The deeply embedded discontentment in the collective unconscious of British culture is plainly palpable in all aspects of life in this country.
Only now, as the crisis phase of the pandemic fades, can we begin to comprehend the full scale of its catastrophe.
The toponyms of a region contain within them much more than a mere etymology: they also form a system of signs, a web of interconnected meanings through which we can chart societal processes.
The activities of Parliament and its members, rather than being the sphere in which the distribution of the sensible is contested and defined, is instead the very place whose performances enacts its own erasure.
While lobby journalists have been enraptured by politicians receiving undue influence from private interests at the expense of democratic popular consent, the underlying causes and wider consequences of this misconduct remains largely obscured.
I noted while walking the streets this Halloween that the collective totems of horror and fear no longer primarily invoke the supernatural, but adopt an altogether more corporeal form.
Let us acknowledge that the industrial history of the Severn Estuary’s urban sprawl provides an indicative snapshot of the entire historical trajectory of capitalist production.
The British-nationalist Right’s use of digital platforms is already well documented, but perhaps relatively under-examined is the extent to which that other transgressive tendency in Welsh politics – the liberal-left independence movement – is beholden to the structures of online organising.
Solidarity to all those currently receiving targeted abuse and harassment from far-right ghouls, simply for attempting to forward the idea that a Welsh independence movement should necessarily be grounded in egalitarian principles.
Following years of overeager pundits predicting that this Senedd election would signal an epochal political rupture, perhaps the most notable aspect of last week’s trip to the polls is that ultimately, hardly anything changed.
As expected, rather than producing conditions conducive to an immediate political rupture, the coronavirus crisis has instead presented the Tory Westminster government with an opportunity to convert their unwarranted triumphalism and jingoistic hubris into a brutal reconsolidation of power.
Any worthwhile political project today must contend with the irreversible destruction that the inexorable expansion of capital has wrought on our planet. Unwittingly or not, this is the discursive milieu into which #futuregen inserts itself, with Jane Davidson’s memoir-cum-manifesto passionately positing itself as testament to Wales’ contribution to the mitigation of global ecological collapse. InContinue reading “Review – #futuregen: Lessons from a Small Country”
After suffering helplessly under a Tory austerity that the people of Wales have never consented to, a true popular front is emerging in which most liberal-left activists, organisations and campaign groups appear willing to countenance the efficacy of ‘IndyWales’ as a vehicle for progressive political change.
As the Tories try to push ahead with Brexit in the midst of a pandemic with their Internal Market Bill, they have launched an assault on devolution as a means of getting what they want from a future trade deal.
Despite protestations to the contrary, the structural imbalance of the Welsh public sphere can easily lead to situations where even a simple misunderstanding can reinforce some of the worst tropes latent in our collective culture.
Given that the climate catastrophe will soon necessarily envelope all political movements, such is its scale, it is worth us considering how adept our ‘national movement’ will be at answering the questions that this crisis will ask of us.
Despite an apparent need for profound change to the way we live in order to overcome this extreme threat to society, any sense of proto-revolutionary fervour at the onset of the covid crisis soon dissipated.
The crisis caused by coronavirus has triggered an unprecedented moment of introspection. Amid a growing consensus that we can never return to what we once thought of as normal, we asked some of Wales’ leading thinkers to suggest a single idea we need to consider, address or implement once lockdown is lifted (Preview from Issue 64 of the welsh agenda)
International rugby may soon disappear from free-to-air television. This has obviously created a degree of collective consternation about the implication for Welsh mass culture, and rugby’s apparently totemic place within it.
So, after a year of chaos and misery for workers in Gwent, there is some suggestion that perhaps removing the tolls from the Severn Bridges was a terrible idea after all. A familiar story of capital ruining the lives of helpless workers.
When assessing the media coverage of December’s general election, it would be reasonable to conclude that the politics of Wales barely featured at all. This election has compounded just how powerless political parties are when attempting to foreground Wales.
It’s a familiar melancholy, seeing Jeremy Corbyn, like Leanne Wood before him, becoming a more radical yet more marginalised voice within his party, post-leadership. Both were deemed to have failed electorally by their internal detractors, but achieved far more than they’ll ever be given credit for.
There are numerous conflicting prognoses of Wales’ future, but in the present moment we know this much to be true: almost a third of children in Wales live in poverty; the rollout of the UK government’s latest punitive welfare regime will affect a third of Welsh households; a post-industrial plague of scarce, low-quality employment is leaving whole swathes of the country without basic means of survival.
To live and grow up in Newport is to be irrevocably intertwined with the historical forces that built this city. Symbols of the past are etched into the landscape: what we might call our ‘industrial heritage’ is all around us. But these totems are not fossilised relics, and they’re not engaged with passively: they’re the milieu of our everyday life.
‘Bilingualism’ should have the confidence to give our institutions one name that everybody is empowered to use; not concocting a situation whereby two languages live parallel lives and never intersect. It is incredibly patronising to suggest that having one Welsh-language name makes it difficult for people to understand the Welsh Assembly’s purpose.
