Memory- The State

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Social memory is defined as “a shared pool of information held in the memories of two or more members of a group”

The state provides examples of social memory.

Power, spectacle, social memory.

Power in the form of the exiting government of the planning , of the action of the execution of their departing. Power in the form of the new government, the big speeches, the aims spoken by the new prime minister and the rose garden press conference.

Spectacle in the television coverage, the intrigue, the inside gossip. Election was full of this sort of thing. Who’s Nick Clegg talking to? Will he give way? how far would Labour go to stay in power? How far would the Conservatives go to gain power? The spectacle in the visual.

Memory, the political soap opera, the intrigue around politics as a whole, the internet archive of speeches, hello and goodbye, the pr spin, the recent deleting of history by both political parties in its present seeks to highlight its past. Erasing your pledges, erasing your promises. Tuition fees, the backlash, the riots, the broken promise.

Social memory and the state. Power, spectacle, memory.

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Spectacle

31.10.13: Steve Bell on David Cameron and energy policy8057772805_ef7997ecdf_o

@Steve Bell, The Guardian, 2013

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cartoon/2013/oct/30/steve-bell-david-cameron-energy-policy

Image courtesy of Steve Rhodes and released under Creative Commons

Today’s lecture continued on the topic of Spectacle and focus continued on further in depth analyzation of Guy Debord’s book The Society of The Spectacle.

Our seminar moved onto art and it’s relationship within politics. This was in the form of a group discussion, in which each member debated what they considered. I chose the political cartoon and it’s relationship with politics, an example of such above, which comes from The Guardian and was drawn by Steve Bell. It focuses on the Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of an energy inquiry during Prime Minister’s Questions;

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131030/debtext/131030-0001.htm#13103062000011 (30 Oct 2013, Col 912).

The cartoon depicts Mr Cameron as an action man, a toy figure and his pronouncement during the above commons exchange. It seeks to both pronounce and ridicule at once. It also seeks to depict Mr Cameron as a “reactor” rather than a “pro-active” Prime Minister, in that rather than lead, he is pushed into circumstances.

We were then asked, within our research cluster groups, to answer 6 questions which relate to “artist” as in industry. I will focus upon the question I was tasked, which was so;

“Does it make sense for artists to be “engaged?”

For this question, I thought of Joanna Lumley and her plight in 2009 to keep the Gurkhas within the UK. This was because during this time, the then Labour Government wanted all Gurkhas whom retired before 1997 to leave the UK. It is such an example which provides examples of power and spectacle. In terms of power, it was the power of Joanna Lumley to change government policy so drastically in order to keep the Gurkhas within the United Kingdom, not just for a short period, but indefinitely. The power can clearly be evidenced on the face of the then immigration minister Phil Woolas, whom has a look of “I can’t say no, there’s cameras here, what do I tell the PM?”. The spectacle comes from the advent of cameras and of the announcement that Joanna makes, which is one of how the law WILL be changed as a result between Joanna and Phil. However, there is a sense that it’s Joanna who forced their hand.

A celebrity such as Joanna gives such a campaign a boost as a well known face helps to highlight a cause, in this case the Gurkhas and naturally, such is the realm of stardom, cameras will follow. The above video was taken from the BBC News channel, who was covering this issue heavily, not because of the issue, but because a celebrity was attached to the issue. In fact, in the eyes of the public, the public sphere, when you think of Joanna Lumley, you think of the Gurkhas and her success in having them stay in the country.

The last task was;

“Find out what Baudrillard means when he discusses Simulacra. What is the relationship between Spectacle and Simulacrum? How do they both relate to the Marxist theories of alienation and commodity fetishism ? Post the discussion on the blog and prepare a 5 minute presentation of your findings.”

“The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.”

