Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Original article


This links to the original article, "The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond" from which the book Digimodernism grew. Warning: I junked the term "pseudo-modernism" when I came up with a more accurate one: digimodernism. This is the one the Tate are reproducing.

Developments, developments

Wow! Great excitement (for me anyway). It isn't just that Digimodernism is now available to pre-order on Amazon at a very reasonable price (but I would say that). If you've published twenty books you're going to have to bear with me - this is my first, and there's nothing so sweet, they say, as your first time.

Also my website, www.alanfkirby.com is nearly up and running (give it a go). My ace IT specialist nephew Mark is the genius behind this.

And also my editor David Barker declares himself "very happy" with the manuscript and has ruled out any major rewrites (phew!). It's going to go now to the various copy-editors etc who guide things through from here.

And the Tate Britain wants to reprint my original article "The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond" in a book it's bringing out to coincide with an exhibition they're running from 3rd February called Altermodern. The curator Nicolas Bourriaud feels, like me, that postmodernism has had its day, and is exploring what lies beyond it. I really want to go and see the exhibition when it opens. There's a symposium in March on related issues. See http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/tatetriennial/default.shtm

Children's entertainment (or not)

Britney Spears has - oops - done it again; she has hit us, baby, one more time:

First, Britney Spears rediscovered her marbles; then she relaunched her singing career. Now she has stumbled on her old knack for offending middle America.
The singer has been forced to rename and partially rerecord her latest single from her Circus album, "If You Seek Amy", amid a scandal over provocative word play. Sung quickly, the track's title line is sexually offensive, claim listeners.
As a result, dozens of US radio stations threatened to withdraw the single from their playlists, while families have called for a "parental advisory" warning.
Two parts of the song caused outrage. One was: "All the boys and girls are begging to If You Seek Amy." The other was its chorus: "Oh baby, baby, if you seek Amy tonight/Oh baby, baby, we'll do whatever you like."
Spears announced yesterday that she will change the title to "If You See Amy" and amend the allegedly offensive sections of the track. The decision means the lyrics no longer make sense, but the realities of the global record industry mean that she was probably left with little alternative. She will release the amended version of the song in the UK in May.
The track was also attacked in Australia. A Sydney housewife, Leonie Barsenbach, described her outrage: "I was astonished when I heard my five- and seven-year-old kids singing 'f-u-c-k me'," she said. "I was horrified. I got them the Circus album but there was no warning on it... It is extremely offensive. I feel deceived."

I find this mini-hysteria very interesting, especially the last paragraph. The key assumption is that it's Britney who must be to blame. It's her fault. She is "extremely offensive", or at least her record label is for releasing the song. The parent is an innocent victim who has been "deceived". There is no use in pointing out to her that all of Britney's oeuvre has been dedicated to the apparent hyper-sexualization of young girls, who wriggle and dance and pout in their school uniform past their dowdy old teachers in videos now a decade old.

Popular music has always existed: now it's Britney, once it was songs round the communal fire. Since the appearance of rock 'n' roll in the mid-1950s, that segment of popular music inflected by it has inevitably picked up its strong sexualization too. Even if the words aren't sexualized, the rhythms of the music almost necessarily are. I'd argue that for a long period - though not at all times - rock-inflected pop achieved a level of complexity and sophistication that popular music had never previously known, lending it an unprecedented cultural profile and respectability. This period is, though, today behind us. Pure pop, if not the fourth-rate by-product of a TV talent show, has turned into, overwhelmingly, entertainment for children.

For obvious economic reasons this has to be concealed, but from time to time, like here, the truth will come out. Britney is operating according to the rules of rock-inflected pop, established for more than half a century: instantly accessible and fun music about being young and having sex etc. But the collapse of such music away from "popular culture" to a form of children's entertainment means that her main audience is probably five or seven years old, like the children of the unfortunate Leonie Barsenbach. Hence - a collision. Genre runs up against history; textual codes slam into the facts of cultural consumption.

It's not popular culture any more: that's dead. It's children's entertainment. Or not exactly!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Book cover

Here's the book cover, which I like a lot!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Videogames rule??

I just came across this:

"Denis Dyack is the president of St. Catharines-based Silicon Knights, an interactive entertainment company that has produced groundbreaking video games such as Too Human with Microsoft on the Xbox 360 and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes with Nintendo for the Nintendo GameCube.
Dyack believes that interactive video games are destined to be the dominant art form of the 21st century. "It is the eighth art form that merges storytelling with nonlinear interactivity," he says, noting that the average video game player in the United States is 35 years old and has been playing for 13 years."

Dyack has been arguing for the primacy of videogames for at least a decade, and sceptics might think that if they really were so predominant no one would need to keep asserting that they were. After all, I don't recall anybody promoting the status of TV in the 1980s. This argument is constantly being put forth: the market for videogames is said to be greater than that of films, although what's actually compared is box office receipts versus sales of games -the other ways in which films make money (sales to TV, airlines etc) aren't included in the calculation. A friend of mine calls videogames "films you control", i.e. more interesting movies, but in saying that he reduces movies to their lowest generic form - action, violence, fantasy. There aren't many videogames which look like films by Kiarostami or Wong Kar-Wai.

Nevertheless, there does seem to have been a shift in the last decade or so in the relationship between videogames and other forms. Increasingly videogames are the force field in which the others move - they seem to be the fundamental, determining and decisive form. The others have started to move in their orbit, not the other way around. Videogames chime with Web 2.0 - they're at the cutting edge. Society will I think eventually have to catch up with this - our assumptions as to what's interesting in culture are at least a generation out of date. Videogames are right at the heart of digimodernism - their time has come and is now.