(Also available to read on Medium)
A shiver down the collective spine of the Welsh nation: international rugby (or, one presumes, that which is presented in the English language) may soon disappear from free-to-air television. This has obviously created a degree of collective consternation about the implication for Welsh mass culture, and rugby’s apparently totemic place within it.
This mass panic is renewing calls for devolved broadcasting, among other things, and is shining a light on how Welsh interests are marginalised in an increasingly homogenised British discourse. Yet this (righteous and welcome) campaign is in danger of erasing the deeper cultural logic of rugby in Wales, what its political economy is, and the class relations bound up therein.
So, after a year of chaos and misery for workers in Gwent, there is some suggestion that perhaps removing the tolls from the Severn Bridges was a terrible idea after all. All of the fears of commuters have come to pass: traffic has increased dramatically, pollution is reaching ever-more toxic levels, communities have been turned upside down, everybody is immiserated. No workers on the frontline of this crisis ever wanted this: it was a pet project of the Wales Office, cheered on by the CBI and that amorphous entity known as ‘local business owners’. A familiar story of capital ruining the lives of helpless workers.
“ The Welsh Government wants to give the National Assembly for Wales a new bilingual name instead of a Welsh-only moniker.”
This shouldn’t be what ‘bilingualism’ is. ‘Bilingualism’ should have the confidence to give our institutions one name that everybody is empowered to use; not concocting a situation whereby two languages live parallel lives and never intersect.
The Brexit Party, Nigel Farage’s latest political vehicle, are apparently dominating the voting intention polls for the upcoming European Elections. Cue shock and outrage. How could this be? How could a party usurp their immediate ancestor, UKIP, a party built through twenty years of creeping cryptofascism, seemingly overnight? Rather than descending into amateur psephology, let’s keep it simple: if The Brexit Party are to be successful, it will be because they are called The Brexit Party.
As is the case whenever he mentions a devolved policy area, there’s a lot of handwringing going on about this tweet from Jeremy Corbyn regarding the National Health Service(s) in the UK:
There are criticisms that he is misrepresenting who is actually ‘in charge’ of healthcare –a devolved issue — throughout the UK, and accusations that he ‘only cares about England’. There are grains of truth here, but it’s worth interrogating these criticisms further.
Obviously it’s important to point out what policy areas are devolved: low political literacy is one of the biggest challenges we face in Wales. It’s also true that Westminster Labour are guilty of frequently disingenuously misrepresenting devolved issues.
But it’s also disingenuous to criticise Corbyn for talking about the Tories ruining the NHS. Because, devolved or not, Tory austerity is ultimately responsible for the difficulties in funding universal healthcare in Wales.
On September 11th 2001, the composer William Basinski completed The Disintegration Loops, a work documenting the slow decay of recorded tape loops he had unsuccessfully attempted to salvage. That same day he witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Centre from the roof of his Brooklyn apartment, his new composition providing the soundtrack to this experience.
This link between the work and the events of September 11 has led to The Disintegration Loops being ‘canonised’ as a major artistic response to the disaster. However, the convoluted compositional process of the work, along with its inherent abstraction, raises questions regarding to what extent The Disintegration Loops can be said to be ‘about’ the events of September 11.
With this in mind, this work will use Basinski’s music to explore fundamental questions regarding the possibility of abstract art’s potential to comment upon real socio-political events. The work will explore the possibility that The Disintegration Loops’ aesthetic constitution posits itself as a far more pertinent artistic response to September 11 than perhaps more conventional representations of reality.
Numerous formal characteristics of the composition will be examined, including the work’s intertextuality, the nature of authorial intent, and the inherent abstraction of instrumental music, to affirm just how separate from the events of September 11 the work actually is. The consequences of these characteristics, compounded by the work’s abstraction, will expose the true functions of a work that dispenses with any mimetic subject matter in favour of giving prominence to its aesthetic content. As such, the possibility will be broached that it is the shared aesthetic cultural space that links the artwork to the real, rather than any semantic content tangible within the work itself.
What is ‘authenticity’ in musical performance; and what does a hegemonically-determined authentic musical performance look like?
Last week’s Brit Awards were defined by two wildly contrasting performances: on the one hand a celebration of white middle class domination of the arts in the UK; on the other, the biggest name in American hip-hop playing Trojan horse for the British grime scene.
In the wake of Wednesday’s attack on the office of Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, people appear to be clamouring, seemingly above all else, for an artistic response to the events. Beyond the rolling news, the newspaper front pages, the opinion pieces, it is art that people are turning to, talking about and sharing with one another. On social media and elsewhere there has been a proliferation of artworks – professional and amateur – taking these events as inspiration and as subject matter.
Avicii – True (PRMD/Universal, 2013)
The recent trend for EDM/’American roots music’ crossovers contains some of the most unreal, aesthetic-as-commodity, artistically (morally?) bankrupt music I’ve ever heard, and is proof, if nothing else, that the culture industry is alive and well in the twenty-first century.