The Outside Inn

Yesterday we went on a big adventure around East Sussex — more on that in a later post — and, as some of you will have already seen on Twitter, I found the perfect venue for the next #NiceRx AGM down in Rye.

Not only is the Outside Inn perfectly named but it is also a reference to its location on the wrong side of the aptly-named Landgate.

Great content! Much memes!


Across Wales in a Straight Line

Still thinking about Jeremy Deller’s new documentary, “Everybody in the Place”, which I wrote about yesterday.

I keep coming back to a moment when Deller mentions the paranoia associated with the countryside today. He connects the impositions brought against rave culture to the Inclosure Acts of the 19th century and the feeling which remains today that you can’t walk about in nature without feeling like you’re doing something wrong.

This reminded me of a YouTube series I’ve been watching unfold over the last couple weeks in which a man attempts to walk across Wales in a perfectly straight line.

It’s funny and ridiculous in equal measure but I’m constantly struck by his perpetual terror and paranoia. It is constant — so much so that the endurance factor of his adventure becomes secondary to the stress of him feeling like he’s doing something he shouldn’t. Interestingly, the camouflage offered by his standard-issue British Army gear is as practical as it is authoritative. If you’re afraid of breaking the law, make like you’re above it.

If you want an idea of how even the UK’s wide-open areas are enclosed within the mind, look no further than this.

Everybody in the Place: On Jeremy Deller and Rave Rhizomaticisms

He’s lost control of the nightclub. There’s been a coup.

There’s been a lot of talk online about Jeremy Deller’s new Acid House documentary, aired on the BBC last week. I finally got round to watching it after seeing David Stubbs‘ glowing praise on Twitter — high praise too from a legendary music writer whose recent Mars By 1980 is an excellent history of electronic music as a whole.

I’m left feeling giddy after watching it. It sent me on this weird trip down memory lane, thinking about all the chance cultural encounters had when I was growing up, their age and younger. If Jeremy Deller had shown up in my classroom to talk about rave culture in this way, it would have been like throwing gasoline on these teenage temperaments. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those kids pop up on the forefront of something a few years down the line. It makes a strong case for this sort of arts education being introduced into mainstream curricula — although I won’t hold my breath for state education to get state-critical. That’s the sort of thing you only get — and even then, only if you’re lucky — once you get to art school.

“Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992” is as brilliant as everyone is saying it is but there’s an obvious change here in how Deller is presenting his particular brand of cultural history. I’ve been to Deller’s exhibitions and seen his other films. This isn’t like those. This isn’t just an hour of expertly curated archival material made with the art world in mind. Here, the sort of psychedelic rave documentary (no less brilliant) pioneered by the likes of Mark Leckey, is being given a much-needed deconstruction.

Leckey’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore remains the blueprint for so many films about underground British culture. It is a time capsule that nonetheless contains within it a certain timelessness, due to the way in which the “subjectivist fuzz” of a particular time and place gets dissolved in its own euphoria. It’s the sort of approach to cultural work that we can still see echoes of today in, for example, Paul Wright’s recent film Arcadia.

Here, however, Deller’s documentary is presented through a very different structure. We begin — and remain throughout — in a typical London classroom. (And the London centricity is important here.) Deller is, essentially, giving a lecture to teenagers who look to me like GCSE students — 15-16 years old — about the rise and politics of Acid House and there is a subtly about the presentation here that I found really affecting.

I can’t claim that this “typical” classroom is anything like mine was. London, in general, is so much more radically diverse than the rest of the country. I went to a school just outside of Hull where I could count the non-white students in my year group on one hand. Casual racism and the associated “banter” were commonplace. The old adage that kids always pick up on difference was writ large then. It felt like if you were into or wanted to find diverse cultural experiences, the last place you’d look would be in the people around you.

