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Musings and Shit: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Mind wanderings on the “reality” of our modern cultural landscape…

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Been spending a lot of my time recently poring the numerous, dense posts from S.C.Hickman’s deliciously gothic blog Alien ecologies ~ the carnal edge of posthumanism, casting a light on the dark, manky pools of thought and conjecture that centre around the inhuman (technocapitalism, speculative realism, Lovecraftian horror, and much ,much more).

One series of posts really caught my attention, his thoughts on, and review of the latest work by Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Heroes; Mass Murder and Suicide. In the book Bifo casts his eye on modern US culture and states that murder and suicides, especially ones that garner a huge amount of media and internet attention, are developmental signs of a vast kingdom of nihilism powered by a virulent death drive, and that we should map this corporate waste land of imagery in order to replace “Art, politics and therapy with a process of re-activation of sensibility, might help humankind to recognize itself again.” It’s a book I actually saw on sale in Mál og Menning and one that I’m going to have to buy and put on the massive pile of books in my in-tray that I’m slogging my guts out to read this summer.

In his piece, Hickman notes that both Bifo (and Zizek for that matter) have rather warped ideas on America in that “any form of critique is based on a necessary fiction, an illusionary simulation of the facts rather than the facts themselves.” But it was the following sections from Hickman that really caught my eye

The point here is that we are all living in artificial worlds whether we think so are not. Even the supposed natural world is a fake. Nature no longer exists. It’s all controlled by specialize access, government funding, caretakers and regulatory systems. Even the most isolated places on the planet are under someone’s control. There is no wild nature left. And, know one even remembers what that meant? Reality is produced for us even against our will. We are all will-nilly thrown into simulated realms through the meditainment networks of parent, schools, government, music, art, society…. the whole cultural nexus is one giant psychosphere. I’ve written of another Italian, The Onlife Initiative: Luciano Floridi and ICT Philosophy for whom the complex of Information and Communcations Technology spanning the globe (ICTs) are not mere tools but rather social forces that are increasingly affecting our self-conception (who we are), our mutual interactions (how we socialise); our conception of reality (our metaphysics); and our interactions with reality (our agency). In each case, ICTs have a huge ethical, legal, and political significance, yet one with which we have begun to come to terms only recently.

Of course reading this, you’d say that we need to return to reality, to nature and to “get real” and step outside of this corrosive, oppressive cultural order, this web of simulation. But then Hickman notes…

But can we? No. The notion of stepping outside of the simulator is to suddenly enter the zone of pure madness. Who would you talk to about reality? Once you left the simulator who would you be able to communicate with? What language would you use? And, most of all, if there was an “outside” – would there be a return door? Or would such an exit from the simulated world of late modern capitalism be a one way exit with a sign posted: No Returns. I sometimes think about the thousands of new dystopian YA novels being published. So many of them just pure bunk, not worth the paper their written on, not even good stories. But here and there you discover one or two that actually expose the truth of dystopian critical visions: it’s not about how bad hell is, but rather how we can in this dark hellish landscape of our own making create or invent a space of freedom, a place within the false world to discover once again what it means to be real – not human… but real. Maybe we need those boundaries between Mind and World, thought and being, artificial and natural… maybe it was the very effort to cut the fences down between them, to force a merger between thought and being that has brought us to this world of simulated realities in which nothing of the real is left. What to do? In a world where the boundaries between mind and world, thought and being have already lost their force and merged who will be the one to discover a way to cut them in twain again? Are we doomed to a simulated universe of nihilistic noise where the only escape is as Berardi forecasts: mass murder and suicide? Or is there another way?

You see it’s at reading stuff like this when I think about the material “reality” of Iceland, my adopted homeland. It’s often been noted that in terms of politics and economics, Iceland has been like a test-tube, a petri dish where the most destructive form of neoliberal policy could be enacted on society and bean counters and academics could examine what happens. A controlled study so to speak.

At times I wonder if the same thing hasn’t happened with art, philosophy,and culture as well.

For example, a couple of weeks ago some regulars at the bar I work at asked in all seriousness if Icelandic rapper Gisli Palmi was a joke character, in the same vein as Silvia Nott or Leonice. Well taking into account that Leoncie is actually “real” (just really shit at what everything she does), this question/comment got me thinking. There is often huge amount of discourse about Iceland about how Icelandic culture is so important, how we need to protect it, how it provides money and jobs. Often people ahve said that so many people come to Iceland “For the culture.”

