Amsterdam, Netherlands solidarity with Ferguson, USA


This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Jennifer Tosch gives speech and reads poem during Ferguson demonstration in Amsterdam

25 August 2014

Jennifer Tosch of Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours recites ‘If We Must Die‘ by poet Claude McKay, during Ferguson demonstration in Amsterdam. Around 80 to 100 Dutch citizens came together to hold a silent march through the streets of Amsterdam and towards the U.S. Consulate.

Visit her site to learn more about Amsterdam’s hidden Dutch African Diaspora history.

Among the slogans of the demonstration were ‘Stop Police Brutality’, ‘Enough is enough’, ‘No Justice No Peace’, ‘‘Michael Brown rest in power’, and ‘Hands up don’t shoot’.

Rapper Mistrezz Drenthe had initiated the demonstration.

Like there also had been a demonstration in London, England.

John Berger’s new poetry book


This video from Britain says about itself:

John Berger / Ways of Seeing, Episode 1 (1972)

A BAFTA award-winning BBC series with John Berger, which rapidly became regarded as one of the most influential art programmes ever made. In the first programme, Berger examines the impact of photography on our appreciation of art from the past.

Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name. The series and book criticize traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. The series is partially a response to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon.

By Andy Croft in Britain:

John Berger: ways of seeing extraordinary in the ordinary

Tuesday 26th August 2014

21st-century poetry with Andy Croft

JOHN BERGER is one of the major radical European intellectuals of our time — a novelist, draughtsman, film-maker, essayist, critic and poet.

For over 60 years he has been challenging the way we see the world and how we think about it in books like Ways Of Seeing, Permanent Red, To The Wedding, A Painter Of Our Time, Pig Earth, Once In Europa, Lilac and Flag and From A-X.

But although Berger has always written poetry, often smuggling poems inside books like The Seventh Man, The White Bird and Pages Of The Wound, this is the first time his poetry has been collected in English.

Collected Poems (Smokestack Books, £8.95) brings together poems from the early 1950s to the first decade of the 21st century, including over 20 never previously published.

Many reflect Berger’s longstanding concerns with history and memory, art and war — unavoidable issues perhaps for a writer of his generation, as he explains in Self-portrait 1914-18:

“It seems now that I was so near to that war.

I was born eight years after it ended

When the General Strike had been defeated.

Yet I was born by Very Light and shrapnel

On duck boards

Among limbs without bodies.

I was born of the look of the dead

Swaddled in mustard gas

And fed in a dugout… I lived the first year of my life

Between the leaves of a pocket bible

Stuffed in a khaki haversack…. I was the world fit for heroes to live in.”

In many ways it is a book about violence —

“Hands of the world

amputated by profit

bleed in streets of bloodsheds”

— and there are poems here about Ypres, Mostar, Iraq, Palestine and the murder of Berger’s Chilean friend Orlando Letelier:

Before the fortress of injustice

he brought many together

with the delicacy of reason

and spoke there

of what must be done

amongst the rocks

not by giants

but by women and men

they blew him to pieces

because he was too coherent.

But it is also a beautiful book, about the beauty of the natural world and of the people who work in it:

Perhaps God resembles the story tellers

loving the feeble more than

the strong

the victors less

than the stricken.

Either way

in weak late October

the forest burns

with the sunshine

of the whole vanished summer.

And it contains a number of exquisite love poems:

My heart born naked

was swaddled in lullabies.

Later alone it wore

poems for clothes.

Like a shirt

I carried on my back

the poetry I had read.

So I lived for half a century

until wordlessly we met.

From my shirt on the back of the chair

I learn tonight

how many years

of learning by heart

I waited for you.

The most recent poem in the book They Are The Last is about the slow painful death of the European peasantry:

Each year more animals depart.

Only pets and carcasses remain,

and the carcasses living or dead

are from birth

ineluctably and invisibly

turned into meat.

Elsewhere

the animals of the poor

die with the poor

from protein insufficiency.

Now that they have gone

it is their endurance we miss.

As always, Berger demonstrates an enduring commitment to the extraordinary lives of ordinary people —

The mother puts

the newborn day

to her breast —

in perfectly framed still-life images. Sensual and plain, they are delicate sketches of hard lives caught between the provisional quality of language and the permanence of things, as in this hymn to the humble kitchen ladle:

Pewter pock-marked

moon of the ladler

rising above the mountain

going down into the saucepan

serving generations

steaming

dredging what has grown from seed

in the garden

thickened with potato

outliving us all

on the wooden sky

of the kitchen wall…Ladle

pour the sky steaming

with the carrot sun

the stars of salt

and the grease of the pig earth

pour the sky steaming

ladle

pour soup for our days

pour sleep for the night

pour years for my children.

