June 16, 2020

Paradigm Shift Requires Extremes

Specially commissioned website only text by graduating BA Photography student Jamie Edwards

Last weekend I was at my parent’s house, removing a tree from the garden. Someone had tried previously to gently shape, and reduce, the tree, but alas it continued to return to its original state. To stop this, I dug deep into the ground, exposing the root of the tree, before hacking at it with an axe. This left an ungainly hole in the ground, as well as exposed roots that had to be burned to prevent the old growing back. In this unsightly scar in the earth, a new plant was embedded, one that grows speedily when encouraged absolutely, blossoming within days. I sit here now watching the diaphanous pink petals float through the air, bringing a crispness, and creating a sublime sunny moment, that would not have been achievable through gently trying to mould the original, inadequate, tree.

This long-winded - but true - metaphor and anecdote can be applied entirely to the way paradigms are held in place by our society. In order for fresh ideas to blossom, there has to be a period of destruction. In the art world previously, this has come from extremes of abstract art, breaking rooted ideologies. Let us consider the “Anti-Painting” of Joan Miro, or the abstract art of the DaDa movement in the early 20th Century. Ideological boundaries have to be broken down by artworks that appear radical at the time of their creation. If one tries to lift the boundary wall out of the ground and move or manipulate it without damage, progress will be excruciatingly slow, if possible at all.

Our domestic spaces, our chosen fashions, and our “tastes” have been particularly affected by the Coronavirus. Those channels of personal choice or expression have always played a great role in influencing art, and now their nature has been enormously changed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, art will, in turn, be enormously changed, as our new tastes influence the direction it moves in. More importantly when we return to “normal” we will have a clean slate, a freshly ploughed field, that we can grow out of however we choose. Without the extreme environment created, the level of paradigm shift we will see may have taken years because of the resistance from previously immovable paradigms.

We should not forget “old” mediums, or ways of creating art. Many of them have ceased to be employed during lockdown, and if they have, they have then been represented through digital means, reducing both their “trueness” and their impact. In time however it will become clear that stagnant or stale mediums have been given the opportunity to reflect on their position, and thus may emerge with new life. This renaissance will be reinforced by the many artists who have had to change their methods, and ideologies. Moreover, new individuals have found refuge in art as well as photography, bringing their own hypotheses, methods, and interests.

Since photography is a fairly young medium, with digital representation in particular still firmly in its infancy, there has not been as many periods of extreme paradigm change, in comparison to painting or sculpture. Perhaps the most fundamental paradigm shift in photography, came in the early 20th century, when we moved away from the idea that photography is a science. Pushed by the early surrealist photographers such as Alexander Rodchenko, and Man Ray, we began to consider photography an art form, that is in fact subjective, and not simply an un-biased observer. Rapidly evolving camera technology (the extreme) made destruction, of what we expect from the photograph, possible. This was then built upon by expressionist photographers who used the camera as a brush. More recently in the photographic world, we have had the evolution of digital technology, which I have no doubt will undergo paradigm shifts in the coming months and years, for better or for worse.

These times have also exposed the sheer power and influence photography - in particular digital imagery - has. I am not sure if it should scare, or empower us, but I hope we begin to treat the medium with the consideration it deserves. If we do so, we may learn to use it respectfully when representing other mediums. In turn that may reinforce the credibility of digital technology, as a paint brush in its own right. Rather than a dilution of mediums - as boundary lines blur - these circumstances may provoke a respect for, and thus an enhancement of, differing mediums and their differing powers. This will only be possible due to the rapid paradigm shift, before a rapid paradigm settling, that has been provoked (and made possible) by the extreme circumstances.

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Afterword

Since initially writing this article, it has become clear that reform will not happen separately in each of the various societal factions. Instead society as a whole will be undergoing a destructive phase, before a rebirth. The Coronavirus has affected us all massively, but in years to come we will look back and see that despite the hardship, the pandemic did breed the correct conditions to allow a monumental challenge to the paradigms defining race and culture, across the world. If we look back at all protests historically - be it in the art world, or society in its entirety - they all must have seemed extreme in their day. But one cannot assess them based on their immediate effectiveness, as their achievements are realised over time. Analogously, we will remember this period of extremes as a necessary period of dramatic paradigm shift, in every area of society and culture.

June 12, 2020

I am killing my home

by Mihai Moldovanu

He gets up, walks to the desk and reaches for his stuffed pharmaceuticals plastic bag. Skybynum, or Sky, takes a 300 mg SSRI and a few Melatonin pills for a night of good sleep. Three hundred milligrams of slow-releasing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors flood his neural receptors; in the corner of the room, by the window, on his rectangular piece of foam, he starts feeling something like happiness.

