place to contemplate the soul and its damnation. But enough of these games. The monstrous is also that which escapes any system, which is always outside, and which always looms, ready to penetrate and interrupt our ordered social and psychological economies with their sinister contagion.

 

Joos von Craesbeeck, “Temptation of St. Anthony”, 1650.

Salvador Dali, “Temptation of St. Anthony”, 1946.

 

As Foucault notes, ‘the soul is the prison of the body’, and anxieties around the monstrous have become conflicts of the soul. Like the vampire, the monster lacks a soul, lacks empathy, its flesh disgusting or corrupted, corrupting, feeding on the souls of the innocent. Within the monster is a powerful critique and expression of what is freakish, deviant, dangerous, erotic, of the peepshow, of what society is terrified to see – and yet is compelled towards. The monster appears either as a temptation, an evil assistant, a warning against reason and the folly of man’s ambitious reason, as in Goya, Faust and Frankenstein, a reflection of our deepest, darkest fears. Such fear of the outsider and his or her beastliness has dominated racist doctrines. Despite the work of critical theory and social democracy, white Western male heterosexual Christian modernity still pitches itself as a universality, defined against that which it is not, banishing and condemning that which is other as evil, dark, female, queer, erotic, corrupt, irrational, sick. How does this process of becoming Monster or monstrous function, and for who? Does reason require monsters?

There are many trajectories: writers might think of becoming-monster, of the monstrous feminine or the post-human; of contemporary beasts in popular culture; of our addiction to evil and ideas of indulgence, sin and excess. What of dirt and filth today – in our compulsion to consume at quicker and quicker rates, and our naïve hopes of recycling our waste in a perfectly malfunctioning economy? What of the ghost, that spectral other, the looming, atavistic, heterogeneous energy of nature, always outside but waiting to penetrate inside? Can we read a postcolonial critique in the alien invasion movie, or a restoration of family values in the resurgent apocalypse genre? We look back to Brueghel, Hieronymus Bosch, Francis Bacon to consider the eruption of animality and bestiality within human forms – what does a contemporary monster look like? Are monsters now machines or malevolent meat, callously corrupting our anatomies? Is consumer culture itself: a zombie invasion that now requires hunting down; a Final Girl survival; a bloodless teenage vampire; or the parasitic excrescence of the Last Man? Or is the monster now a Terminator-like abstraction, pulsing and modulating with infinite evil?

 

Detail from “Twilight, New Moon”, dir. Chris Weitz, 2009.

Movie bill for “Dracula vs. Frankenstein”, dir. Al Adamson, 1971.

 

‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡  ‡

Madhouses, meat-houses, the demonised, the freakish and the beastly. Photography, maps, drawings, reviews, critique, photo-essays, short stories, flash fiction and poetry and anything else towards or against the monstrous are called for.

 

Abstracts of around 300 words to: noctournal@gmail.com.
Deadline: 31st July. Publication in October 2011.

My other life 2006-2010

Magazines

Zines: small circulation magazines, cheaply produced and self-published, collaging appropriated designs and text for minority subcultural interest. Little magazines of the weird. The content of my creative life can be found in five zines from 2006-2010.

What do we really measure our lives by? The psychological melodramas we compose of our lusts, our egomanic accomplishments, the meaningless consumption of emotionally-draining work, the screen and pint-based media of distraction? Our family and friends, and the disputes and worries felt with both that consume time and wonderfully really give some structure and event to our lives. Or the future: kaleidoscopic visions. Or substantive and redemptive sonnets of who we are now (first verse), and who we should be, where we should be (second verse), maybe some maudlin section about lost love, or boredom, or longing – some humourous and catchy imagery, waiting for someone to finish in the bathroom maybe, or a pub queue, the phrenological features of passers-by. Or some insignificant political or community issue to which our actions can have no effect to whatsoever, but make our banal views seem somehow important and worth subjecting one’s time and behaviour towards. The damp poetics of 10pm skyscapes, hunger rattling through the synapses, an old song on the mind, a moon that knows us wickedly better than anyone else, perhaps with the exception of our closest confidantes aged 15, the perspiration of plans shared together and worked towards, a book, a play, a plot to grid time against and progress over. Of course a third of the world lives in acute poverty, and when you have the health and the wealth living is far more easy and dreamy than it really ought to be. Meat-head/method narcissism: words addressed to no effect. But why’s that so tough? I love all this emptiness and wouldn’t abandon it for the world. It was better than supporting a football team and is the textual equivalent of an inferior Zounds live recording. What do we measure our lives by? Little. Stare too close and your eyes hurt. Eyelashes flicker, obscuring the gaze, which fundamentally is of nothing at all. Ecological armageddon, that one day it all disappears. The consolation of lukewarm tea and social democracy. A walk into the night. A message in a bottle that quickly fills with Thames water, achieving the obscurantist aim all in all. An afternoon in St. Ann’s vestry wondering what they’re doing today, the discovery of allowing time to pass without regret.

