suzanne heintz – life once removed

 “A personal photography experience for public consumption.”

suzanne heintz - 01

Suzanne Heintz calls herself “the modern day patron saint of single women”. She has the following to say about her ongoing photography project, the wondrously uncanny “Life Once Removed”:

What would drive you to pack a family of mannequins into your station wagon, and take them on a road trip? Enough pressure to conform will send anyone packing.  That’s how I came to this personal project about what is essentially…Spinsterhood, and the American Way.
Well-meaning strangers, along with friends and family, would raise an eyebrow when the topic of my unmarried and childless status arose.  Indicating with a small facial twitch, not only my audacious freakishness, but that I was a little old for such foolish thinking. I mean, come on, eggs don’t last forever!

suzanne heintz - 02But really, what was I supposed to do?  You can’t just go out and buy a family.  Or can you?  I did.  They are mannequins.  The candy coated shell with nothing inside.  We do all those family things, all the while capturing those Kodak Moments.  Because it’s not really about the journey, or a genuine human connection, when your kids are screaming, “are we there yet?”, is it?  It’s about the picture in front of the sign.  “Get back in the car, we got the picture.  Now, let’s go eat.”

We love and obey the formatted image of a well-lived life.  So deeply ingrained is that strange auto-grin we put on when a camera is present.  Do we live our lives with a keen awareness of how it feels, or just how it looks?
suzanne heintz - 03If I pass through life without checking off the boxes for a wedding ring and a baby carriage, I will be missing the photo album, but not not the point.  When I take my photos, others stop and stare, then they ask, “why are you doing this?”  They, at that moment, are starting to get the point too.

heintz family christmas 1

Check out more of Suzanne’s fantastical images HERE.

sounds of silence

sos
LABEL: ALGA MARGHEN (ITALY)
CATALOG #: ALGA 046LP
RELEASE DATE: 21 JANUARY 2014

Sounds of Silence is an anthology of some of the most intriguing silent tracks in recording history and includes rare works, among others, by Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Maurice Lemaitre, Sly & The Family Stone, Robert Wyatt, John Denver, Whitehouse, Orbital, Crass, Ciccone Youth, Afrika Bambaataa and of course, Yves Klein.

In their own quiet way, these silences speak volumes: they are performative, political, critical, abstract, poetic, cynical, technical, absurd. They can be intended as a memorial or a joke, a special offer, or something entirely undefined. The carefully-chosen silences of this anthology are intrinsically linked to the medium of reproduction itself and reveal its nude materiality. They expose their medium in all its facets and imperfections, including the effect of time and wear. At the most basic level, these silences are surfaces. And it is in their materiality that they distinguish themselves from the conceptual experiments of John Cage with “4’33”.

Since the 1950s, silence has found a place in the economic structure of the record industry and since then it would increasingly be appropriated by a vast array of artists in a vast array of contexts. Indeed, the silent tracks seem to know no boundaries. The LP presents the silences as they were originally recorded, preserving any imperfection that the hardware conferred upon the enterprise, without banning the possibility of being satisfying to the ear. The liner notes provide historical background for each track, revealing the stated (or presumed) motivations for these silences, while providing novel sound correspondences or interferences.

This album is meant to be played loud (or not), at any time, in any place: a true aural experience. Only 250 copies available for distribution, in a gatefold iconic sleeve. ORDER THE LP HERE.

out of order

“A minute of silence in images for all the absent images, censored images, prostituted images, machinated images, delinquent images, buggered images, images beaten up by all the governments, televisions and westernized cinemas that rhyme information and repression with trash and culture.”

— Jean-Luc Godard – Le Gai Savoir (The Joy of Learning), 1969

“We can’t really understand. Of course. They’re speaking out of order.”

Continue reading

the breeders – saints

“Summer is ready when you are.” Off the Breeders’ Last Splash album from 1993, on 4AD. HERE’s a review of the album, 20 years on.