Skybynum: did you ever play survival?

Morz98: is that the mode where the exclusion zone doesn’t get any bigger?

Skybynum: yeah, that’s the one.

Skybynum: so basically I was playing out there with three other guys from my team, I was hunting bastards down, doing my homework, right? and these three dudes were hiding in a small hunting hut in the middle of a random field the entire time. Can you believe that?

Skybynum: I was playing like that for about an hour, I was well pissed, I got inside the hut where these guys were hiding, there was barely enough space for two people in there, closed the door behind me, and threw a grenade on the floor … you should have seen their faces!

Skybynum: they were fighting so hard to squeeze through that door dude!

Morz98: ahahah this is smeshno!

Skybynum has never been to Morz's house, to be more precise, he has never been in the same time zone as her, but if he were to visit her, hypothetically, Sky would see Morz living in an apartment submerged in a constant whisper of screens, as if watched over by machines of loving grace. Skybynum doesn’t know much about Morz, or Olivia as her legal document states, what he does know is that in her early adulthood Olivia broke into different fracking sites and managed to destroy twenty-two "units of heavy machinery", as the courts put it.

Her dad thought she was studying law in London, but she was holed up in the Snowdonian mountains together with twenty or so people organising guerrilla attacks on different fracking sites across Mid Wales. It turned out Morz’s father was a stakeholder in that mining corporation, and of course, they pardoned her, Morz’s friends weren't so lucky though.

Sky tells this story to his online friends, but when Skybynum is honest with himself, he’s not sure if Morz is telling the truth or not.

Morz98: you know the guillotine memes everyone’s been posting around the net?

Skybynum: right

Morz98: people are saying that’s why rich ppl are liquidating their stocks.

Skybynum: I mean it’s possible, but it also could be that folks are afraid of another recession.

Morz: I know a dude who knows a dude, you know how this goes, he told me that Quants, the eggheads behind the Black Boxes on what it is still nostalgically referred to as Wall Street, are writing algorithms that scan for guillotine memes on some ‘deviant’ websites, the box then decides either to liquidate a part of the equity portfolio, and reinvest it back into gold or not, the most stable investment.

Sky fastens his VR headset; he scrolls through his library looking for something to watch before he goes to sleep. For a while now he’s been into VR videos that “zap your brain into the zone”, as he says. A sentence hovers in the middle of a dark space: Enlightenment is totalitarian; as soon as he gets accustomed to its spectral presence the room is filled with the discord of colours and loud sounds. Skybynum thinks about detaching his headset but he settles on immersing himself in whatever possibly traumatic experience he’s signed himself up for. “Damn it! must be one of those Adornians” Sky says to himself while sitting in a catatonic state in the edge of his foam bed.

Skybynum prays to god that he doesn’t get a DPPD (digital persisting perception disorder) like Morz. One day Morz unplugged from her VR set and started seeing something similar to digital noise, her symptoms would increase with the level of the darkness, just like a video camera.

Skybynum: how's your visual snow anyway?

Morz98: I don't notice it; it would be weird to have it go away honestly

Adjustable heavy-duty titanium modules attach to the base of Morz’s work/game rig; you don't have to leave the gaming cockpit while you work, or code as she prefers to say. Her hydraulically assisted rig has a built-in mini-fridge that relies on a complex symphony of gimbal motors that keep the drinks from becoming too fizzy while the rig moves.

These are two of her favourite things she owns.

Morz98: coding has never been easier, the days of pre-visualised lines of code are gone, everything is being represented by images, sounds, everything is like a game dude.

Morz98: A contemporary coder can go on working full 15 hours shifts, productivity has almost doubled.

She had saved up a lot of money over the years, some of it, reluctantly, she invested in stocks, some of it, in property. For an anti-capitalist, her capital is always very productive.

She’d like to go to Florida one day. It’s 4 am and Sky is woken up by the sound of a boy racer crashing into a ped crossing near his apartment; the car accelerated as soon as it slammed into the barrier; the bass bin was making strange reverberating noises out the back of his mid-range Toyota-Ford, sounding almost apologetic.

June 11, 2020

More Stupid and Smart at the Same Time

by Mihai Moldavanu

He surfs MeLife for a minute, then he writes to Morz:

Skybynum: Are you up?

He had a surprisingly vivid dream, but he couldn’t tell you in detail what he saw, something about a subterranean civilisation plotting revenge on the surface dwellers for stealing their resources.

Skybynum: I don't understand why we go on pretending that the world is organised according to classical logic or scientific logic.

Skybynum: … which says: ‘A and B are not identical if they have one or more differences’. As we know everything has different qualities on a macro scale at least, god only knows what is happening on the sub-atomic level—he might not know either to be honest.