Coming of age during the retromania of mid-00s Northern indie bands, my “Northern Soul” moment was disarticulated from any local club scene — despite every kid having a shoulder bag swearing allegiance to a scene that no longer existed for us. I’ve never really enjoyed the tracks that epitomise that subculture– the standards of the scene have always represented a sort of exoticised aesthetic conversatism to me: we like this because it’s so different but we only like this very particular kind of different — but I do understand the delirious confluence of sentiments found in dancing to Motown on amphetamines down the local conservative club.

I remember seeing an advert on the TV for the 2004 compilation Superbad when I was 14 and being haunted by the earworm of WAR’s “Low Rider” for weeks, as a track that is explicitly grounded in another culture, but which also strangely made sense jaunting around country roads at the mouth of the Humber estuary as you escape the city and hit the ocean wall.

“Take a little trip, and see” is a message to carry with you anywhere — no matter what kind of trip you’re after. I asked for that compilation for Christmas that year, much to the bemusement of my parents, and it blew my prog-dominated world wide open.

That was a gateway into a whole new way of existing for me. It was a gateway into a libidinality and form of expression that was wholly other to my own and, whilst it’d be disingenuous to deny a certain sense of exoticism in discovering the history of Black music whilst living my white British life, it ignited an autodidactic obsession in tracing the lines between the local culture I knew and that which seemed so radically culturally different.

Black music quickly became associated with the rhizomaticism of online cultures for me. The first hip hop track I ever heard was A Tribe Called Quest’s “Excursions”, selected as the opening tune of a mix CD I got sent from the US after taking part in a mixtape swap organised on a forum I used to post on.

If the title of the track didn’t already capture that “take a little trip and see” mentality, the lyrics disappear down a rabbit hole of references, genres, names, etc. It’s intoxicating if you’re already a hip hop head — imagine hearing it for the first time as a 15 year old white kid from Yorkshire.

What I like about it is that it captures the very autodidactic essence of adolescence whilst doubling down on the cartography of the band’s eclectic but loyal approach to sampling and culture with a four-minute extended verse flow that starts with the jazz-hiphop lineage in the first verse:…

Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listenin’ to hip-hop
My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop
I said, “Well, Daddy, don’t you know that things go in cycles?
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael”

… and then ends beyond the sleeve notes with:

What you gotta do is know the Tribe is in the sphere
The Abstract Poet, prominent like Shakespeare
(Or Edgar Allan Poe, or Langston Hughes, or…)

I mention all this because Deller has built an entire career on making these sorts of connections between cultural moments and there is always a sense that whiteness or white Britishness is the underlying thing being probed here. I’ve always particularly enjoyed his work connecting Acid House to mining bands, having enjoyed both a good rave and once playing lead cornet in a brass band when I was the same age as these kids.

Even this existence would be probed by strange outside forces: I remember taking a lesson from my trumpet teacher in his garage out towards Howden in East Yorkshire where he had a hoard of jazz memorabilia and a collection of battered VHS tapes that were on the verge of technological redundancy. He put one on of a live performance by Rahsaan Roland Kirk which felt like watching Top of the Pops beamed in from another dimension but every time you saw him outside the comfort of his own studio it’d be playing standards at the school BBQ.

This is to say there is a strange frequency to these encounters. They’re alien and mind-blowing but happened so often its strange now to remember I once thought they were so disparate. You feel enclosed in your own immediate community at that age but things only appear that way because the State has done it damndest to compartmentalise forms of expression along economic, racial and geographic lines. Some people never escape them.

This is reflected in the documentary. It’s interesting that, beyond the music, many of the Asian students on screen seem more curious about the miners’ strike and its relationship to a music they might be more familiar with through their friends and relatives. If I’m talking about my own experiences here, it’s because I had never thought before about the extent to which these perspectives mirror each other, precisely in the sense that they gaze back at each other over an apparent line of state-sanctioned difference.

They talk about the miners’ strike in the same way I’ve heard kids talk about the Troubles in Northern Ireland: everyone knows it was significant but today no one can make sense of the arguments for or against. Deller does it for them and all in the context of the rave scene as this underground web that connects London to Glasgow to Birmingham to Stoke-on-Trent to some unnamed field in Wales; how the scene spread outwards from the neighbourhoods these kids know today and into the outsideness of the Home Counties, tapping into a broader and more material sense of disenfranchisement felt nationwide.