I was reminded of this loopy video by the crazy Google weather app on my phone . It’s telling me the temperature right now is 18 degrees Celsius, with “light snow showers”. It is not snowing, nor has it ever snowed in this place, even in the dead of winter. It is unseasonally chilly and cloudy most of the time in KZN. Summer, I’m ready when you are. It’s mid-December, damnit.

the notebook: it’s ok to live life offline

Excerpted from a thoughtful piece by Kayli Stollak, over at Hello Giggles.

Painting by Francine van Hove

Painting by Francine van Hove

Online we tell a golden version of our lives filled with accomplishments, strictly (and often unbelievably) fun times, and a never-ending well of wit. The glorified digital narrative that we construct of our lives worries me like a 1950’s housewife watching Elvis wiggle his hips on TV. Our modern-day record keeping seems wildly inaccurate to the truth of our inner lives. What is happening in our too-much-information-nation? But more importantly, what is happening with us? Behind all the selfies and sandwich shots, who are we?

In order to correct the imbalance of truth, I propose we start writing it down. We share so much of ourselves with the web, but do we take enough time accounting for our private lives in realm that is removed from the world of likes, comments and followers? The idea of keeping a journal is nothing new, but we’re living in a time where we could benefit from taking a personal inventory of who we are, lest we deceive our future selves through our revisionist digital autobiographies.

While our faces are buried in our phones, we risk missing the smaller details in life. If we don’t remember the bad, how can we possibly enjoy the good to the highest degree? With time, I’m concerned we’ll look back at our Facebook timelines and mistake the façade that we presented of ourselves as fact for who we actually were.

As a writer who spends a large (and probably unhealthy) amount of time writing about herself, I often hear the condemnation of navel gazing. Sure, it is narcissistic to think your life is exciting enough to put to paper, but is it really more self-centered than a side-angled pouty pose of you enjoying your fun-filled Saturday night in the club, posted to Instagram with hopes of garnering likes from your followers, confirming that, yes, you are hot? I would venture to say that the former is self-reflective and productive, while the latter is vapidity and belly-button eagle eye-ing at its worst.

I’m not recommending you go all “dear diary” and start documenting your daily rhythms by laboriously chronicling what you ate for breakfast, the jerk who cut you off on the freeway, or what your plans are for the weekend—if that works for you, do it, but there’s no need to pen a three volume memoir. What I’m championing is the process of jotting down your feelings, thoughts, conversations, inspirations, events that meant something to you now that you might benefit from reflecting on in the future. This is a dose of honesty for you today, in five months, in ten years, at 97. To look back on after your next break up, when you’re contemplating marriage, on your graduation, before a big interview, or simply on a rainy day.

Your notebook should be far from the manicured image you pimp out on Instagram, Facebook, OKCupid, etc. In Joan Didion’s 1966 essay “On Keeping a Notebook”, written before our over-stimulated minds were flooded with technology and its never-ending distractions, she explained, “We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensées, we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.”

For me, a piece of ‘mind string’ is the harmonica chords to ‘Piano Man’ scribbled in my notebook from 2008. A stranger might assume a bizarre Billy Joel fixation, but when I revisit them in my journal, the mess of notes and the triggered sound insist on memories of a motorcycle trip through Spain and feelings of maddening love. All you need is sentence, a word, a thought, and suddenly you remember who you actually were.

If I skip forward in my notebook to 2009 I stumble upon a string of doubts, the point where this love began to unravel. The same way the smell of sunscreen can instantly bring back memories of summer,  a list labeled “Pros and Cons” reminds me of the creeping anxiety I felt for planning my future. My Facebook timeline, however, tells a different tale of a giddy girl with bangs who enjoys raves, beaches, and doing the limbo.

Didion advocated for the importance of preserving a part of yourself that in time you can return to. She wrote, “It all comes back. Perhaps it is difficult to see the value in having one’s self back in that kind of mood, but I do see it; I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not… We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what screamed, forget who we were.”