What is Simulacra. To answer we als

“Simulacra and Simulation” breaks the sign-order into 4 stages:

  1. The first stage is a faithful image/copy, where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign is a “reflection of a profound reality” this is a good appearance, in what Baudrillard called “the sacramental order”.
  2. The second stage is perversion of reality, this is where we come to believe the sign to be an unfaithful copy, which “masks and denatures” reality as an “evil appearance—it is of the order of maleficence”. Here, signs and images do not faithfully reveal reality to us, but can hint at the existence of an obscure reality which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating.
  3. The third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the simulacrum pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original. Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. Baudrillard calls this the “order of sorcery”, a regime of semantic algebra where all human meaning is conjured artificially to appear as a reference to the (increasingly) hermetic truth.
  4. The fourth stage is pure simulation, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers’ lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, “hyperreal” terms. Any naïve pretension to reality as such is perceived as bereft of critical self-awareness, and thus as oversentimental.

Simulacra and Simulation identifies three types of simulacra and identifies each with a historical period:

  1. First order, associated with the premodern period, where representation is clearly an artificial placemarker for the real item. The uniqueness of objects and situations marks them as irreproducibly real and signification obviously gropes towards this reality.
  2. Second order, associated with the modernity of the Industrial Revolution where distinctions between representation and reality break down due to the proliferation of mass reproducible copies of items, turning them into commodities. The commodity’s ability to imitate reality threatens to replace the authority of the original version, because the copy is just as “real” as its prototype.
  3. Third order, associated with the postmodernity of Late Capatalism where the simulacrum precedes the original and the distinction between reality and representation vanishes. There is only the simulacrum, and originality becomes a totally meaningless concept. 

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The iPad has been called many things, the iTampon for example, but also “The Jesus Tablet”. Such is to place this what is essentially a big iPod Touch. In order to understand the pedestal on which this is placed, one first has to understand the concept of the reality distortion, of which former Apple Ceo. Steve Jobs, was described as creating around the launch of it’s products.

“reality-distortion field n. An expression used to describe the persuasive ability of managers like Steve Jobs (the term originated at Apple Computer in the 1980’s to describe his peculiar charisma). Those close to these managers become passionately committed to possibly insane projects, without regard to the practicality of their implementation or competitive forces in the marketpace.
“A reality distortion field. In Steve’s presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules.”
Such a definition in itself leads back to Friedrich Nietzsche, in a vision outlined by Forcault as;
“My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (its Will to Power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension”

Note the word master in the above sentence. Breaking this down into the definition of reality distortion, it is the master, in this case Steve Jobs, of his reality, it is “malleable”, it is flexible and is twisted or “extended through force” (if you like his Will to Power) and the reality distortion field seeks to “thrust back to all that resists its extension”, in other words it can’t be resisted, no matter how hard you try, Steve Jobs will convince you why you want this product.

Summer Riots Discussion

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Left: Image courtesy of hozinja and released under Creative Commons

Right: Image courtesy of Todd G and released under Creative Commons

Bottom: Image courtesy of George Rexta and released under Creative Commons

In August 2011, between the days of Saturday 6th August (Morrell 2011) and Tuesday 9th August (the guardian, LSE 2011), widespread riots took place across the united kingdom, ranging from London, to Birmingham, to Salford, to Liverpool, in what has been called “the worst bout of civil unrest in a generation (the guardian, LSE 2011).

In this document, I shall be seeking to answer the following question;

“Summer riots. Were they a spectacle or were they in opposition to the spectacle. Devise a discussion presenting the arguments for and against both positions”.

For the purposes of the document document, I shall be devising the discussion in the form of FOR and AGAINST text headings, with explanations of such under each.

I shall began by writing of how the summer riots were a spectacle

SUMMER RIOTS- SPECTACLE

FOR

Before I write of how I feel the summer riots were an example of spectacle, I first wish to define what I feel spectacle encompasses. In Guy Debord’s book “The Society of the Spectacle”, Guy denotes that “the spectacle is not a collection of images rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated my images” (Debord 1994: 4). Guy continues by describing how such is “the omnipresent celebration of choice already made in the sphere of production”  (Debord 1994: 6). Both denotations signify the same ends, in that it is the mediation of images, be it through newspapers, magazines, television programs and the way such images are presented. It is the visual that seeks to provide the story, such is the definition of image.

Evidence of spectacle within the summer riots can be seen through the national news reports.