When Deller begins to talk about this relationship to the countryside and to the historic libidinality of rural areas — again, in line with Wright’s Arcadia and Mark Fisher’s excellent essay “Baroque Sunbursts” — he discusses with one student this two-way alterity of how, today, the countryside is an alien place to inner city youth and, likewise, inner city youth are alien to rural areas. Deller’s aim, it seems, is to bridge this gap — and others — for a new generation.

Watching “Everybody in the Place”, where Deller is getting teenagers to read quotations from Karl Marx, Derrick May and Juan Atkins, list famous clubs from around the country, and letting them play with synths and samplers, regrounds these discrepancies in precisely the place they should be and indeed are explored, albeit indirectly. Teaching a classroom full of kids about rave culture feels, at first, like a radical gesture but quickly the novelty wears off and we see a group of kids beginning to understand the relevance of an underground scene to their more standardised education. It’s his way of saying, here’s how what they teach you in school connects to what they don’t.

In this sense, there is an unspoken affinity between these arguably by-gone cultures and the cultures these kids are no doubt immersed in when they go home at night. The anger and virality of drill music, so often in the news like rave was, the latest teenage moral panic on London’s streets, starts to appear like an explicitly 21st century form of stunted libidinal expression, caught in the bottleneck of inner city pressure.

This is arguably why rave culture did so well for itself. It was a culture that had a geographic outside to escape into, and Deller is not the first to claim that a reconnection with such Outsides is necessary if we’re to tap into these potentials again.

The importance of this for our sense of national and international identity is huge, and the key to this documentary’s approach, I think, is that it sidesteps the heady melting-pot euphoria of most rave documentaries. Deller, at one point, asks who in the class identifies as British and is met by complete silence. And so he goes on to challenge the unruliness of identity that has always haunted these lands — the folk traditions that might now be fatally associated with whiteness in their minds but which were just as antagonistic to the English state at large as rave and the subcultures of today.

Because of this approach, Deller succeeds in not fetishising the importance of a trans-Atlantic Blackness to cultural trends. He sidesteps the sort of wide-eyed wonder and hackneyed admiration that someone like me no doubt continues to fall into when talking about Black musics. It holds white and Black both up and says, “Look at the crazy shit all these people were doing and look how important it is to everything we love today.” Look how important Kraftwerk was to Detroit techno and look how important Detroit and its industries was to them. Look at how important Northern class politics is to 21st century inner city pressure… The difference is that the latter is generally framed negatively. All we hear about is how the white North has lost out to the racially diverse urban centres and London in particular. But London isn’t a happy place either and there’s a reciprocal relationship to be rebuilt here.

Deller’s tactic has long been to rebuild these relationships through the mapping of cultural rhizomes, and there are plenty of others we could still explore. After watching this documentary I’m left wondering: What’s the six degrees of separation between voguing and morris dancing? But the more important question is: what does the making of that kind of connection do to how we think about ourselves and how we encounter each other?

I’m reminded of the White Pube’s current essay on diversity and representation. They cite Riz Ahmed’s lovely speech to Parliament a few years back but then add an all important caveat:

The issue with us, as ~diverse~ publics, seeking representation as a singular end goal, is that it is fundamentally a liberal position. That is: it does not seek to overhaul, change, disrupt or dismantle. Rather to preserve; to move within the current structures that exist, that it recognises as broken, exploitative and oppressive, and expects to have a minority of that already excluded minority succeed within these busted frameworks. It does not look to change for all, only for a few. In forcing an excluded minority to funnel through the existing structures around us, this system ensures an assimilation into the cultural values that created the existing structures, and precludes those unwilling to buy into this assimilationist narrative from succeeding within it. In short; it believes in exceptionalism. The institution ensures its survival at all costs by absorbing the critique that hits it, bc it can point to a few success stories that have conformed to its requirements. This drive for representation within that system runs off of a politic of lack, and in that lack, it opens the door to neoliberal ideologies; of creating new markets to exploit and harvest for value. In our quest for representation and visibility through existing structures and channels, we will see ourselves consumed as a sellable commodity ourselves.