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem commemorates World War I dead


This classical music video is called Benjamin Britten – War Requiem.

By Gordon Parsons in Britain:

Britten masterpiece fitting reminder of WWI carnage

Tuesday 19th August 2014

War Requiem

Usher Hall

5/5

THERE could be no more fitting work to recognise the centenary of “the war to end wars” than this great pacifist statement by Benjamin Britten on the pity of global conflict. This must be one of the most dramatic of requiem masses.

There is throughout an angry ironic exchange between the words of the conventional Latin Mass for the Dead, with its religious message of damnation and prayerful appeals for salvation, and the interwoven anti-war poetry of the greatest of war poets, Wilfred Owen.

The opening aeternam, a plea for eternal rest, is followed by Owen’s bitterly sad sonnet Anthem For Doomed Youth, with the memorable opening line of: “What passing bells for those who die as cattle?”

Throughout, the poems puncture the complacent profundities of the religious scenario.

Britten’s music, which spine-chillingly captures the Armageddon of battle and the helpless and hapless lament of the senseless slaughter, progressively draws the two worlds together.

It climaxes when the enemies on the battlefield meet in death — “I was the enemy you killed my friend … let us sleep now” — meet with the ethereal voices of boys wishing these martyrs to rest in peace.

Andrew Davis conducts the massed musical ranks of the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Scotland’s National Boys Choir and three international soloists in an ascent from a standing start to magnificent heights, while chorus master Christopher Bell induces some stunning choral singing.

German baritone Matthias Goerne and English tenor Toby Spence as the enemy soldiers truly are the voices of suffering humanity while Uzbek soprano Albina Shagimuratova thrills as the voice of the angel. Magnificent.

British poet Attila the Stockbroker on punk rock


This video from Amsterdam in the Netherlands says about itself:

Attila the Stockbroker & Barnstormer – Live @ Soundgarden 02.11.2012 – Pt 1:

1. LEVELLERS / DIGGERS 2. BAGHDAD SKA 3. COMANDANTE JOE 4. TYLER SMILES 5. THE BLANDFORD FORUM.

Attila the Stockbroker on vocals, violin, crumhorn and recorders; Dan Woods on guitar; Baby Beaken on bass; Mass Murder McGee (some of them are also members of The Fish Brothers.)

Attila the Stockbroker (born John Baine, 21 October 1957, Southwick, Sussex, England) is a punk poet, and a folk punk musician and songwriter. He performs solo and as the leader of the band Barnstormer. He describes himself as a “sharp tongued, high energy social surrealist poet and songwriter.” He has performed over 2,700 concerts, published six books of poems, and released 30+ recordings (CDs, LPs and singles).

By poet Attila the Stockbroker from Britain:

The Europeans’ knack for culturally nourishing rebellion

Thursday 14th August 2014

On the road with Attila the Stockbroker

Amsterdam is always a pleasure to visit, and the Paradiso club — once a squatted church — is a legendary presence in the scene.

Did a gig there, solo poetry and with my band Barnstormer, as part of a vibrant and wide-ranging evening of spoken word and music and then headed to Peine, near Hannover in Germany, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their autonomous centre, the AJZ.

When it comes to independent music, politics and culture generally, much of mainland Europe is a completely different world compared to Britain.

Autonomously run venues emerged from the squatter movement years ago and are now legal and run independently by local left-wing activists — there are literally hundreds of them, dotted across many different countries, which guarantees performers like myself a network of ready-made places to play, run by like-minded people.

For someone whose British network consists of fairly mainstream arts centres and rock venues and sympathetic pubs that let people put on gigs in an an upstairs room, it’s always a sheer pleasure to see how things can be organised differently.

Highlight in Peine was a blistering performance by Canadian punk legend and activist Joey “Shithead” Keighley and his band DOA, whom I was to meet again a few days later at last weekend’s annual Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool.

For many years now, thousands of punks, young and not so young (!) have taken over the Winter Gardens there for a four-day celebration of the music we love.

As usual, this year’s event was a blast and I had a wonderful gig on the Almost Acoustic Stage on the Friday. As for whom I saw on stage, well, here goes…

My mate TV “Adverts” Smith and his band the Bored Teenagers were fantastic. So were The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Peter & The Test Tube Babies, John Otway, Ruts DC, The Cravats, Roy Ellis aka Mr Symarip (doing “Skinhead Moonstomp” and reminding us that real skinheads have hated racism since 1969) and The Outcasts and The Defects from Belfast. To name but a few.

But it’s absolutely wrong to think that Rebellion is just about the old guard, and among the new breed I must single out acoustic singer/songwriter Louise Distras, who is the sharp, angry voice of her generation of punk rockers and a real breath of fresh air in the scene. Her set was a masterpiece.

