Throughout his writing, the late Mark Fisher refers to the concept of ‘hauntology’ to describe the way in which traces of the past maintain a ghostly presence in the artworks of today. We often observe this phenomenon in texts that evoke a feeling that the horizons of political possibility have contracted: that ‘not only has the future not arrived, it no longer seems possible.’ Deployed in a British context, this usually refers to a future cancelled by the rolling back of the state and its replacement with neo-liberal marketisation, and the cultural ossification and impoverishment that has resulted.
Watching Netflix’s new ‘British’ teen comedy-drama Sex Education, viewers in Wales – and especially Newport – may well be struck with this same sense of melancholic uncanniness, of ‘a time that is out of joint’. For despite the shows liberatory and groundbreaking depiction of teenage sexuality, Sex Education is haunted by a Welsh culture and politics that has either died or never was, and whose presence is felt by its absence.
There’s a curious passage towards the end of the first episode of The Dragon Has Two Tongues, an oddly-structured 1985 documentary that tells the history of Wales through the bickering of historian Gwyn Alf Williams and liberal broadcaster Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. Having spent the entire episode hitherto articulating their own (usually opposing) visions of a Welsh historiography, the two finally meet face-to-face (at a prehistoric hillside monument in Berkshire, England, of all places) to state their respective cases as to how the history – and consequently the future – of the people of Wales can be conceptualised.
This is, we are told, a ‘post-factual age’. The EU referendum has seen myth collide with fact, and myth has won to devastating effect. It has been said that the UK has ‘had enough of experts’, and such a situation has proven to be fertile ground for a politics based on untruth.
To mark the 100-year anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ birth, Wales – or, more accurately, the BBC – has been gripped with an attempt to align the poet’s life and work with the country of his birth. There is nothing untoward about this initiative in itself – anniversary-governed programming plays a huge role in the BBC’s arts output – but the tying of Thomas to Wales and its national and cultural identity doesn’t quite work here, and belies a quiet desperation to inject a dose of nationalism into a subject that doesn’t quite warrant it.
To kick-start the promotion for their upcoming eleventh studio album, the Manics have just released the new record’s title track, ‘Rewind the Film’. It’s a great song, and the addition of Richard Hawley is a perfect touch, but the real emotional weight lies in the accompanying video. The film depicts a day in the life of Trehafod in the Rhondda Valley, and is described by Michael Cragg in The Guardian, somewhat brazenly and patronisingly, as ‘[following] an elderly man around a dilapidated village, before he and the locals enjoy a cheery game of Bingo.’