Notebooks are fantastic tools for keeping in touch with our former selves that go far beyond the sculpted image we present on the web. I love delving back into my journals from middle school to the present, not because I’m a fan of the person I see there, but rather because I understand the benefit of knowing her.

francine van hove 02

Painting by Francine van Hove

I want to yell at my thirteen year-old self to please take off that padded bra andstop being in such a rush to grow up. I want to hold my fourteen year-old self and explain to her that you are the company you keep and the sooner she starts loving herself the better. I want to bitch slap my sixteen year-old self, she was one angsty girl. I want to tell my seventeen year-old self not to mistake lust for love and to please stop talking to that boy in the band that told you he learned how to play “Brown-Eyed Girl” for you when, in fact, your eyes are green. I want to stay up all night talking to my twenty year-old self, feeding off her energy and drinking up her thirst for spontaneity. I want to see the world through her eyes, she reminds me to believe in magic. I want to whisper in the ear of my twenty-three year-old self, and tell her that soon enough she will see that it really was a means to an end. I want to tell my twenty-five year old self to trust her gut and not settle, I want to remind her what love looks like and tell her that this is not it. But I can’t tell her any of that. All I can do is learn from her mistakes, be reminded of what to hold meaning to, take note of her intuition, celebrate the coincidences, and enjoy all the beautiful moments and connections made.

Although I already know how most of the stories end, it’s important to track the progress I’ve made, reminding me who I am and who I was. To draw my own attention to the larger patterns my tendencies and predilections make when I can see them from a bird’s eye view. A notebook can serve as a wake up call on what I may be rightly or wrongly romanticizing and what I may be purposefully forgetting. Notebooks give us a shot at staying honest and in touch with ourselves, something I think we should strive to be in this digital age.

Read the full article HERE. Thanks to Stella for sharing it.

burial – come down to us

Beautiful video by Alexander Petrov set to this anthem, off Burial’s brand new EP, Rival Dealer, out now on Hyperdub. I looked Petrov up because his animation style reminded me of some of the work of another Russian master, Yuri Norstein – and, indeed, he was one of Norstein’s protégés at the Advanced School for Screenwriters and Directors in Moscow.

UPDATE 17/12/13: Looks like the person who put this lovely video together has been forced to take it down for copyright reasons. That’s just wrong. It was truly an inspired combination, and I don’t know how it would have hurt the sales of either the song or the animation. Anyway. You can stream the track without the video HERE.

Still from the Alexander Petrov footage that was paired with the song.

Still from the Alexander Petrov footage that was paired with the song.

A rare, candid message from the usually silent and mysterious William Bevan, a.k.a. Burial, on Rival Dealer (via Mary Anne Hobbs’ BBC radio show):

I put my heart into the new EP; I hope someone likes it. I wanted the tunes to be anti-bullying tunes that could maybe help someone to believe in themselves, to not be afraid, and to not give up, and to know that someone out there cares and is looking out for them. So it’s like an angel’s spell to protect them against the unkind people, the dark times, and the self-doubt.

mort garson – i’ve been over the rainbow

The perfect song for South Africa today. From the album The Wozard Of Iz, released on A&M in 1968.

“Shit on your whole mortifying, imaginary, and symbolic theatre!”
― Gilles Deleuze/Felix Guattari – Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

the situation is clinical

somewhere in 2008 i sent friends and family a short account of a visit to hillbrows’ HIV testing site. to cut it short it was a nightmare, surreal. the counsellor sat me down, asked my age, the number of sexual partners blah blah. he then broke down HIV for me, this is what it is, blah. to tie a bow on it, dude then asked where my family was and if i had any younger siblings who would take care of me when i get too sick to do so. he hadn’t even drawn blood then. what followed was a small confrontation, he shut me up by stating, ‘i wouldn’t be so cocky before my ‘positive’ comes back.’

i took the test and walked down to the johannesburg art gallery. kay hassan eased my anger, his fathers’ music room reminded me of home, the people there who would have to take care of me if the clairvoyant counsellor had had a clearer crystal ball. i’d seen other counsellors before mr doom and gloom, they had been informative and quick to ease my nerves. he was a bad apple, i filed a complaint.prick

today i tried my local clinic on for size. with ‘kick start’ clinics closed i’ve struggled to find a testing site that’s free and near and last year i missed my december first test. woodstock community health centre sits just on the other side of mountain road. when electricians arrived too early for my husband to open for them, i ran home to open up and leave them with a short ‘to do’ before zipping back up the road to join the freebie queue. after my folder was called i waited a short 45 minutes (govt health care people, catch up) before i was asked to see a counsellor. as i stepped in another gentleman was called.