We have to beware the impostors though. Inside the Winter Gardens there was a real sense of unity, but outside I came across a group of fascists, some with tickets, some not, intent as always in spreading hate and causing trouble.

I had a verbal altercation — I’m 56 and was on my own, I’m glad it stayed verbal — and soon realised that many of them were from eastern Europe. Cue the ironic rant!

“Brain dead morons from mainland Europe, coming over here, singing crap English songs, crap English fascists wrote in stupid accents… We’re full up, mate.

“We’ve got our full quota of racist cretins with IQs smaller than their boot size. Piss off back to where you come from!”

It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

Next stop Guernsey, and a rather different festival. Happy holidays to one and all.

World War I start, don´t celebrate, interview


This video from England is called No Glory – Remembering World War One in Music and Poetry – St James’s Church London – 25.10.13.

From Red Wedge magazine in the USA:

Never Over the Top: War, Art and Modernism

The No Glory campaign seeks to highlight the art of the Great War to remind us of its madness.

Jan Woolf — August 5, 2014

Jan Woolf is the cultural coordinator of the No Glory In War campaign, a group that seeks to counter the celebratory narrative of the British government’s commemorations of World War One. She recently answered some questions for Red Wedge about the campaign’s use of art and media — both past and present — to communicate its message.

Red Wedge: Why was No Glory started?

Jan Woolf: The anti-war and peace movement would have commemorated the outbreak of World War One anyway in our various styles (I say our, as this is a diverse movement with ideological nuances) but our government’s style of national commemorations brought us together to form the No Glory campaign and our position that World War One was a “species crime” waged by rulers with imperial interests, and not the interests of those who did the suffering and fighting. No Glory is an alliance of Stop the War, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Quaker groups, Members of Parliament, writers, historians and artists. We are having extraordinary success in our population’s relationship with World War One as we are striking a chord of knowledge and sensibility that is there anyway, as recent attempts to justify it as a just war by Government and revisionist historians just “smell wrong.” We are also pointing up the link between then and now, and the similarities in war making propaganda.

RW: How does the British government’s narrative of the First World War differ so much from the actual reality of the conflict?

JW: I’m going to refer you to the open letter on the NoGlory.org site. Many prominent people signed it, and its gathered thousands more signatures, as they are disgusted with the way this particular government have appropriated the World War One commemorations, to celebrate the “British spirit” (whatever that may mean) and comparing it with the queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations. Of course, our government mourn the dead and recognize it as a horror — and I believe they feel and mean this — but the turn around from our mass national consciousness after World War Two (when, significantly we had a welfare state) that World War One should not have happened and would have spared us World War Two — to the current jingoistic celebrations of a “victory” is deliberate revisionism.

An example of the government’s work is the laying of over 400 paving stones (or hero stones) in the home towns and villages where Victoria Cross recipients were born. This may sound OK, but at the time, VCs did not want to stand out from their fallen comrades and we see this current “ripping yarns” version of history to be sacrilegious. We have to be careful here though, as many relatives of the VC are rightly proud and we do not want to upset anyone. Our careful response to this is outlined in my next answer — as care and emotional intelligence is an important principle in the No Glory campaign.

RW: Was there a conscious decision from the outset that there would be a strong cultural component to what No Glory should do? And if so, why?

JW: Yes. Cultural expression was and is very important and links us with those who brought back the stories of horror through their art. The British war poets were and are very important to us and to world literature as they made us understand what had happened physically and emotionally to millions of young men. Their artistic achievement was in showing us just enough without making us turn away. There is only so much the human psyche can tolerate without switching off — so their language was never gratuitous or (excuse the following pun, but we do have a sense of humor) “over the top.” There has been a recent attack on the war poets, with a revisionist historian referring to “Sassoon and his kind” wallowing in self pity and spreading doom and gloom. No Glory had a recent poetry event (also on the site) where we honored “Sassoon and his kind,” with readings of the war poets by contemporary poets, who also read their own poetry. It was magnificent and moving but also encouraged us to struggle against warmongering now, and to recognize it as on the same political trajectory as World War One and the disastrous Versailles settlement that carved up the world.

This is what good art does, it tells you like it is and was but is life affirming. I’ve concentrated on poetry as this is No Glory’s most recent event but there were and are paintings, novels and films. I might refer you to my recent review of the Great War in Portraits at the National Portrait gallery. Look under articles, and then reviews. Check out my thoughts on the “top down” aspects of that exhibition and the portraits of disfigured soldiers by Henry Tonks. Current art activity by No Glory includes a poster-leaflet download put together by our artists’ group. This will be used by local groups to put details in the communities of names and numbers of men who died, and is in response to the government’s Hero Stones.

