I’ve said several times that I don’t want this Blog to become a political Blog, but politics does inevitably creep into any representation of everyday life I suppose, and there might be some element of ‘the political’ in what follows – but who knows, I haven’t written much yet.
I have to admit I like to cultivate a certain kind of ‘difference’ which involves a certain anachronistic approach to technologies, media and trends. As I said in a recent post, I never watch TV and have never owned a TV. I don’t subscribe to any commercial streaming services for music or for movies, and I tend to avoid anything that is too current, trendy or fashionable. Most of what I ingest, and digest is at least 10 years old and often 100 years old or more.
I really find it impossible to evaluate the new. It feels effervescent as well as crass and ill-considered. It’s rapid and urgent appearance and disappearance makes me feel as though I have a duty and a role to constantly evaluate a kind of mirage. It’s akin to eating a diet of candy floss, and, like candy floss, I suspect that constantly attending to ‘news’ and news media is not nutritious and is ultimately bad for your health.
I am keen on two late 19th and early 20th century inventions – Cinema and Radio and regularly attend to them. But I also think artists should make their own worlds, which means making our own media (M.Y.O.M!).
My favourite media of all of course is books. Right now, I am reading the scripts that Walter Benjamin wrote for children’s radio shows in Germany c. 1930. And when I read Benjamin he historicises everything much further, throwing my interest back in time another 100 or more years, deep into the history of Toys, of the Gypsies, of Berlin, of whatever Benjamin wants to tell me about.
I feel comfortable there, way back in the past, though still of course living, thinking and working in the 21st century. I hope, by these means and using these resources, to be able to contribute something other than, and perhaps more useful than the constant, homogenous clouds and bubbles of fast-moving froth that is ‘news’ and ‘media’.
The past has been allowed to settle down into something we can enter and move around in, question, explore, challenge and represent. But it certainly isn’t fixed or known. In fact, Nicholas Bourriaud called history ‘the last undiscovered continent’, and that’s how I think of it.
So, I listen to the Radio, recently only tuning in to an indie music station and switching off whenever the news comes along to spoil all the youthful invention produced by the bands and DJs.
I also watch movies, and the lockdown has encouraged me to follow-up something I’d never used before and that is (here comes the possibly political bit) my own local library’s free streaming service.
Most of the movies there are not that old. They’re mostly made in the past 10 years. But they’re certainly not trendy or trending. I’ve fallen in love with this resource. Not only is it a free public service, like the library itself, which I also love (libraries, along with free healthcare and parks being, to my mind, the three greatest accomplishments of human civilisation), but the films there are special.
I must have watched a dozen now and they all tend to be the following: very beautifully crafted; simple storytelling (no complex flashbacks, back-stories etc.); relatively cheaply made (no special effects, gratuitous sex and violence, car chases, over the top musical or narrative manipulation etc.); they don’t feature any ‘stars’, and they all subtly deliver ethical messages about ‘otherness’, difference, oppression, prejudice, intolerance etc.
It took me a while to work tall his out, but of course these movies are selected by my local library (and the same service is probably used by libraries all over the world) as an ethical and inclusive educational resource.
Many of the films are documentaries too, concerning social and cultural injustices. Many are aimed at and represent the perspectives of minorities, and many of them are aimed at inspiring young women, presumably schoolgirls who might use the service, to aim and reach higher than fashionable, trending society might encourage them to do.
I hope you can access this service or something similar. Mine is called ‘Kanopy’. At first it doesn’t look that promising, and not everything is great, but try, probe, look around and you start to get some rewards that can return your hope in humanity and hopes of a better world to come.
The political bit of this post is implied in the foregoing, but I also just wanted to add the question: ‘why was it, that when greedy, rich gamblers on the financial exchanges, banks and property markets carelessly crashed the world’s financial systems, did they get ‘bailed out’ while 100s if not 1,000s of public libraries closed as part of the ‘austerity’ programmes designed to re-balance ‘the books’?
Think about that, if you please.