October 30, 2010
Other Channels - The Advisory Circle [Ghost Box 10]
And so to New Media fuelled nostalgia cult as creative act. Old Media - broadcast - time is simultaneous, punctual; New Media time is distributed, fragmented. Eliot's Waste Land modus operandi plays out nightly on cheapo Top 100 Funniest Sit-Com Moments: "These fragments I have shored against my ruins" - quite.
In an idiolectically narrowed world of highly personalised memetic re-composition, the OedIpod - to use K-Punk's phrase - has displaced pop as spectacle. Two examples from Momus: Bowie's appearance on Extras and the end of Top of the Pops - reinforce the impression that celebreality has subsumed pop. In each case, we see the triumph of the celebreality principle over fantasy and glamour. From playing the alien on TOTP - and marginalising a nation in the process - to playing a banal yet unbelievable version of himself in the matey star cameo second series Extras, Bowie's trajectory is emblematic. Stick around long enough and haunting is the inescapable, cheapening effect of modernity.
Less risible and inarguably much more fun are the Ghost Box crew excursions into worlds of BBC Radiophonic Workshop, library music, test transmissions and public information broadcasts. Amongst the scattered electro-static and glitchy debris are some melodic reminders that cutting edge sounds of the 70s were as much the preserve of the parochial and pedestrian as the experimentalists. Indeed, parts of this release sound like a great lost Cluster album somewhere between Zuckerzeit and Sowiesoso.
The Ghost Box moniker is well-chosen of course. Earliest cited application of hauntology as music label or genre goes to Ian Penman in mid-90s edition of The Wire. The provenance of the term generally is still more venerable: a neologism coined by Marxist philosopher Jacques Derrida in Spectres of Marx. Derrida invokes not just the ghost of Marx's manifesto - "a spectre [is] haunting Europe" - but also the shade of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
“Time is out of joint” cues the tenuous connection between past, present and future. The past always haunts the present, obviously, but equally so does the future. In a Ballardian sense this "nostalgia for the future" introduces a ghost – in this case, Hamlet’s father – and so creates a tear and a fold in history. Derrida takes the point further with “To be or not to be”: introducing haunting into all conceptual constructs, beginning with the concepts of being and time. The nature of being or ontology is nothing less than hauntology-in-action. Ontology is fundamentally spectral.
In the original French the felicitous homophony works a treat: hauntology-ontology (try with French accent). Something of a sense of humour then these Marxist philosophers.
Humour too plays a role in Ghost Box plunderings. Though it's frequently humour on the edge of hysteria, panic and neurosis. Their treatment of the public information film Frozen Ponds is utterly chilling and made scarier than original creators could have ever imagined.
Make of all this what you will; Derrida is de writer...
Oddi wrth y brawd
civil defence is common sense