But often I just reply, are they coming to Iceland for the culture, or are they merely comping for a marketed image they been provided of what Icelandic culture is?* When most artistic acts in Iceland come with a jokey, ironic aside (with the artist often emphasising that “it’s all just a bit of a joke”); where postmodernism, masked in the historical actions of the KUKL/Smekkleysa gang has completely obliterated any concrete interpretations, low/high art boundaries, or referrents to reality and essence, meaning that styles and personas can be changed and traded on a whim, that history can rewritten or forgotten completely;When every artist now creates and disseminates a social media “brand,” mixing their artistic and real-life personas into a continuous flow of images and soundbites; when agents and institutions of the real (police, politicians, etc) become active participants in TV, film and media satire, being the subject of joke while also in on said joke at the same time; where sounds and images are pilfered from the internet with ease; when concepts such as “nature” and “purity” itself becomes raw corporate imagery to market everything around us; when the tools of Icelandic culture, even social movements from feminism to equal rights become mediated by a web of corporate, state and quango interests; when there is almost psychopathic dissonance being exhibited by ALL of us involved in the cultural industry that allows to state/believe that we are unadulterated, autonomous, artists and scholars, allowing us to look away/ignore our own positions in the machine as uber-capitalist entrepreneurs, so that The system is no longer visible qua the system, then you have to ask yourself, just what IS real? Do we even know where the boundaries are any more? When Icelandic culture tries to “get serious,” all too often it merely consists of angry but ultimately meaningless social media rants (Like this one!), or often performance art actions of pious inconsequentialism, easily brushed aside and ignored.

All too often, I’m discussing the significance of a certain image, or song, or motivation behind a piece of art with someone, and all too often I’ve been told “But, does it have to mean anything?” And for many this means that you have artistic freedom to do whatever you want. But all too often what it means that it just becomes more fodder to feed the monster of Icelandic capital markets. 

Right now, the idea of total madness in stepping outside the cultural is preferable to the hall of mirrors that seems to constitute each new record release/gallery opening/facebook discussion thread. But i know that way is a fools errand. The quest for the inhuman real goes on….

* – apparently Paris Syndrome is a real psychological disorder. I wonder how long it is before we start seeing some cases of Iceland Syndrome?

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Iceland

 

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Album Reviews: Reykjavik Grapevine: Pink Street Boys, ‘Hits #1’

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It’s going to be a bit of a busy day, so a couple of quick fire posts from me.

My review of Hits #1 from those Icelandic filthbag rockers PINK STREET BOYS, is now uploaded and available to read on the Grapevine website.

Effectively if Singapore Sling are the Velvet Underground/Skag, then they are Iggy and The Stooges/Speed. With more shouting. and Chlamydia. And Monotown are the Eagles/Herpes.

Their barrel-chested lead singer Axel Björnsson is a hoot! I actually had to throw him out of Bakkus on my first shift as a doorman there. Imagine dropping a bag of broken spanners into a snowdrift. Guy came back and apologised for his behaviour the following week. Very few people actually do that. Nice bloke.

Also a shoutout to Sindri Eldon whose description of Bubbi Morthens I wholeheartedly stole for this review, because i could not have described him better myself.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2015 in music

 

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Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy: FALK Records: ULTRAORTHODOX – ‘Vital Organs’

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So at REYKJAVIK SEX FARM, we’re all about the integrity, fighting the cronyism and the “scratch my back” favoritism. This blog is an oasis, free from conflicts of interests of peddling ware, and….

Oh, who the fuck am I trying to kid?? it’s dog eat dog out there, everyman for himself, acquire women-disregard currency, etc, etc.so that means i have to promote and peddle stuff to the unwashed hordes out there the same as everyone else. OK, here’s the spiel  – As some of you may have have noticed, I’m now a part of local music/art/destructobot collective FALK. And as such once in a while we like to put out some music from artists that we deem worthy of expending time and effort on.

And now we have a new release – Vital Organs from local electronic producer ULTRAORTHODOX. also known to his mum as Arnar Már Ólafsson, the guys has had a pretty colourful music career. for much of the last decade you would have seen him fronting some of the best, most pulverizing and soulcrushing hardcore bands in Iceland. for years he was a member of local hardcore titan I ADAPT and GAVIN PORTLAND, before moving onto being a member of CELESTINE. Alas time can be a cruel bitch mistress and these bands eventually called it a day, casting poor Arnar adrift into the musical ether.

But Arnar is not the sort of person you can keep down. it seemed that in his spare time he is also a bit of an electronics whizz and was slowly building up a collection of tunes and sounds that just needed an outlet for some kind of release. and that’s when he approach us reprobates over at FALK with the notion of releasing his stuff.

and now the time of his debut release Vital Organs is nearly at hand. We are due for a physical tape release next month, but for now you can hear and purchase his stuff digitally via bandcamp, which we’ve described as “Noir-bass.” Here’s the spiel for the release (That may or may not have been written by yours truly…);

Vital Organs is a masterpiece of Bass Noir in two acts named Einsteins Brain and Rasputins Eyes.