RW: Art history generally sees World War One and the art that came out of it as a major leap for modernism. Could you describe the confluence of political and artistic developments that artists during World War One were operating with?

JW: A very interesting question and one fraught with contradictions. Part of the government’s commemoration are to celebrate modernism, i.e. it was all very terrible but at least it gave us modern art etc. (“I would rather have my son back than a Picasso on the wall,” a bereaved woman might have said). World War One also gave women the vote and led to various social change, but it shouldn’t take a major trauma to achieve this. But yes, trauma does lead to new ways of looking at the world — it has to, and artists’ sensibilities and vision was shaken up big time. The world would never be the same again.

Explosion, by George Grosz, oil on composition board, 1917

The marvelous German school of expressionist painting grew (in part — its complicated) out of the horrific images of George Grosz. While the Germans were painting it like it was, the British retreated to a form of nostalgic sentimentality, like a soothing balm (except Paul Nash of course).

We are Making a New World, by Paul Nash, 1918

But these are generalizations. Modernism challenged the way we looked at everything, yet art couldn’t really help nerve and body shattered soldiers returning from war who had been promised a “home fit for heroes.” Many came back to appalling poverty, watching the world build up to another war. Our brilliant writer Johnathan Meades said recently on TV “Necessity is the adoptive mother of invention, but war is its birth mother.” This is a true and desperate statement, and we would all wish that the marvelous art forms that sprang from modernism could have been achieved through peace and development.

RW: Per your last response, I’d like to try and parse out exactly how the war spurred on the aesthetic leaps in modernism. World War One is often referred to as the first industrial and technological war, and due to this was certainly the most brutal up to that moment in history. You referenced earlier how a great many of these artists and poets “showed us just enough,” but do you think there was a shift in how they showed it to us that was also spurred forth by the utter senselessness of what the artists were seeing?

JW: War as trauma shakes us up in art, science, social relationships — everything — and we have to look at life in a new way — hence modernism, we had to incorporate the new images of the machinery that made death as well as life in our aesthetic. An artist with good understanding of psychology and his or her art won’t show us too much. It’s “less is more” if you like, but neither must we turn away. The impact made through art is in the resonance between artist and viewer. To shock us into questioning? The need to make a better world? Honor the recent dead?

RW: Tell me a bit more about what these writers slamming “Sassoon and his kind.” How much do you think these writers are running cover for a deliberate political agenda? Do you think this reflects something about governments’ attempt to rehabilitate empire?

JW: “Sassoon and his kind” was referred to by Max Hastings, a right-wing historian who has a huge World War One tome out just now. He and others that we call the revisionist historians are toeing the Governments line that — despite the suffering — World War One was justified in that we had to stand up to a bully. That the British empire was also a bullying entity is not mentioned as part of this curious thing “Britishness” being touted by the establishment right now. It is nonsense.

RW: When most young people of a left bent think of art and war, there’s a good chance that the first thing coming to mind is the music and aesthetics around the Vietnam War. But I’d imagine that No Glory sees there being an evolutionary through-line of sorts between the art that came from the First World War and that which came in subsequent wars?

JW: Again, war is trauma, whether you are directly caught up in or just imagining how it is for others — this imagining, or empathy is what drives us to oppose war and is a part of our enduring humanity. But, if you have vested interest in war, i.e. you can profit from it or want to defend or expand empire then that humanity is overridden and something else takes over — maybe a hardening called “greed.” This is a gross generalization and of course it is more complex than that – and does not take into account the liberation struggle — we had to fight the Nazis in World War Two, etc. The artist steps back from all this and contributes by helping people see things outside the propaganda jingo that the war makers perpetuate.

RW: Any final thoughts?

JW: I would add that I have answered your questions primarily as an individual and campaigner with knowledge and an interest in art history. If I was a doctor my answers might have taken a different perspective — or a shop worker — or a cleaner. i could have any of these backgrounds — but as a working class woman who had the benefits of the post World War Two British welfare state — a state that was set up by an enlightened population that had to fight Hitler — I have a clear sense of what is a necessary and what is a wrong war. My sensibilities and the work I do with friends and comrades has been honed collectively. We know, and thanks to the impact that NoGlory.com has had on our population, that many many others know that World War One was an international atrocity that should not have happened. This is the predominant position in our country now, and, vitally, gives us the analysis and clarity to oppose war-mongering today as we can see the relationship between then and now.

Jan Woolf is a writer and artist in the UK. She is the author of Fugues on a Funny Bone, and is currently the cultural coordinator of the No Glory campaign. She can be reached through her website.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a bellicose address last week on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War—an address aimed at politically and ideologically conditioning the population for Canada’s participation in future imperialist wars: here.