If liberal politicians and media figures are to be believed, the most alarming phenomenon of contemporary British politics is an increasing polarisation and ‘political tribalism’, exacerbated on the right by the Brexit crisis, and on the left by the political possibilities introduced to popular discourse following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader.
We write as people who are not fluent Welsh-speakers to call on you to rename the National Assembly with the Welsh-only name “Senedd”. We, as much as other people, want to see the Welsh language flourish and wish to see and hear it in our daily lives.
If there’s a common thread running through Parthian’s four new collections, it is the relationship between the universal and the particular; specifically, the sense of community solidarity generated through shared surroundings and individual experiences.
It is as clear now as 50 years ago: Welsh literature of any mode will never attain any cultural capital within the wider UK. There is, however, an ironic power in this. While the fragility of a culture under perennial threat is obvious to anyone invested in it, that it holds no value for a wider hegemonic literary culture is the very element which makes it so vital.
Yn y misoedd diwethaf, ar hyd ac ar led Cymru, daeth dau fudiad protest gwahanol ond rhyng-gysylltiedig i’r amlwg, gan ddod at ei gilydd yn ein prifddinas. Gan fod y ddau fudiad wedi ennyn ymateb tebyg o safbwynt gwleidyddiaeth hil ac effeithiolrwydd eu tactegau, mae’n werth ystyried pa mor fedrus y bydd ein ‘mudiad cenedlaethol’ wrth ateb y cwestiynau a ddaw yn sgil yr argyfwng amgylcheddol hwn.
The Brexit Party, Nigel Farage’s latest political vehicle, are apparently dominating the voting intention polls for the upcoming European Elections. Rather than descending into amateur psephology, let’s keep it simple: if The Brexit Party are to be successful, it will be because they are called The Brexit Party.
There are criticisms that Jeremy Corbyn is misrepresenting who is actually ‘in charge’ of healthcare –a devolved issue — throughout the UK, and accusations that he ‘only cares about England’. There are grains of truth here, but it’s worth interrogating these criticisms further.
In Adam Price’s Wales: The First and Final Colony,the newly-elected Plaid Cymru leader diagnoses various such laws of exploitation imposing themselves upon the people of Wales, and identifies a lack of confidence as the prime reason for this continued plight. Yet his insistence on explaining the precise method of national subordination, along with his method of delivery, ultimately undermines his message.
Before we start, let us accept a basic truth: there is nothing inherently Welsh about the Welsh media, and there is no such thing as a Welsh public sphere. This is, evidently, a gravely unhealthy situation for the rump democracy that is the devolved Welsh state.
Watching Netflix’s new ‘British’ teen comedy-drama Sex Education, viewers in Wales – and especially Newport – may well be struck with a sense of melancholic uncanniness, of ‘a time that is out of joint’. For despite the shows liberatory and groundbreaking depiction of teenage sexuality, Sex Education is haunted by a Welsh culture and politics that has either died or never was, and whose presence is felt by its absence.
Waeth i ni gydnabod un gwirionedd sylfaenol ar y dechrau un: nid oes unrhyw beth cynhenid Gymreig am y cyfryngau cyfrwng Saesneg yng Nghymru ac ni cheir ychwaith y fath beth â chyhoeddfan neu fywyd cyhoeddus penodol Gymreig trwy gyfrwng y Saesneg. Mae hon yn sefyllfa ddifrifol ar gyfer y gweddillion democrataidd a adwaenwn fel y wladwriaeth Gymreig.
It’s been almost impossible to ignore the recent rise of anti-Welsh bigotry in the UK’s popular consciousness. It’s detectable as a ‘structure of feeling’ in post-Brexit discourse, a cultural expression that’s palpable but not fully articulated.
Of all the strategists, ideologues and ‘outriders’ involved in Labour’s 2017 UK General Election campaign, you could be forgiven for being unaware of the contribution of Steve Howell, who served as Jeremy Corbyn’s Deputy Executive Director of Strategy and Communications.
With the appetite for Welsh independence apparently gaining traction, there are growing calls to depoliticise the movement in an effort to broaden the discussion and ‘widen the debate’. While the desire to foster a greater interest and enthusiasm for independence is commendable, this can’t come at the cost of neglecting the political, social, ethical problems that independence should be seeking to solve.
For the first time in living memory, the opportunity to build a mass socialist movement within the UK feels possible, and it could even be on the cusp of obtaining state power. Yet despite the leftward shift of the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, in Wales it’s hard to be filled with much enthusiasm.
There’s a curious passage towards the end of the first episode of The Dragon Has Two Tongues, an oddly-structured 1985 documentary that tells the history of Wales through the bickering of historian Gwyn Alf Williams and liberal broadcaster Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. Having spent the entire episode hitherto articulating their own visions of a Welsh historiography, the two finally meet face-to-face to state their respective cases as to how the history of the people of Wales can be conceptualised.
The most pressing issue of alternative politics today is how to establish even the possibility of conceptualising (and later actualising) a different way of organising society. When neoliberal capitalism has successfully assimilated into itself all means of cultural production, it becomes almost futile to articulate an alternative.