This is the resonant heart of Deller’s movie for me and likewise various politics explored on this blog. Dellers’ incomplete history of Britain is knowingly selective but it shows how cultural praxes of disruption are available to everybody in the place. The politics of Black musics and stereotypically white mining communities share a common — notably Marxist — grounding of seizing the means of production, whether that be national infrastructure or making tunes in your bedroom, each having the potential to influence people around the country and, indeed, the world, and explicitly without the exceptionalism required for your own continual state-sanctioned existence.

These “worlds” speak to each other more than we are encouraged to recognise and it demonstrates the innate flaws of this liberal position when talking about rave and mining in the same breath in a modern day classroom can look like a radical act. In reality, all Deller is doing is showing how two events that happened in spatiotemporal proximity to one another are related. It’s the sort of thing these GCSE students would be asked to write about in a History exam. The flaw of British education is we don’t do this for ourselves unless we’re talking about how we won the war.

Deller disrupts the “old” but nonetheless still contemporaneous order of things by reconstructing (through historicization) tandem lost potentials which remain buried in the future. I hope it’s these kids that go and dig it up.

Dambusted: Some Thoughts on Recent Events

The last week in our house has been dominated by the news coming out of Whaley Bridge.

We have lots of friends and family that live in the area and I lived in the village myself for six months back in 2016. We’ve spent so many summers there and we still go up for Christmas every year.

It’s my girlfriend’s neck of the woods more than mine and so she has been more resolutely glued to every passing development. Thankfully everyone she knows lives outside the danger zone but it’s been intriguing to hear from family and friends and realised that the news reports don’t quite do the anxiety of the situation justice whilst also preying on any slip in local resolve.

We laughed that one news report talked about a town at emotional breaking point after a journalist saw one woman crying when, according to the people we’ve spoken to who were not evacuated, the intense air pressures whipped up by the Chinook dropping sandbags on the dam have caused more stress than the dam itself. Apparently, the sound of the thing has been threatening to blow out windows all over the town.

Things were very tough-and-go for a minute though. Were the dam to have given way with an overflowing reservoir, the resulting flood would have likely destroyed large parts of not just Whaley Bridge but two other towns down the valley. It was a real disaster movie scenario.

Thankfully they’re now in the clear.

One of the most interesting things to come out of this week, for me, has been discussions around “fake news” in orbit of all this. A strange phrase rendered completely devoid of meaning by its association with Donald Trump, it is nonetheless interesting when something, somewhere or someone you know so intimately is being plastered all over the national press. The inaccuracies are frequent and egregious.

Trump evidently sees press reporting as particularly hostile to his existence. This is to be expected — he is a shitstain — but I also wonder what it is like to read the news from his perspective. I’m sure, from the myopia of his own individual position, that “fake news” is likewise peppered with genuine — if nonetheless innocuous — inaccuracies.

But it takes a special kind of narcissist to reject the practice of journalism as a whole in light of a few indiscrepancies. The day-to-day fallibility of journalism is, arguably, necessary. Infuriating, yes, but anything too holistic and adamant in its worldview skirts the edge of propaganda. The likes of Piers Morgan — who Trump obviously likes — who spews mind-numbingly predictable and opinionated bile, is nonetheless seen as more trustworthy to some because of the brick-wall adamance of his own position.

I’m left feeling like you need the flaws for journalism to feel discursive and human.

Toddbrook Reservoir, 2013

On a similar note, the less said about the press coverage around accelerationism this week the better. That dam is likewise busted and it feels like the flood of outside scrutiny is due any day now.

As far as I’m concerned, everything I need to say has been said already. However, I don’t want to share my old post on the Christchurch shooter here without a little further context.

