Dougald Hine’s session – Monday 31 Jan

by Robert Brečević

A brief sumary of the session with Dougald Hine – Monday January 30
We started out with watching a speech by Dougald’s friend Vinay Gupta

Dougald did a short presentation of himself as a writer, a former BBC-journalist who came out as a social instigator.

The topic for the day started with a question: how about good propaganda? The word n itself is loaded with judgemental bagage. An immediate reference another use of the word is of course Bembo Sennet’s “Institute for Non-toxic Propaganda” – a theatrical initiative for promoting human rights.

Dougald immediatelly gave another reference in the wok of Richard Sennet’s “Fall of public man” – wich describes a deterioation from the 18th century in our public culture. It is about our ability to relate to eachother without knowing eachother. By mid 20th century – he argues – we had lost the ability to relate to strangers. This aso coincides with the appearance of the virtuoso – the cult of the star performer rather then music being the center of what you are going to see. The heoric notion of the artist and the reverent, silent audience.

All in all it sums up in the inherent lack of “noise” – in the arts (such as theatrical playes where the audience is comenting and challening the actors) as well as on the market place (remembering that we should diferentiate between the market place and the Market).

The markets had transformed from a chaotic supply of “goods” into set-staged shopping windows selling entire concepts rather tan useful things. Dougald then pointed out that Frank Baum – who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – also wrote “The art of decorating show windows and dry goods interiors” (1900) – in fact the first book on the subject of retail design ever!! Storrytelling – fantasies – had become seminal for trade. In the background you have the wonderful wizard who is pulling the strings.

The orchestration – the appearence of a conductor – is also a striking parallell to the emerging mass society. In Ivan Illich’s, ‘Silence as a Commons’, the author talks about the first loudspeaker on the Dalmatian island he came to as a child. He percieved it as the most anti-democratic piece of technology ever invented. The question he posed was: How many who speak to us through this enhancing technology will never hear our voices back? This problem goes back to Plato; in the Phaedrus dialogue where written language is stated as a problematic invention. Simply put: the person who is reading will not be able to ask the writer questions. But written words in themselves are not the most potent vehicle for propaganda – to be spoken to (the speech) has more potential due to emotions that can be put into the speach. If you then enhance it with loudspeakers (or radio/tv) you get a very undemocratic set of tools.

We then turn to Theodor Adorno – about culture and politics and what it means to be effectively political as an artist. He warns against being a simple delivery mechanism. To be really political requires autonomy. He says this as a Marxist – so he doesn’t oppose political art. But you need autonomy. Relating to this Dougald points out the current situation in the UK – where there is a lot of money being put into do-good projects around climate changes etc..

The style of propaganda in itself has an estetic potency especially when there is distance in time or subject. It is easy to play with it in an ironic way. So what should we do to rescue smething valuable from propaganda as a SOCIAL phenomenon rather the estetics. Perhaps we could define propaganda as the art of altering public consciousness?

The power of culture. We underestimate the power of culture. Especially in the the public idea about culture being the top layer on the more hard fundament of economy and social relationships – such an illusion is nurtured on culture section of dailies and magazines and anthropologist as well as by marxist tought. This would prove to be a mistake. Marshall Sahlins, in ‘Culture in Practice’, argues that you cannot go deeper then culture. We don’t have a precultural being. Culture is older that man.

So the quantitating society – society where qualities are not relevant – have problems with the hard to measure things , the things that matter, that are at the heart of our experience. Economism exploits that feeling of depletion when we cannot put useful figures to meaning by liquidating pseudo-meaning into products, services. The desire for conspiracy theories sort of originates from an accumulated sense of constantly “missing the point” of real meaning in everyday life.
Meghnad Desai, “The Route of All Evil” – a book about Ezra Pound’s monetary theories. Early on Ezra was writing pamphlets about how mone was used in society.

The power of storytelling Dougald explains in the following way: if I tell you a story I am asking for your attention – and I can draw your attention to certain elements of life – away from other – a biased account that might change the way you feel. If it changes the way you feel – it might change the way you act. If that happens to a sufficient level – it might change

Dougald then tells us a little story about Brixton village market:

where he was involved in a transformation process facilitated by storytelling. In Karl Polanyi’s, “The Great Transformation” – the author writes about the disembedding of cultural values from society.
Andrew Taggart, “Radical Leftist politics, what have you don for us lately” (New Public thnkers).
“Reality-based community” – wikipedia – really crazy Bushian term.

The suspicion against storytelling – “are you telling stories?” (lying). The Left being particularly fond of the structural, the academic, wheras the Right feels free to tell stories. As pointed out by Mark Fisher – “Capitalist realism” – an entire body-of-work of capitalist storytelling that s very hrd to get out from.

With his own project, Dark mountain, Dougald and his friend coined the phrase: “the end of the world is not the end of the world [full stop]”

To hell with sustainability.

To face death and about silly cryogenics.

Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”
The Laika-system.
Nudge (the book) – how you can tweek and push buttons to influence
Leos Strauss – the cynical use of good and bad, values, propaganda – to use resurgent fundamentalism in US society as a tool for political manegement.
Jo Freeman – The Tyranny of Structurelessness

self-propaganda – facebook etc dating-sites – to sell oneself
how we are encouraged to make personal propaganda
but if we get together to make mutual propaganda for a thing?
YBA – young brittish artists – movement
Shared identities might be a way into it?
Kalle Lasn – came up with the image / poster (ballerina on bull) that spawned occupy wall street
“Why it’s kicking off everywhere” – Paul Mason
THE CHALLENGE: Something that you believe in that you cannot count on that other people will agree with
Stefano: Not everyone should be able to wote. They have to make a test before.
Andreas: Make it more stirn. You are not allowed to have an opinion about this country if you haven’t ben here for more than a year.
Andreas: To ban small dogs in cities
To justify your idea which in fact starts out as half feeling – half thought.
Liz: To make propaganda about us as art students, or about different aspects of Sweden
Merzedes: (grafitti-artists) against the legalisation of graffitti – to want grafitti to remain illegal
Andreas: it is hard to be a vegetarian if there are no meat-eaters