This is, we are told, a ‘post-factual age’. The EU referendum has seen myth collide with fact, and myth has won to devastating effect. It has been said that the UK has ‘had enough of experts’, and such a situation has proven to be fertile ground for a politics based on untruth.
This link between the work and the events of September 11 has led to The Disintegration Loops being ‘canonised’ as a major artistic response to the disaster. However, the convoluted compositional process of the work, along with its inherent abstraction, raises questions regarding to what extent The Disintegration Loops can be said to be ‘about’ the events of September 11.
What is ‘authenticity’ in musical performance; and what does a hegemonically-determined authentic musical performance look like?
In the wake of Wednesday’s attack on the office of Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, people appear to be clamouring, seemingly above all else, for an artistic response to the events. Beyond the rolling news, the newspaper front pages, the opinion pieces, it is art that people are turning to, talking about and sharing with one another.
The recent trend for EDM/’American roots music’ crossovers contains some of the most unreal, aesthetic-as-commodity, artistically (morally?) bankrupt music I’ve ever heard, and is proof, if nothing else, that the culture industry is alive and well in the twenty-first century.
To mark the 100-year anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ birth, Wales has been gripped with an attempt to align the poet’s life and work with the country of his birth. Yet the tying of Thomas to Wales and its national and cultural identity doesn’t quite work here, and belies a quiet desperation to inject a dose of nationalism into a subject that doesn’t quite warrant it.
The act of assemblage, of composition through unifying disparate elements of pre-existing texts, takes many forms in contemporary British poetry, and is utilised to various ends. However, despite the multifarious ways in which this aesthetic manifests itself, there are two overriding functions that assemblage performs: firstly it challenges pre-conceived notions of poetic form and extends the ways in which a text can generate meaning, and secondly it uses this formal and linguistic experimentation to exhibit a certain postmodern malaise in contemporary culture.
The overriding thesis of ‘retromania’ critique is that recent technological and cultural circumstances have led to something of a regression in the creative impulses of musicians, leading to a lack of innovative styles and an overreliance on pre-existing forms as the inspiration for ‘new works’.
In order to fully understand the extent to which popular culture today is commodified in comparison to previous eras it is essential to recognise the various developments of capital not as distinct phenomena, but as part of a continual process of accumulation, expansion and consequent abstraction.
With the recent hype surrounding the latest batch of Christmas-themed TV adverts, it is notable how their reception appears to have displaced ‘proper’ art. I have witnessed, on social media and elsewhere, more excitement, anticipation and discussion regarding these adverts (particularly the ubiquitous offering from John Lewis) than I have any film, TV show or song in recent memory.
To gain an understanding of the way in which art can itself be an agent of cultural critique it is vital to explore the true nature of spectatorship, how this relates to the production and reception of meaning in art and, ultimately, how a lucid understanding of these two issues contribute to a recognition of art’s actual critical capacity.
I’ve been intending to write about vaporwave for some time, but I’m glad I have refrained from doing so until now, as two pieces I’ve recently read have led me to completely reassess my thoughts on the genre, and by extension what I believe to be the misunderstood role of what is commonly identified as pastiche and retromanic tendencies in modern music.
There’s a case to be made that ‘Rewind the Film’s overt sentimentality can be more damaging than invigorating, despite the undoubted power the images possess in conveying a sense of heartbreaking decay and loss.
Tourism, in its essence, is the process of attempting to reconcile fantasy with ‘reality’. One becomes a tourist through presupposing what a certain location might be like to see or experience, and then visiting there in the hope that this fantasy is accurate. As with all fantasy, however, a place in actuality will never compare to a place as imagined through convoluted, mythologised sources – be they films set in that location, poetry proclaiming its beauty, even (or especially, perhaps) the brochures designed purely to get you to go there in the first place.
There seems in the literature of the post-War period a certain preoccupation with the limitations that literary forms have to a pertinent expression of the issues that artists concern themselves with, particularly in the wake of the turbulence and fragmentation of ideals that have arisen in the period from the Second World War to the Present Day.
We can see in the work of Franz Kafka and Albert Camus a certain preoccupation with issues surrounding death, mortality and the apparent meaninglessness of life.
Throughout the poetry of Philip Larkin there seems evident a certain paradox in regards to the concepts of originality and modernity in his work.
From what we know of Jack Kerouac’s life, in addition to evidence within his poetry and prose, there is on display a deep love, knowledge and understanding of jazz.
Giacomo Balla (1871-1978) was an Italian artist and a key figure in the development of Futurism, an early 20th century art movement which centred around a rejection of the past and an embracement of what the Futurists saw as issues representative of the age in which they live, namely advances in technology, industry and science, and also the recognition of the importance of progress breaking free from the anchor of tradition.
Possibly more than any other form of art, it is music that lends itself most often and most effectively to feelings of the sublime. This is perhaps because music, unlike visual art, and certainly unlike literature, is abstract in its very essence.
Though Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiotic theories primarily constitute an analysis of language, its overriding principles can also be applied to the analysis of literature. Saussure’s desire to quantify linguistic study into something empirical, systematic and scientific highlights the ultimately methodical nature of speech and the construction of language.