My post on the Christchurch shooting and the mention of accelerationism in the killer’s manifesto upset a lot of people I know IRL. I heard from a few people in the aftermath who had begun questioning my politics and saw the post as somehow apologist, putting the press discrepancies above the act itself on which they were reporting. As such, the lack of a hard-line disavowal when it came to an association with something I’m personally invested in was seen as misguided.

I didn’t understand why at the time but I see it now. That post was written within and for this online milieu but the post spread much further. It had the tone of someone preaching to the converted but I failed to appreciate, at the time, just how small a minority that is and was. Reading it now, I can hear that defiance against the press and various mainstream institutions that Trump likewise espouses.

Because no matter how reductive their article on accelerationism, attacking the Southern Poverty Law Centre is not a good look.

I’ve been doing some soul-searching about this all week and I think others have too. Where does the blame lie? And how much of it is attributable to Acc Twitter specifically?

As complete as the imageboard bastardisation of accelerationism is, the call to “exacerbate schism” in the social sphere is nonetheless in line with some of Nick Land’s more recent writings. But then, wasn’t that Mark’s position to some extent too? Wasn’t his call to reweird the world articulating the same thing — albeit semiotically rather than through direct and violent action? (Not that Land has ever advocated for violence — that seems to be the central innovation of the imageboard contingent.)

I feel there is a single observation at the root of all for accelerationism: the generation of alternatives within a system is an innately entropic process. That’s true of physics and surely also politics. If we can boil accelerationism down to anything, it is that observation.

This is something we see described in explicitly scientific terms by the right and something only gestured to by the left. (Again, this is something under the surface of all of Mark’s writings, even if he left the explicitly talk of entropy to Land.) However, as mentioned on Twitter recently, to sum up this purely scientific definition as “chaos reigns” is a woefully subjective reduction for a right-wing that frequently declares that facts don’t care about your feelings.

This is the mire of accelerationism to date. U/Acc’s previous attempts to re-emphasise the original (un)ground of accelerationism is arguably a response to the promiscuous and often problematic praxes that are built on top of a few sociopolitical observations — to the extent that the original observations are lost.

Personally, I feel like my conscience is clean. Whilst it was likewise only written for this corner of the internet, the spread of my U/Acc Reader as a counterpoint to the alt-right definition on the imageboards where these shooters are emerging from is not something I expected. But I’m glad to see it.

I can’t say what impact it is having beyond the appearance of imageboards in my WordPress referrals but if it means someone ends up as a hikikomori Kantian rather than white supremacist gun nut, I’ll take that lesser of the two evils any day.

A Note on Ed Fornieles and Unconsciousness Raising

Last night, as part of the new day job, I was at a talk given by Ed Fornieles at London’s Anise Gallery.

Giving an impressively cogent overview of his “post-internet” art works to date, I found an intriguing thread connecting two works in particular that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about overnight.

The first work was a “performance” — or “Facebook LARP” — called Dorm Daze for which Fornieles scraped the Facebook data of American college students to construct a community of fictitious characters before documenting their interactions together over a period of time and constructing a twisted coming-of-age drama out of the results.

The second, much more recent work, was Cel — a similarly intensive performance work that lasted 72 hours in which participants were invited to adopted hyper-aggressive patriarchal characters and archetypes drawn from personality profiles scraped from the likes of 4chan and Reddit. The participants would embody these personas completely for the duration of their time enclosed in a cell constructed in Fornieles’ studio.

With a rigorous system of subtle communication for the giving and acknowledging of consent, Fornieles described Cel as a sort of inversion of “second-wave feminist discourses”.

With this in mind, it seemed like each work took on the form of a kind of Artaudian consciousness raising session through which oppressions and violences were acknowledged and considered not through their open and collective discussion but through the open and collective performance of their affects. (You can read more about the project here.)

I asked Ed a question after the talk about the implications of what appears to be a form of unconsciousness raising — something I explored here previously in my posts on Westworld.