‘no, we’re not together,’ i offered.

‘yes, that’s fine. just both of you come in.’

‘oh, ok’

i’m in this weird room with a counsellor, a dude i met on the bench outside and i’m about to disclose my sexual history. i’m about to know how many people mr bench has been with. this is all too heady. i sit and giggle awkwardly. i’m thinking of my one night stands, i realize i don’t know as much about any of them as i’m about to find out about this stranger. i giggle some more then ask, ‘but how?’ at which i burst out laughing. the counsellor raises an eye brow, i cross and uncross my legs then clench my butt cheeks, got to stop laffing.

‘how old are you?’

the counsellor is barking at mr bench, who looks at me and i shrug my shoulders. a quiet knock introduces mr bench’s friend, his translator. the man is french. there’s four of us in the room and the translator is hot and about to find out i’m pretty easy and live around the corner. i need a smart phone. for ten minutes i sit listening as questions bounce from the counsellor to the translator and then finally to mr bench. it’s amusing, it’s someone else’s nightmare.

‘have you ever had anal sex?’

‘i’m sorry, i’m going to have to wait outside.’

my shoulders are shaking, my chest is tight. i am clenching an unclenching my fists. i’m biting at my lower lip and i want to punch the daylights out of our counsellor. my knees buckle a bit as i sit at the bench outside the office. i didn’t get mr bench’s name but i know a few things about him that should remain in the safety of ‘doctor patient privilege.’ i sat through it, i laughed about it. yes, i shouldn’t have been put in that position but it’s one thing to need a translator to buy milk and bread and quite another to have a second person know your status before you do. mr bench is just one dude, a home affairs glitch. shame. i’m just a sweet little asshole, who should have used better judgement. when they leave i can’t look either one in the eye, i’m ashamed and can’t wait to half die.

my turn comes and i ask the counsellor why they asked us both to come in.

‘it’s a faster turn around.’

if they prick us, do we not bleed?

reflections on mandela’s legacy

mandela in the mirror

Photo: Adrian Steirn, 2011

Some links and excerpts from commentary that I have found to be worth reading today (I’ll add to this whenever I come across anything interesting – if anyone reading this has suggestions, please pass them on too):

From “The Contradictions of Mandela” –  Zakes Mda in the New York Times opinion pages:

The claim is that the settlement reached between the A.N.C. and the white apartheid government was a fraud perpetrated on the black people, who have yet to get back the land stolen by whites during colonialism. Mandela’s government, critics say, focused on the cosmetics of reconciliation, while nothing materially changed in the lives of a majority of South Africans.

This movement, though not representative of the majority of black South Africans who still adore Mandela and his A.N.C., is gaining momentum, especially on university campuses.

I understand the frustrations of those young South Africans and I share their disillusionment. I, however, do not share their perspective on Mandela. I saw in him a skillful politician whose policy of reconciliation saved the country from a blood bath and ushered it into a period of democracy, human rights and tolerance. I admired him for his compassion and generosity, values that are not usually associated with politicians. I also admired him for his integrity and loyalty.

But I fear that, for Mandela, loyalty went too far. The corruption that we see today did not just suddenly erupt after his term in office; it took root during his time. He was loyal to his comrades to a fault, and was therefore blind to some of their misdeeds.

Read the rest of what Mda has to say HERE.

