Slavoj Zizek – rubbish agony aunt – great philosopher, cultural theorist and film critic. Currently International Director for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London, I just missed him lecture at the RSA and LSE this week. Annoyed. I missed him a couple of years ago at the ICA too. Luckily you can watch his documentary, the eponymous Zizek, or fill your boots for free via the abundant teet of YouTube.
In one long example below you can play the game – how many times can one intellectual touch his face in just over an hour? Despite Zizek’s ungainly presence this lecture on violence is fantastic. So lucid it hurts, the brain is forced into a dizzying game of paying attention. I love the weaving of Donald Rumsfeld’s superb unknown-unknown’s rhetoric into the definition of ideology before then instantly introducing Western toilet variants into the explanation. Beats most of the lectures I got in school.
To some – call them capitalists, call them the driven, call them names – drifting is a plague. Something to be avoided. Health is motivation and direction. From this we progress. Drifters have holes is the wrong places. To be set adrift; just the phrase is like an unwelcome tickle to the soul. Schoolteachers and mothers are always plotting against the drifters.
Psycho-geographical drift is culturally heralded. Physical and mental wandering reveal that which may otherwise remain hidden, or rather buried beneath the white noise of life’s competing stimulants. Drift denies us the life-defying formulaic narrative of pop culture. Instead it gives us the the dream-like narrative that is a clearer reflection of our reality – beginnings and ends fade and blend into a fraying yet seamless tapestry. When you drift there is no destination but location is crucial. You may reach states or places that planning and structure will never find. Incremental moments long since greying are as relevant as any occupying rush of the present. Insignificant glimpses of your past appear as bursts of colour; forgotten clips re-appear as fireworks in your mind having gathered no dust in storage. Illumination bleaches your being before it too fades.
Drifting is calmness but drifting can be sadness. At once detached from the self and consumed by it, your insignificance is clearer as the existence of everything ever, both past and present, muddies egotistical belief.
Patrick Keiller’s film ‘London‘ brought this on.
Keiller’s film follows an imaginary protagonist, Robinson, around the capital in the early 90’s. Blurring documentary with fiction, the miserablist London on show here is almost unimaginable to any contemporary inhabitant. 1992, the Tories win again; London seems set for further decline. The invocation of dead French poets lend a mournful context to the city’s hopeless state. IRA bombs wreck the Thatcherite financial utopia – The City – in a flash, whilst socialist dreams of harmony tune out more gradually. Faded grandeur and the charm of decay strike tenderly through the gloom but this is a beautifully pessimistic series of walks through LDN. Recommended.
Keiller held a Q&A session at The Barbican after the screening last week. I really wanted to ask him what his favourite walk through London was. Sadly the director’s ability to answer a question is in tune with his meandering films. Only a few questions were put to him before our time was up and the moment was lost.
So what are your favourite walks in London? Or bus routes? Or cycle rides? Or vantage points ? For me you can’t beat a bridge at night on a bicycle. Let me know yours, I’d like to see for myself.
Adam Curtis, documentary film-maker for the BBC, has become a hero of mine. For me this is the zenith of storytelling. There is such a creeping wonder to his use of archive footage and quick edits to provide imagery for his narrative. Add to that stories that are spellbinding in themselves.
Check out the intro to his series of films, The Power of Nightmares. It’s hypnotic.