With the talk being organised as part of the School of Speculation‘s summer school public lecture programme and orbiting the school’s dedication to “critical design”, there was a sense in which the typical use of these social media platforms — or, indeed, real life spaces — were being used to explore the sorts of “defacialisation” that Mark Fisher would write about.

I wondered to what extend he saw these experiments and explorations of contemporary cruelty and community having an impact on not only how we think about the spaces we inhabit online but also how we might design new ones.

Fornieles has already explored these implications in other art works — particularly Babble and Truth Table for which he has designed such alternative systems of communication — but did not have an immediate answer to what was, admittedly, an enormous question.

So, those questions remains — what are the broader implications of using social media in this way and, even, designing social media platforms that actively undermine the performative Self-consolidation of the likes of Facebook? What is it to actively use technologically to deconstruct and perforate your own sense of self?

Fornieles’ work is, I think, the best attempt I’ve seen at answering these questions, and it gets terrifyingly close with providing us with answers that we might not yet be entirely ready for…

Photographic Alterity

I am invariably guilty of collecting other people’s photographs. Indeed, this is a hobby enjoyed by many photographers I know. There’s something quite beautiful about it, I think. I’ve seen whole walls and staircases and corridors in homes decorated with photographs of people unknown.

A wedding photograph bought from a market in France back in 2011,
a few hundred metres from the church door pictured.

Simon Reynolds has written on this briefly today via an article by Amelia Tait in the Observer. In particular, Reynolds and Tait are thinking about the hobbyists who buy and develop found rolls of film that have lain dormant in drawers and storage facilities for however long. (Tait speaks, for instance, to Levi Bettwieser of The Rescued Film Project.)

It’s not a surprising thing to find on Reynolds’ blog. How much more retromanic can you get than gambling $10,000 on old photographs in an “archive fever”?

Bettwieser explains his drive to collect the unknown as follows: “Part of the reason I’m doing it is because I like the idea of being the first person to ever see these images; even the photographer has never seen them.”

But there’s something else at work here for me — an aesthetic attraction to alterity.

The satisfaction of being the first to see something is a strange desire to me. I’d rather be the last — and I’ll even settle for just being the latest. This subjective emphasis on the photographic encounter is otherwise wholly unimportant to me. The main thrill comes from seeing something radically out of context. The anxiety of the unanswerable question that haunted Roland Barthes instead becomes a perverse thrill — indeed, as it was for Barthes though he seemed reluctant to admit it.

Like an object found on the beach in a ghost story, the energy trapped in a photograph like a fly in amber is a special thing that is highly susceptible to romantic flights of the nostalgic subject and, as such, to find such things in the world of the vernacular image is far past the pale of cliche.

A photograph of a platypus which fell out of a book
I bought in a charity shop in Newport, Wales, in 2012.

I’m reminded instead of the best photobook I’ve had the pleasure of handling — and I’d love to own a copy one day though doubt I’ll ever be able to afford it: Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s 1977 work Evidence.

From Sultan’s website:

From 1975-1977, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel selected photographs from a multitude of images that previously existed solely within the boundaries of the industrial, scientific, governmental and other institutional sources from which they were mined.  The project, “Evidence”, was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was one of the first conceptual photographic works of the 1970’s to demonstrate that the meaning of a photograph is conditioned by the context and sequence in which it is seen.

The resulting collection exhibits a brilliant sensibility for the absurd and a keen awareness of the complexity that the single image possesses when viewed outside its original context. Some of the photographs are hilarious, others are perplexing, but it’s in their isolation from their original context that these images take on meanings that address the confluence of industry and corporate mischief, ingenuity and pseudo-science.  The book has been recognized as a precursor to subsequent postmodern strategies of photo practice.

Sultan and Mandel’s curatorial work of institutionalised photography finds itself adrift in a lack of qualified meaning that we more readily associate with the paranormal — and we should note that vernacular photographs have been a staple of kitsch horror movies for decades. (I’ve written on this before.)

In Evidence, every decontextualised photograph of a mundane experiment takes on the aura of a UFO crash site.

