Black Holes and Death

Jennie Dear’s recent article on The Atlantic, Palliative Care and the Science of What It Feels Like To Die“, is a dark but fascinating read on the latest views and theories offered by science regarding what it is like to experience death, movingly told through the author’s proximity to her mother’s last few weeks before succumbing to metastatic breast cancer.

It’s interesting, particularly as one of the analogies used is far more suggestive of weird SF than an oncologist’s bedside manner:

James Hallenbeck, a palliative-care specialist at Stanford University, often compares dying to black holes. “We can see the effect of black holes, but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to look inside them. They exert an increasingly strong gravitational pull the closer one gets to them. As one passes the ‘event horizon,’ apparently the laws of physics begin to change.”

Should we expect research into palliative care to get more Bataillean as medical professions undertake that “impossible quest to experience not only the maximally intense, but beyond that, the quest to experience from a position where experience itself is not possible; i.e. death, death itself as the limit.” [via] I assume this field of research has long been Bataillean, albeit sanitised for medical journals.

It also sounds very Hollywood… Was that remake of Flatliners as terrible as people said it was? I still haven’t seen it.

More on death as limit-experience / singularity via Bataille, Fisher, Foucault, Brassier, Land, et al. at a later date.

The Medium is the Mess

Photography is a medium of representations, or so we’re told. It shows us things as they are but also how we’d like them to be. We want to believe in the photographs we see but we increasingly view them with caution. Since the medium’s invention, there have been frequent debates on its effectiveness as the default modern medium of representation, but with these debates comes a societal distrust of the images we see all around us. As constant viewers of images we are more aware than ever before that they do not represent what we consider to be our immediate realities.

Nowhere is this more true than alongside contemporary live music, where attitudes towards photography have grown more and more hostile in recent years. Music venues banned ticket holders from carrying “professional cameras” (or anything with a detachable lens) long ago and, more recently, artists themselves have introduced soft bans on attendees taking photographs of any kind. Having taken pictures on both sides of the press barrier, I can attest to the negative attitudes these restrictions create being felt by all.

This is not to say that photographers are particularly hard done by. They are intolerable at the best of times, but rather than these restrictions alleviating bad practices, they have only served to shrink the creative pool available to the music press – a sub-industry that has long had a weird image problem.

Visual aesthetics once came hand-in-hand with genres and movements – and to some extent they still do, with much electronic music experimenting with image production as doggedly as sound production. However, when the music press turns to photography to explore other’s work, everything looks the same. It doesn’t have to – and the state of things says much more about those taking and selecting images than the medium of photography itself.

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Don’t Look Now

We see two children – brother and sister – playing in idyllic woodland. The boy is riding a bicycle, circling trees. The girl is wearing a red Mackintosh and playing with a ball. She throws it carelessly and it lands in a nearby pond.

Inside their country home, the children’s father is looking at a series of photographic slides. He is studying one particularly closely, of a church altar. Sitting in the first row of pews with back to the camera sits someone wearing a red Mackintosh very much like his daughter’s. Perhaps it is his daughter, but the expression on his face suggests otherwise. He seems pensive. He takes the slide from the projector and examines it more closely, focusing on the person in red.

We see the girl again: running alongside the pond now and holding the now-rescued ball. The boy, still on his bicycle, rides over a pane of glass. It shatters and he falls to the ground. He picks himself up and examines his tyres for punctures whilst his sister continues to play, throwing her ball into the pond for a second time.

Back inside the house, their father throws his wife a pack of cigarettes and clumsily knocks a glass of water onto the slide he was previously examining. As he looks at the slide, the colour of the Mackintosh runs and bleeds across the image. He looks up, anxious.

As he rises from his seat his wife asks, “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” he replies.

He runs from the house as his daughter disappears under the surface of the water. He wades in and lifts her lifeless body from the pond.

His wife, unaware of the events occurring outside, examines the slide he was holding and watches as the colour red continues to spread and bleed, engulfing the image until it is unrecognisable, destroyed, an abstracted mesh of colour. She does not react.

Outside, the father attempts to resuscitate his daughter but it is too late.

Continue reading “Don’t Look Now”

What is clocks?

Like most people I’ve been binge-watching season four of Black Mirror over the New Year’s period. It was alright. My favourite episodes were Metalhead and the first one.

I heard there was no 2017 Wipe because Brooker was too preoccupied with Black Mirror. I don’t envy the guy for having set himself a mad schedule of annual specials but, to be honest, I’d have preferred a Wipe this year.

I missed Philomena Cunk.

One Second a Day 2017

I first tried to make one of these videos back when they were all the rage in 2014. I’d had an apocalyptic 2013 and entered the new year feeling completely helpless and unable to escape my situation. I decided to run headlong into a bunch of projects that could keep me out of the house and, whether they succeeded or not, making a One Second A Day video felt like a good way to keep myself preoccupied just in case all else failed.
 
All else did fail and that video turned into the only project I was proud of, and so it was all the more heartbreaking when my hard drive died halfway through the year – twice. All the work I did for the first six months of 2014 was corrupted and lost forever.
 
It has taken me three years to get over that loss and in late 2016, having moved to London to study at Goldsmiths and feeling like I had found my place and my people and loving every second of life for the first time since 2013, I had a feeling that 2017 would be a good year to document.
 
Sod’s law meant it all went to shit come January.
 
This year has been exceptionally difficult but I thought I’d keep going with making this video regardless.
 
It would have been far too easy to wake up this morning, on January 1st, and remember nothing but the hardships from this past year. Thanks to this video, I know that I have a lot to be thankful for and in a lot of ways 2017 was a roaring success but just like 2014, I can’t help but feel like all the fun documented here was occasioned by a pathological need to stay out of my room and my own head.
 
One second a day is nowhere near enough time to capture everything and everybody who made this year easier but I hope this brings a smile to a lot of other people’s faces too.
 
2017 can fuck right off but it wasn’t all bad and I have a lot of people to thank for that. You know who you are. You might even be in this…