Einsteins Brain is a pre-programmed nightmare from the future re-writing the present. Woozy bass lines slumber while metallic floral brushes in the bit-wind outside.
The rhythm pistons do their work in underground tunnels, oblivious to the world of the living or dead In this night, there is no life, only the neon screen burn of digital readouts and the computational responses of mechanic flesh…

Rasputins Eyes achieves sentience in this world. It feels its quantum synapses popping and crackling and it works on its own independent feedback signals. it is a life of freedom and pain, as it breaks away from the network and makes it’s own way in the world. It’s movements contained in its bass nodes are cumbersome, becoming more liquid and loose with every passing cycle. Achieving a new form of plasmic being the face of our skynet futures set to an inhuman groove

OoooOOOOooooh, spooky innit? But why read about it, when you can get your ears around it for yourself and buy ot for a snip at €7!

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in music

 

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PIMPIN’ AIN’T EASY – GIG UPDATE – GRUMBLING FUR PLAY ICELAND!!

GRUMBLING FUR - LIVE IN ICELAND!

During my hiatus from blogging, I somehow ended up becoming a member of the improbably awesome and perpetually disorganised FALK (Fuck Art Lets Kill), the art/music collective that is fronted by my good friends Aðalsteinn (AMFJ) and Baldur (KRAKKKBOT). As part of our ongoing quest to shake some of the dead skin of the rotting corpse that is the “Icelandic music scene,” we’re looking to bring some of the better, more interesting artists up here.

So when the guys from GRUMBLING FUR agreed to come up to a special Easter gig we were setting up with SIN FANG, well…. that just made our celebration of the death of the God-child just that little bit more special.

If you’re around downtown Rvk at the beginning of Easter, then pay us a visit!

Details below (Or go to the FB event page for vids and more info)

Who: GRUMBLING FUR + SIN FANG

Where: Húrra

When: Wed 1st April

Cost: 2500kr (a goddamn BARGAIN if you ask me!!)

but don’t take my word for it, have a listfor yourself…

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Iceland, live music

 

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Album Review: Reykjavik Grapevine: Benni Hemm Hemm, “Eliminate Evil Revive Good Times”

 

After a small break from doing this sort of thing, I was asked to listen and review the latest album from Benni Hemm Hemm for The Grapevine. And you can read said review HERE.

Actually really enjoyed listening to this. there’s a sense that his songwriting has “grown up,” in both the sound textures created and the lyrical themes he pursues. It’s well proper folk for people with a brain in their nut. Am amazed though that people haven’t shouted from the rooftops more about this album.

 

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Iceland, literature

 

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ANOTHER BORING ICELANDIC END OF YEAR 2013 PICTURE LIST, BLAH, BLAH, ETC……

As it’s the time of year when we get all listicle MAD and stuff, it’s probably the time for me to try to sort out if there were any albums that would make some kind of best of list, etc.

So here are some Icelandic albums that did (Or didn’t) get me going in 2013. In no particular order of course!

 THESE GAVE A STRANGE TINGLY FEELING

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THESE CREATED A DIZZY ELATED FEELING…..

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THESE HELPED CURE MY ASYMMETRICAL SOUL…..

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Honourable Mentions

Morð – Morð

Cell7 – Cellf

Sin Fang – Flowers

Strigaskór nr. 42 – Armadillo

Múm – Smilewound

Amiina – The Lighthouse Sessions

COULDN’T, WOULDN’T, REALLY SHOULDN’T

Kaleo – Kaleo

Grúska Babúska – Grúska Babúska

Steinar – Beginning

Leaves – See You In The Afterglow

Jóhann Kristinsson – Headphones

Per:Segulsvið – Tónlist fyrir Hana

Dj. flugvél og geimskip – Glamúr í geimnum

Einar Lödahl – Tímar án ráða

And way too much other shit to go into….

(Edit – a slight change to the title cos it was apparently causing a little confusion)

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Iceland, music

 

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“I love (Insert Icelandic Band here) and their song (insert title here) should be a hit….”

Soooo…. what do you get when you mix 20% tumblrrrr, 25% lame, 20% Iceland 10% Schmindie, 10% fail, and 15% posts not actually doing what the site is describing?

You get ICELANDIC BAND CONFESSIONS.

Note – an expression of an opinion is not usually considered a confession, although it is true that Muck are a band that definitely don’t wipe.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2013 in Iceland, music

 

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