It’s an outsideness that resonates with Justin Barton’s recent blogpost on Exteriority: “A primacy of the faculty of perception — that is, of sustained attention in relation to the spheroambient outside that arrives continually into the world of a perceiving being.”; “In relation to modalities of expression, a primary focus on the world, as opposed to concepts and established forms of writing [or any other artform for that matter] (new concepts and new forms of writing will emerge, but precisely through the issues involved in creating them being secondary).”

Lenticular bin print that used to live in our kitchen…

I’d buy photographs like this if I could. Instead, I’ve just allowed such photographs to fall into my lap — some of which are embedded here. They’ve decorated many walls over the years but many of them have not been acquired for their agedness. (My girlfriend once brought home two large lenticular landscapes she found in a dumpster outside prestigious / pretentious art fair Paris Photo back in 2014. Those were much loved — for the story of finding them as much as their bizarre presence on our bathroom wall.)

But this kind of photograph is also easily produced. You can find them everywhere. One of the best places to do this — which is somewhat relevant to Reynolds’ other interests, if not exclusively retromanic — is on record covers.

Fred Frith’s Guitar Solos is the first to come to my mind (and I’ve been wanting to write an essay on it for years now). It was bought for its cover — perhaps my favourite record cover of all time — and further enchanted by the sounds that emanate from its grooves.

This sort of image that sidesteps documentation and instead finds itself immersed, whether by chance or on purpose, with an untimeliness. But I suppose that’s a harder and more abstract thing to write about… And less interesting to your average Observer reader, I suppose…

I’ll depart with a section from an old conversation between my old friend and mentor Jason Evans and Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet).

The pair have produced many a record over the last two decades that could quite easily fit into this category of aesthetic alterity.

Evans himself is a master producer of such images and an incredible connoisseur of visual weirdry.

Jason Evans: We are both so passionate about music artwork. You mentioned ECM and I get really excited by Hipgnosis. Why do you think that the history of music-industry artwork has been neglected? So many great pieces of music from great albums have an extraordinary visual-physical presence . . .

Kieran Hebden: I think it has been seen as solely a functional part of music culture. Some of the best sleeves that I own are for library records, and the person doing the sleeve would never have heard the music. They simply would have been commissioned. You know, “We need something! This record is called Industry 4, we need something that goes with that.” And they would make some bonkers painting, then put some crazy text on it and say, “Here you go!” And the record wasn’t even being made for commercial release. We look back at it now and think, “This is the best record sleeve I’ve ever seen. This is amazing music.” But it’s very, well, functional.

JE: The kind of photography I like was never intended as art. The kind of music and artwork you’re describing were never intended as art.

KH: But maybe in four hundred years someone will look at a Cornflakes box and think, “Oh my God, these people were mad!” [laughs] “This crazy, crazy thing. How beautiful is that?”

JE: That should be the case! I collect Japanese chewing-gum packaging because it’s a really bizarre visual manifestation of late capitalism and it has driven people to insane heights of aesthetic discourse in the same way that LSD did in the late 1960s.

KH: Record sleeves must be getting made for so many people in that purely functional way and I’m an enthusiastic record collector, so it appeals to me. I’m a big believer in the concept that time will tell. After ten years or so you can get some sense of whether something was any good or not, be it the music or the sleeve. We find these records from the 1960s and ’70s and think the sleeves are fantastic, but maybe at the time we would have thought absolutely nothing of them. At some point in time someone is going to find these things and they are going to be relevant and exciting and inspiring. One of the best things about having your NYLPT book out is seeing people getting excited by it. But the part that is even more exciting is the idea of some kid finding it on her grandmother’s shelf, you know—

JE: Yes, I do—

KH: —Seventy-five years from now, and it’s sitting next to an A-to-Z and a copy of Reader’s Digest. They’ll think, “Well, I’m going to sit on the toilet and read this one today. . . .” And then realize, “Whoa, this is amazing!”

Jason and I in Brighton in 2014, taken (and kept) by a stranger…
No idea where this polaroid is now…