From “Mandela’s Socialist Failure” – Slavoj Zizek in the New York Times opinion pages

In South Africa, the miserable life of the poor majority broadly remains the same as under apartheid, and the rise of political and civil rights is counterbalanced by the growing insecurity, violence, and crime. The main change is that the old white ruling class is joined by the new black elite. Secondly, people remember the old African National Congress which promised not only the end of apartheid, but also more social justice, even a kind of socialism. This much more radical ANC past is gradually obliterated from our memory. No wonder that anger is growing among poor, black South Africans.

South Africa in this respect is just one version of the recurrent story of the contemporary left. A leader or party is elected with universal enthusiasm, promising a “new world” — but, then, sooner or later, they stumble upon the key dilemma: does one dare to touch the capitalist mechanisms, or does one decide to “play the game”? If one disturbs these mechanisms, one is very swiftly “punished” by market perturbations, economic chaos, and the rest. This is why it is all too simple to criticize Mandela for abandoning the socialist perspective after the end of apartheid: did he really have a choice? Was the move towards socialism a real option?

It is easy to ridicule Ayn Rand, but there is a grain of truth in the famous “hymn to money” from her novel Atlas Shrugged: “Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. Blood, whips and guns or dollars. Take your choice – there is no other.” Did Marx not say something similar in his well-known formula of how, in the universe of commodities, “relations between people assume the guise of relations among things”?

In the market economy, relations between people can appear as relations of mutually recognized freedom and equality: domination is no longer directly enacted and visible as such. What is problematic is Rand’s underlying premise: that the only choice is between direct and indirect relations of domination and exploitation, with any alternative dismissed as utopian. However, one should nonetheless bear in mind the moment of truth in Rand’s otherwise ridiculously ideological claim: the great lesson of state socialism was effectively that a direct abolishment of private property and market-regulated exchange, lacking concrete forms of social regulation of the process of production, necessarily resuscitates direct relations of servitude and domination. If we merely abolish market (inclusive of market exploitation) without replacing it with a proper form of the Communist organization of production and exchange, domination returns with a vengeance, and with it direct exploitation.

The general rule is that, when a revolt begins against an oppressive half-democratic regime, as was the case in the Middle East in 2011, it is easy to mobilize large crowds with slogans which one cannot but characterize as crowd pleasers – for democracy, against corruption, for instance. But then we gradually approach more difficult choices: when our revolt succeeds in its direct goal, we come to realize that what really bothered us (our un-freedom, humiliation, social corruption, lack of prospect of a decent life) goes on in a new guise. The ruling ideology mobilizes here its entire arsenal to prevent us from reaching this radical conclusion. They start to tell us that democratic freedom brings its own responsibility, that it comes at a price, that we are not yet mature if we expect too much from democracy. In this way, they blame us for our failure: in a free society, so we are told, we are all capitalist investing in our lives, deciding to put more into our education than into having fun if we want to succeed…

… If we want to remain faithful to Mandela’s legacy, we should forget about celebratory crocodile tears and focus on the unfulfilled promises his leadership gave rise to. We can safely surmise that, on account of his doubtless moral and political greatness, he was at the end of his life also a bitter, old man, well aware how his very political triumph and his elevation into a universal hero was the mask of a bitter defeat. His universal glory is also a sign that he really didn’t disturb the global order of power.

Read Zizek’s full post HERE.

From “Nelson Mandela: The Crossing” –  Richard Pithouse at SACSIS

[W]e need to be very clear that we did not undo many of the injustices that honed Mandela’s anger in the 1950s…

…But as Mandela returns from myth and into history we should not, amidst the humanizing details of his life as it was actually lived, or the morass into which the ANC has sunk, forget the principles for which he stood. We should not forget the bright strength of the Idea of Nelson Mandela.

Mandela was a revolutionary who was prepared to fight and to risk prison or death for his ideals – rational and humane ideals. In this age where empty posturing on Facebook or reciting banal clichés at NGO workshops is counted as militancy, where rhetoric often floats free of any serious attempts to organise or risk real confrontation, where the human is seldom the measure of the political, we would do well to recall Mandela as a man who brought principle and action together with resolute commitment.

