Dystopia is boring: Creepy images of our vaguely Orwellian lives
12:12 pm

Mark Fisher is a lecturer at Goldsmiths at the University of London, working in the Department of Visual Cultures. He specializes in “the voice and horror; the relationship between 90s cyber-theory, speculative realism and contemporary materialism; and music and attention.”

If I have my facts correct—parsing Facebook always requires some degree of guesswork—Fisher started a “Community” on Facebook dedicated to documenting the pervasive feeling of unease and discontent, often including an aspect of bland social control, in the form of mildly “coercive” signs that you might see at the airport, but sometimes simply showing processes and buildings in a state of disrepair.

A few weeks ago he upgraded it to a “Public Group,” mainly to allow his fellow dystopia documenters to upload pictures freely. All of the images on this page come from that second thing, the Public Group.

The “About” page of the first entity is admirable in its brevity and lack of pomp. All it says is, “Neoliberal England is a boring dystopia. Here’s why.” After all, if the images don’t communicate it, then no amount of rhetoric will make the group one worth visiting. There is little partisan emphasis on Labour vs. Tories as the source of any of this, which makes the critique somewhat more potent, and it’s the case that the images almost uniformly derive from the U.K.—this group is not about documenting the U.S. culture of “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.” No, the great elders of dystopia, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, both happened to be British, and this project feels most of all like a tempered, less hyperbolic presentation of the IngSoc of Airstrip One, for those who remember the setting of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Paul Bareham, who runs the blog called Island of Terror where I first learned of this page (and who has contributed to the group), coins the clever phrase “The Evil of Banality” and comments astutely,

This dystopia is held in place by neglect, by apathy, by a lack of resources, by a lack of interest. Everything is falling apart, but we lack the money and energy to make it right. …

Local authorities and other central civil organisations are not instrumental in the boring dystopia, they are subsumed by it, just like everybody else. Lacking money, resources and motivation, their interventions are confined to putting up signs, or erecting fences and barriers to keep members of the public away from areas that they already have no interest in.

My favorite aspects are (as often, for me) the texty bits, the bland, over-reaching signs, which attempt to placate the reader into submission. Whether the tone is one of literally impossible friendliness, manipulative assurances of competence, or bald-faced directives to obey, the persistent tone of (at best) benign, incompetent control is maintained.

Here is a selection of “Boring Dystopia” images. In all cases you can click on the image to see a better view.


Many, many more of these fascinating pictures after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider
12:12 pm
Could Russell Brand end up being THE deciding factor in the upcoming UK election?

Most Americans pay absolutely no attention to British politics, and frankly why should we? Our politicians are actual goddamn sideshow freaks, whereas the UK just has a bunch of drips, simps and wimps with only one actual lunatic in the person of Ukip’s unhinged dingbat, the Palinesque (and I don’t mean Michael) nincompoop Nigel Farage. BORING.

I do follow British politics (I lived there for a while during the Thatcher era) and like many actual Britons, I too believe this is one of the most important elections for the country in our lifetime. The UK is most assuredly at a pivotal juncture politically, with issues of wage stagnation, structural unemployment, immigration, the conservatives’ much hated NHS reform, affordable housing, tax cuts for billionaires and many, many other serious matters seeing that this election has an extremely high level of public awareness.

Again, most of my fellow countrymen couldn’t care less about any of that stuff, but now they have a reason to pay attention because there is a celebrity angle: Comedian and social activist Russell Brand has done a bit of a U-turn and decided that INDEED there is a reason to vote and he’s throwing his support behind the Labour Party and Ed Miliband. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Big deal, some celebrity big ups a politician, who cares?” Owen Jones writes at the he Guardian that “Brand matters” and why the comedian’s surprise endorsement of Miliband should have the Tories quite worried:

And however much bluff and bluster the Tories now pull – maybe more playground abuse from David Cameron, who called Brand a “joke” – his endorsement of Labour in England and Wales will worry them. More people have registered to vote than ever before: between the middle of March and the deadline to register, nearly 2.3 million registered, over 700,000 of them 24 years old or younger. In countless marginal seats, disillusioned voters who were either going to plump for a protest party or not vote at all could well decide whether we are ruled by David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith for another half a decade.

Even in a country as large as America, 2.3 million newly registered voters *SNAP* like that in would be seen as a somewhat staggering number, so in a nation the size of Great Britain, this should be seen as an incredibly significant development. Russell Brand’s opinions matter to young people, even if, it would seem, that (happily) many of them ignored his “Don’t bother voting” hectoring last year that he obviously doesn’t even believe himself anymore.

And don’t think any of this is lost on the current resident of #10 Downing Street as Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly spoken with scorn at Brand’s surprise endorsement of his political rival. In recent weeks this race has gone from merely tight to a real who-knows-what’s-going-to happen nailbiter and he knows it. Politically speaking, tectonic plates are shifting in Great Britain, this just makes the situation even more volatile.

Brand shot back at the Tory leader:

“David Cameron might think I’m a joke but I don’t think there’s anything funny about what the Conservative party have been doing to this country and we have to stop them.”

Standing ovation!

We’ll soon see how these newly registered voters tip the scales politically in the UK, but just hours away from the vote, the flux and uncertainty of the situation is impressive to say the least. Brand’s last minute endorsement of Miliband, and the effect this might have on the election’s outcome, is interesting to contemplate. Even if you’re only tuning in now and following the broadest strokes of the horse race, it’s worth paying attention because all bets are truly off.

Let’s hope Brand gets a chance to meet with Bernie Sanders soon, eh? Keep it inneresting, mate!

Posted by Richard Metzger
04:47 pm
We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing: Boy George’s fierce ‘No Clause 28’ protest song, 1988

One of Boy George’s best pieces of music—well, in my book, anyway—is 1988’s seldom-heard slice of fierce, dance music protest, “No Clause 28.” I picked it up, neither knowing what it was about, nor having actually heard it, because of the amazing cover artwork by Jamie Reid depicting Boy George as Enid Blyton’s “Noddy.” It’s a pretty amazing record of its time, in more ways than one.

Clause 28 or Section 28, as it was also known, was an addition to the Local Government Act of 1988. Clause 28 stipulated that local government councils in the UK “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

This was the end of the Thatcher era and due to newly widespread awareness—and fear—of AIDS, then considered a gay disease, homosexuality was frowned upon in such a way that it was thought necessary to officially condemn it and protect children from it. The matter was largely a symbolic issue, but it caused many gay and lesbian groups at high schools and universities to close shop.

The night before Section 28 became law (May 24, 1988) a lesbian chained herself to the desk of BBC Six O’Clock News presenter Sue Lawley. Parliament was also invaded by lesbian activists scaling the building like rock climbers.

In many ways, Clause 28 is what saw the cohesion of Britain’s modern gay rights movement. Aside from Boy George, many big name celebrities spoke out about Clause 28, such as Ian McKellen, beloved One Foot in the Grave actress Annette Crosbie, Helen Mirren, Jane Horrocks and comics great, Alan Moore.

The Section was repealed on June 21, 2000 in Scotland, and in the rest of Great Britain in November of 2003. It’s worth noting that Prime Minister David Cameron was vocally in support of keeping the Section intact, although he thought better of this later and apologized in 2010.

Posted by Richard Metzger
12:30 pm