Below are 3 videos, denoting coverage from 3 national UK news providers, BBC News, ITV News and Sky News.

 (as this clip comes from BBC News at Ten, it does contain small snippets of unrelated news, so apologies for this in advance)

I will first write about BBC News and the evidence of spectacle within it’s news coverage, focussing primarily on a BBC News At Ten news report from the 8th August 2011.

The report includes a wide shot of a wall of police officers, wearing protective clothing and armoury kettling the troublemakers, this is followed by a shot of what appears to be a car bursting into flames followed by a shot of people standing around, watching what is going on around them. These images seek to bring a heightened sense of danger and anarchy to the audience. Additionally, they seek to tell a story or narrative. The shot of a police cordon, with police officers standing behind it and the reporter standing next to it seek to provide authority and a sense of control. The report makes use of shots from the air, primarily of the burning buildings, one such being of a carpet shop in Croydon filmed during the day. This is then followed by a overhead shot of a burning building, which is shot in such a way as to provide a birds eye view of the area. This is done to provide context as to the scope of the fire within the local area. In my opinion, this shot is very effective.

The second report comes from ITV News’ London Tonight and focuses upon a resident and the loss of his home, filmed the morning after the riots. The report shows closeups of the wreckage of what was once his home, including a voiceover speaking how he had live in the house for 10 years. The report itself is a spectacle in terms of its content. Whereas the previous relied upon the anarchy and the troubles, this report relies upon the personal, the visuals flipping back and forth between the burned, destroyed buildings and the man. The final shot of the resident filmed taking a photograph of his former home seeks to bring home the sadness he feels. We often forget the personal within national events, but this report seeks to bring this to us.

The third and final report comes from Sky News, filmed on the final night of the riots. It begins with a overhead shot of a burning building, appearing dramatically at the very beginning of the report . It immediately draws you in and provides an immediate spectacle, that of fire and emergency. The voiceover which accompanies the shot, of how there are no emergency services to put out this fire, seeks to further emphasis the spectacle and indeed the drama. “London’s burning, and no one seems able to bring it under control” is the voiceover which encompasses this shot seeks to further dramatise the action on screen.

In bring together the above news reports, I also sought to outline the relation of discourse and “production”. Foucault speaks of “regimes of truth” and how “each society has it’s regime of truth, it’s general politics of truth”(Hobbs 2008: 10). To apply this relation to the above news reports, the audience only knows what the news provider is telling them. The way the shots are edited create the story and news providers have the ability to change the story, simply by switching, flipping or neglecting a shot or a scene. Foucault further expands on this by speaking of how “the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true, the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned … the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true” (Hobbs 2008: 10). In other words, unless the person reading, watching, or analysing the content in question was actually in the riots themselves, they can only provide a spectators view and this is prone to inaccuracy, due to the way the information was achieved. Each person has a different story.

This is how I feel the London riots were a spectacle.

Against

The summer riots were not a spectacle.

Over the course of the 3 days, many riots occurred across the country, affecting the people whom reside in the areas which were affected. We are not talking of spectacle, we’re talking of people lives.

To emphasise this point, I have embedded a clip from Charlie Brookers 2011 Review, starring Doug Stanhope, which talks about the London Riots and a first hand account. Whilst it’s told in a comedic sense, it does have a serious message behind it as you will see as you watch it;

On 9th August 2013, an article was published in the Daily Mail, titled “Two years on, man who looted a bank during London riots becomes first to be evicted from council flat” (Daily Mail 2013). The article tells the story of a Jonathan Mason, whom joined a mob to burgle a HSBC branch in Battersea and was jailed for 3 years in 2012. “This is the price he must pay for the action that night” (Daily Mail 2013).

The fear that mobsters and the criminality sought to bring about makes this story a happy ending for the people of Croydon, Battersea. What began as a revenge attack against the shooting of Mark Duggan, simply became a free-for-all for the scum. They wanted to change the perceptions of young people. This certainly occurred. But for the worse. And they themselves are only to blame for this.

What hardened opinion had of the young has only been hardened further.

This is my discussion concerning the London riots and Spectacle and I thank you for taking the time to read the post.