My other life: I wrote these zines from the ages of 19-23: at the same time I was in a couple of abortive bands, I studied hard. I worked in pubs, in publishing, above all with adults with acquired brain injuries. I wrote on the side,  in time spared. I’ve written for longer, but I loved zines, loved discovering them at the 56a infoshop. The third and fourth issues of Savage Messiah were a revelation, I still feel their effects, that energy and style, that contrast. Rachel gave me the enthusiasm to work together on the first zine, J’en ai marre, one of the most dreadful yet curious statements of late adolescence – its faults are down to me. It’s not a bad scan: it was self-printed in such bad quality, and usually incorrectly stapled, preventing the reader from seeing about a fifth of the page at any one time. Really my writing has hardly improved since then: still all these morbid preoccupations with the flesh, alcohol, death, wretchedness and revolution.  I made the zine with Rachel M, who helped with the second issue. In the first three issues I got contributions regularly from my friends Nick Donohoe, Mike O’Neill and Sarah of course, as well as various other occasional people. Look through the zines below and see.

It was about a year before I finished J’en ai marre #3, probably my favourite of them all, in late 2007. This time I worked obsessively on my own, and the zine is really a series of short stories. I gave it a bad name, ‘john marr zine’. Life and work got in the way for a while. I returned to zines at the end of 2009, making Fortunes of the sea-sick, with The Ship of Fools following about 5 months after.

Why bother with this? A good few zine fairs confirmed the minority interest of my text-heavy zines. Clearly each zine – and each one was been produced by great many hours of writing, designing, walking, supergluing – reeks with adolescent odours. A strange enterprise. But writing really is necessary, one goes mad otherwise. Well no – perhaps the writing has been a reflective aid on the process of becoming mad. The zine is a convenient format for processing and expending stress and feeling into some creative product. I left many copies of the first issue in public places – excellent correspondences ensued. That’s been one gain of doing these. Anyway with things as they are, and with projects brewing – and with the fact that I’m now running out of these – I’ve finally uploaded and scanned them online. Virtual posterity. Click the titles to read via Issuu, and below that is a little description from a previous zine distro site I used to keep up.

The Ship of Fools, 2010.

My most recent zine from early summer 2010. A dark and melancholy distillation of a lot of writing I was doing at this time. Features 6 for 5 – 6 pathetic stories for the price of 5, a harsh mix of styles ranging from a chicken shop walpurgisnacht, the song of a supermarket cashier, a revolutionary letter against the entire world, and plenty of spleen. Features also a biscuit review and an avantgarde story I wrote that was published elsewhere, as well as pickled kidneys, the amistad via the 149 bus, a search for the north-west passage, a new theory about nitrogen and an exclusive daft reveal of Simon Cowell’s plot to take political power !

Fortunes of the Sea-Sick.

Produced at the end of 2009, after a long period of not writing, this marked a new style in some ways. It’s a mixture of gallows humour and po-faced ennui, featuring reviews of biscuits and South London caffs, a piano nocturne I composed for readers to play at home, fragments of poems by myself and my friend Nick Donohoe, and bitty shards on Tesco Express, Fish and Chip deities and a Burial and skunk-infused tale of being a Penge clerk.

John Marr

The epic John Marr zine was produced out of about a year’s worth of writing, whilst at university. It began easily but soon spiralled out of control, and the final text is huge – a huge zine produced primarily by myself, with a play from Nick Donohoe and some poems, comics by Sarah H, and some other poems by Mike O’Neill. Inside are biscuit reviews, a review of birds (I was reading a lot of occult shit at the time), features on the theatre, gentrification in south London,  as well as short stories about dog racing, the beautiful Dorothea, a Woolwich burial and, the one I’m most proud of, In Vino Veritas. This zine I feel is the best I’ve made, and I reprinted it not so long ago, and there’s a few still in stock.


J’en Ai Marre #2 

A dark effort which defined the style I’ve been working in since, and a solo project too. J’en Ai Marre means ‘I’m fed up’, and this one uses stark monochrome  to achieve a harsh effect. Inside is a Down and Out booze review of what’s commonly referred to as ‘tramp’s lager’ or ‘rat’s piss’, alongside a biscuit review, an anatomy of lust, some comics, a poem about the A-Z, a stoic swansong and a couple of nihilistic spleen-splutterings.

J’en Ai Marre #1

The original zine I made with a girl called Rachel about 4 years ago. The production is dreadful – of the 45 or so originally made, I printed each one with cheap ink on my home-printer, and forced a tiny stapler to press each A5 edition. After initial shock that the world would not lovingly embrace our unique zine, I became quite cynical and most of these zines I left in random places or gave out – resulting in quite an interesting range of correspondence coming back. I have about 3 left now.

In hindsight, it’s actually a lot better than I remember. It wears its heart on its sleeve, and there is great poetry here from us all, as well as a spoof of the Metro newspaper, a piece on the fourth sex, some excellent comics and collages, jokes books, biscuits and bus reviews well before Smoke magazine became known for this. And a searing attack, ‘The Modern World Is Shit’, which only a far too serious and far too caffeinated 18 year old could have written.