Really looking forward to being part of this festival in southern France hosted by Arbouse Recordings, who will be releasing our new CD in September. I especially like the dramatic tension evoked by the proximity of the wood-cut phallus to a node of barbed wire.
The title, Au-delà du spectacle, has to do with the label’s affinity for the French Marxist philosopher Guy Debord, (author of Society of the Spectacle), as well as with similar theorists including the work of Marx himself. As someone who dislikes labels, but wouldn’t mind answering to the label “half-Buddhist, half-Marxist,” (coined by the Dalai Lama,) it seems fitting that our record landed in this spot. In a world where shrinking revenue streams have reduced many indie rock labels to competing for the chance to place their tracks in car commercials, the familiar pattern by which capitalism co-opts and trivializes any cultural force that pushes back against it is visible. Our keyboard player Alex has sometimes said that much current indie music seems to be about “Making people who are already comfortable more comfortable.” Perhaps our motto might be to try and make people who are already comfortable more uncomfortable, or to make people who are already uncomfortable more comfortably uncomfortable, (a phrase I used to describe how I felt at the conclusion of an excellent workshop I attended on anti-racist education here in Durham at Club Boulevard Elementary School.)
I’ll leave off here with a quote from Marx’s great chapter on The Fetishism of the Commodity and It’s Secret, from the first volume of Das Kapital…. I’m looking forward to discussing the politics of culture with the folks at the festival, like the Barcelona band Seward, with whom we are really happy to be playing three shows in a row with on this tour.
“A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing…it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.”
Or as Fiona Apple put it, “What’s so impressive about a diamond except the mining.”
For Debord, modern media has elevated the image as the commodity par excellence, by which ideology that governs the production and exchange of all other commodities is disseminated:
“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.”
“The spectacle grasped in its totality is both the result and the goal of the existing mode of production. It is not a mere decoration added to the real world. It is the very heart of this real society’s unrealism. In all its specific forms, as information or propaganda, as advertisement or direct entertainment consumption, the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choice already made in production and its corollary consumption. The spectacle’s form and content are identically the total justification of the existing system’s conditions and goals. The spectacle is also the permanent presence of this justification, since it occupies the main part of the time lived outside of modern production.”
But every once in awhile something pierces the veil….like this did back in the day, still with us today:
“Sweetback made it cool to be a revolutionary. Shaft made it cool to be a drug dealer.” – Mario Van Peebles on Hollywood’s perversion of his father’s legacy.