Mandela was also a man whose ethical choices transcended rather than mirrored those of his oppressors. Amidst the on-going debasement of our political discourse into ever more crude posturing we would do well to remember that no radicalism can be counted as adequate to its situation if it allows that situation to constrain its vision and distort its conception of the ethical.

Read the full article by Pithouse HERE.

mandela will never, ever be your minstrel

“… [P]erhaps the greatest tragedy of Mandela’s life isn’t that he spent almost thirty years jailed by well-heeled racists who tried to shatter millions of spirits through breaking his soul, but that there weren’t or aren’t nearly enough people like him.
Because that’s South Africa now, a country long ago plunged headfirst so deep into the sewage of racial hatred that, for all Mandela’s efforts, it is still retching by the side of the swamp. Just imagine if Cape Town were London.  Imagine seeing two million white people living in shacks and mud huts along the M25 as you make your way into the city, where most of the biggest houses and biggest jobs are occupied by a small, affluent to wealthy group of black people. There are no words for the resentment that would still simmer there.
Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death. You will try, wherever you are, and you will fail.”

Read the rest of the words at OKWONGA.COM.

still so far to go, south africa

mandela fist

Yesterday, on the day those in control would later turn Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s life support system off, allowing him his final, politically expedient release after months held captive in a purportedly vegetative state, I was driving with my niece Juliette in KwaZulu-Natal, behind a white woman in a bakkie. The passenger seat of the vehicle was empty. In the open back, bumping around in the drizzling rain, sat a black woman in a blue maid’s uniform trimmed, profound irony, with ribbon in the rainbow hued design of the “new” South African flag.

Utterly disgusted, Juliette and I wanted to yell out something as we drove past, something to say that we saw, we recognised, we hated the thoughtless inhumanity of the woman in the driver’s seat, and that we saw, we recognised, we hated that this was a microcosm of the sickness persisting in the world all around us every day… but something in the grim, faraway expression on the face of the woman in the back made us realise that anything we said, however well-intentioned, would only compound her humiliation. Even the clouds were spitting on her.

South Africa still has so far to go before there can be any exaltation about transformation here. Sadly, far too little in the material circumstances of the majority of South Africans has changed since 1994, and for this reason the triumphant official narrative we are bombarded with today, as the media orchestrate the nation’s performance of grief for Mandela’s passing, rings hollow. Despite the man’s humility and admission of his own fallibility, South Africans have fashioned of him a myth, a brand, a magical fetish that distracts from the truth that we are ALL responsible for changing the way we live in this country, this world… and that we will need to do more, much more, before we can talk about freedom from oppression.

My friend Andre Goodrich posted a similar anecdote on Facebook this morning, and I would like to share what he wrote and echo his exhortation:

“From my office window, I can see a young white foreman, a child really, sit watching black men at work. I see this when I look up from marking first year exam essays on the political economy of race and class in South Africa. Alongside the stack of exam papers is a sheet of paper a garden worker used to explain to me how he sees the word ‘location’ as related to the Tswana word for cattle kraal. Between these, the excitement I felt in the 90s for the massive change promised by Mandela’s release from prison feels false and jaded.

I am saddened by Mandela’s death, but I am angered by his leaving such a sense of transformation amid such an absence of it. I encourage you to be angry too, and to hold us all to a better standard than what we have settled for.”

Lala ngoxolo, Madiba. A luta continua.

stir it up, little darling (for thuli madonsela)

“Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

“My loyalties will not be bound by national borders, or confined in time by one nation’s history, or limited in the spiritual dimension by one language and culture. I pledge my allegiance to the damned human race, and my everlasting love to the green hills of Earth, and my intimations of glory to the singing stars, to the very end of space and time.”

— From Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989 (Boston: Little, Brown 1994).

edward-abbey

french connection

At last I’ve got around to posting something on Mixcloud again. Here’s a crazy pot-pourri of tunes with a French connection, compiled from selections for a set I played on the Wrong Rock Show back in August 2011.

Listen to Francophonics by Cherry Bomb on Mixcloud.

anaisninangerinaugfhdhjdjkdkld