Skybynum: There can’t be two exact chairs, otherwise, it’s the same chair, right? so it follows we have a bunch of separate things or chairs. The second assumption of classical logic is that everything exists in a state of separation, (a) cannot be, and (b) so all these chairs exist separate from each other.

Skybynum: So based on that, for something to move through space it has to travel through a part of space, say an inch, so to travel that, it has to travel half of that and to travel half of that it needs to firstly travel half of that, you know what I mean?

Morz: Yeah, sure.

Morz knew where this was going, and she didn’t like it at all.

Skybynum: If we were to take this assumption to its logical end, then we would have to keep doing this, infinitely.

Skybynum: Say we assume there is ‘plank’ or a minimum amount of space that is undividable, like, an individual, an undividable plank of space. How does motion occur from one plank to the next?

Skybynum: Ok ok ok this is not gonna be like some academic paper or something, it just follows that for an object to travel through space it has to go through an infinite amount of finite spaces, otherwise we have to accept that the world is fundamentally fluid, undividable and unified or formed of mysterious planks of space and time that teleport. Zeno has talked about these things millennia ago.

Sky was trying really hard to stop himself from going into a spiral of associations.

Skybynum: I’m just saying that maybe our world is not made of separate individual things, but instead, it’s all one thing with different parts, and this thing is just simply not divided into self-sufficient elements that stay so eternally.

Skybynum: Things seem different and in some sense they are, but they are not, you know what I mean?

Sky was fuming, his brain was stuck in a loop, he was unable to figure out what was his frustration about, never mind trying to get rid of this feeling.

Skybynum: I’m only talking about this, because, I think Enlightenment is kind of totalitarian.

Suddenly Sky had flashbacks to the VR video he watched a few days back; he felt like a meat puppet. He becomes aware of the automatic way in which he was typing on the keyboard. “Am I doing this of my own free will?”

Skybynum: Through this process of individualisation of the world, we gain control over it, we understanding it better, but we also we alienate ourselves from it. We create a false sense of separation between us and other people, us and the rest of the natural world, which inevitably leads, as history has shown, to us trying to control our environment, other humans, which leads to concentration camps, which leads to mechanised slaughter and environmental destruction, total consumption and who knows what, you get the drift.

Morz: It's easy to criticize traditional logic from your air-conditioned room with high-speed internet. Without formal logic, without individualisation of the world and our concepts, you won't have much in terms of technology or systems of thought.

Morz: All is all, not very helpful for anything really, isn’t it? And one more thing Sky, the world seems pretty separate to me.

Morz was in a bad mood, Dow Jones has been falling for the third week in a row again. It all felt like a pointless exercise in armchair philosophy, a waste of her precious time, time she could be coding, or gaming; and it’s not like she hasn’t thought about this paradox before, with people more intelligent then Sky, she thought.

Morz: I don't know about you, but this doesn't seem like much of an upgrade from the shitty situation we're in. This rant of yours may be valid, but what is your alternative? I mean, sure, prob everyone would live more or less peacefully, make mad art, and trip together at the end of an entire day running from mammals and collecting berries, but would you want to live in such a world? As Morz presses enter on his keyboard one of the water pipes in Skybynum’s apartment cracks and then explodes under the pressure, flooding the apartment in seconds. He got up in a panic and slipped on the concrete floor, hitting his lower back.

(as featured in the publication Hole Punch)

June 11, 2020

There Is No Dance in Frequency and Balance

by Alistair Farthing

For years it has felt almost as if the landmarks of the linear progression of time, in a cultural sense at least, have been somewhat disappearing from view. With the nationwide lockdown approaching its nth week we find ourselves slipping into routines of vastly increased screen time only interrupted by our daily permitted outdoor exercise. This behaviour works as a kind of reflection of what has been happening (or not happening) culturally for the past 20 years, albeit on a much smaller scale. Every morning we wake up and we cross off another day on our lockdown calendar, much in the same way that a TV crim locked in solitary confinement tallies off the days until their release.

“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”1

For many of us, myself included, life has become episodic; we sink into our sofas and pour over the latest figures and developments being pumped into our living rooms from around the world. Through the filter of the television screen life is almost like the latest HBO series, unexpected plot twists, heroes in the form of key workers and pensioners with villains dressed as politicians (and unelected “advisors”). Life of the other has become a spectacle while the spectators find themselves living in a soap opera with the primary function of keeping itself on air, or perhaps more accurately, we have found ourselves trapped in our own unique Groundhog Day where every day plays out as a repeat of the one that came before and all time has lost its shape.

Technological dvancements no longer act as a bridge between the present and what the future could be, instead it has become an infinite repeat loop into the past. Rather than working as a key to open a door into a world of new contemporary art and culture, technology has changed how these cultures are reproduced, assimilated and consumed. The late Mark Fisher summarised this strange impedance of culture by technology by claiming “What it means to be in the 21st century is to have 20th century culture on hi-res screens/distributed by high-speed internet”2. This swelling of the production, assimilation and consumption of culture is tightly linked with the hijacking of cyberspace by what is labelled ‘capitalist cyberspace’. As technological advancements made computers more accessible to the wider population, online communities began to grow with visions of a digital utopia, there were dreams that “…cyberspace could be a place where you would be liberated from the old, corrupt hierarchies of politics and power and explore new ways of being.”3 This was however, hindered by the colonisation of cyberspace and the advent of ‘capitalist cyberspace’ which began to populate the newly democratised mechanism that was the internet. One of the functions of this ever growing and pervasive form of cyberspace is simply to hold attention, the content is often secondary to its ability to completely absorb the user, almost like fast food for the mind. This function exists because attention has become a commodity in itself. YouTube generates revenue based on a videos number of views, brands offer vast amounts of money for Instagrammers to promote products to their swathes of followers and people are now employed for the sole reason of continually generating clickbait for online media outlets.

We have lost the linear progression of culture, instead adopting a cyclical system of nostalgia. How do we move forward from this? With capitalism becoming as ubiquitous and pervasive as it is today, everyday life has been accelerated while culture has slowed to an almost complete stop. If artists are tasked with being political agents of change and recent advancements in technology have created a world which rehashes past cultures under the guise of ‘contemporary’ (almost in the same way that Apple reinvents the phone every year) instead of using the past as a stepping stone to something original (this is what the progression of art depends on), then how is it possible for anything new to be made? It is, as is claimed in Chris Marker’s La Jetée, as if “the future was better protected than the past”.4

We have now however been offered a reprieve from this acceleration of daily life in the strangest of forms, a global pandemic. Suddenly there is an abundance of the very rare commodity of time on our hands as a result of nationwide redundancies combined with the government-imposed lockdown. This time, coupled with isolation could provide the perfect petri dish for introspective and experimental creativity. Not only do we have more time to read, share ideas and perfect our favourite art forms, but the virus itself has highlighted the fatal flaws of a system which actively impedes artistic endeavour either directly through funding cuts to the creative arts and indirectly though the systemic acquisition of attention. The current administration, armed with graphic slides and data sheets of falling rates of infection are scrambling to maintain the illusion of triumph over the virus. Despite having one of the greatest recorded death tolls globally, our politicians thump tabletops and podiums and address the nation with a rhetoric of success.

“This reversal of priorities is one of the hallmarks of a system which can be characterized without hyperbole as ‘market Stalinism’. What capitalism repeats from Stalinism is just this valuing of symbols of achievement over actual achievement”.5

Covid-19 has revealed to us the shortcomings of the system in which large portions of the global population live, and as this population becomes increasingly aware of these shortcomings, the more likely there is to be a demand for something different, something new. Without trying to sound too optimistic, this could lead to the reclamation of the lost future of culture, or a new future altogether.

In 2001 all 13 members of the Canadian musical ensemble Set Fire to Flames along with 8 sound engineers locked themselves in a single apartment filled with instruments and recording equipment. After a week of no contact with the outside world and very little sleep, the group emerged from the make-shift studio with a new album sounding largely unlike anything else of that era. Deliberately placing yourself into isolation for a week in order to create a heightened air of despondency to use as a creative driver for the recording of an album is a pretty extreme measure. The parameters for this exercise, however, seem almost trivial when we consider the restrictions imposed on artists of the current climate.

The artists within this publication have spent the last three years defining their practice and positioning themselves as professionals. The adversity faced by these students in their final year of studies is unparalleled, with Hole Punch serving as a testament of their resourcefulness and ability to work reactively and reflectively in extraordinary circumstances. Covid-19 has created an imbalance throughout the entire globe, suddenly there is a quiet optimism that this instability could lead to something which deviates from the norm, after all, there is no dance in frequency and balance.

1 Groundhog Day, Motion picture, (1993), Columbia Pictures, Los Angeles, California, United States

2 pmilat, (May 2014), Mark Fisher : The Slow Cancellation Of The Future, Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCgkLICTskQ&t=1s

3 Hypernormalisation, Documentary film, (2016), Adam Curtis, BBC,

4 La Jetée, Short film, (1962), Argos Films, France

5 Capitalist Realism : is there no alternative?, Mark Fisher, Zero Books, (2009), United Kingdom, 9781846943171

(as featured in the publication Hole Punch)

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