CULTURE ON THE OFFENSIVE Recommendations
Our editorial teams recommendations
We are interested in cultural artefacts that challenge preconceptions from all over the political spectrum. We are interested in people who hold a mirror up to contemporary society and re-examine it’s background narratives. We may or may not agree with all aspects of what is expressed in our recommendations. However, we recommend them because they are insightful and provocative.
1. Films: Paradise Trilogy: Paradise: Love, Paradise: Faith Paradise: Hope – Three films directed by Ulrich Seidlm 2011-13
These highly stylised sub-titled Austrian films push the boundaries and are extremely thought provoking with their focus on three women from one family; one of them travels to Kenya as a sex tourist, one tries to propogate catholicism, and one has to spend time at a weight loss camp. The individual films are named after the three theological virtues. In all three Seidl subverts our fears, expectations, and hopes forcing us to confront comfortably adopted social narratives.
Paradise: Love explores the relationship between sex and power, holding up an uncomfortable mirror to the sex-tourist industry. A white western middle-class women called Teresa is insecure about her body and desirability. She goes on a clandestine holiday with her friends and pays for sex with young black Kenyan men who rely on her custom to survive in a poverty stricken area. Who, we might ask, is the victim here?
Paradise: Faith is predominantly about unhealthy religious adoration. Anna Maria, Teresa’s sister, is shown as a reserved and proper Catholic woman in her 50s who spends her free time obsessively cleaning and organising her house. Her house evokes a sanitized and emotionless state, She devotes all other aspects of her life to the figure of Christ. She is seen singing religious songs and organizing a Bible study group, but also flagellating and psychologically punishing herself in various ways. Spirituality and bodily desire get fused until the arrival of her disabled Muslim ex-husband. The narrative is shocking, jarring and perplexing.
Paradise: Hope features Teresa’s daughter attending a Fat Camp, whilst her mother is away holidaying in Kenya. The film’s tone is quite caring and sympathetic in relation to the other two, as the teenager establishes friendships, gets drunk with her fellow roommates, and falls intensely in love with the camp’s resident doctor. He’s a pensive, attractive man in his 50s, who does his best to not reciprocate her feelings.
2. Film: Do the Right Thing: Spike Lee, 1989
In the wake of Ferguson and the Baltimore riots, this 1989 film about race, social deprivation, and explosive violence is more timely than ever. There are many reasons to love this film; it’s compelling story, it’s restless creativity, it’s brashness, cinematic inventiveness, clever humour, and iconic performances. However, one often ignored element of this film is just how ambiguous it is. Because director Spike Lee is such an outspoken advocate for very unambiguous racial politics, the ambivalence in his films often goes unnoticed. One can interpret Do the Right Thing as a film about an oppressed black community who begin to rise up against a racist white Pizzeria owner who serves Pizza to outraged African-Americans while they are forced to tolerate police brutality and stare at Italian faces on his restaurant walls. However, one can also interpret Do the Right Thing as a film about poverty and social deprivation pitting different working class communities against each other. You can read the film as a warning about the omnipresence of systemic racism. Or you can read the film as a warning about the division and violence that happens when a community believes itself to be victims of white racism (rather than American poverty). Do the Right Thing’s final scenes can be read equally as a call to arms or an illustration of how violence is never the answer. This is why Do the Right Thing, now more than ever, is perplexing and provocative.
3. Vlog: My Beef with the (SJW) transgender community by That Guy T
In this Vlog, That guy T presents a hilarious critique of the repressive and authoritarian aspects of transgender activist politics. T’s fundamental gripe with transgender activism is in it’s anti-universalism; it’s insistence that cis and trans individuals be held accountable to different etiquette, debate, and epistemological norms. T is also suspicious of the tendency in this activism to achieve it’s aims through shaming rather than discussion. He shows an understandeable discomfort with the insistence in transgender activism that oppression occurs merely when someone doesn’t see you the way you see yourself. Because T is responding to another young Vlogger who embodies these politics, it’s tempting to write T off as attacking a straw man. It would be a straw man, if it weren’t for the fact that so much of what T responds to is incredibly common within both the transgender and LBGT online activist communities. These ideas have a social respectability today that makes a Vlog like this especially brave. T manages to be both funny and scathing, while simultaneously seeming earnest in wanting to know more about transgender people.
4. Film: Holy Mountain – Alajandro Jodorowsky – 1973
If there is something that Jodorowsky films offer it is a visually stunning mix of iconography which floods your senses with powerful evocation. Watching Jodorowsky films is like going on an intense religious journey, but one fused with a kind of psychodelic-cum-surrealist sensibility. One is reminded of what Chris Rodley says of David Lynch: “If Lynch could be called a Surrealist, it is because of his interest in the ‘defamiliarization’ process and the waking/dream state – not in his frequent use of the absurd or incongruous.” This can also be said of Jodorowsky. Jodorowsky fuses strange imagery from different religious traditions and cultural phenomena to enable our spiritual development. If it is absurdism that is the mark of surrealism, Jodorowsky is no more surrealist than Jesus (whose talk of straining gnats but swallowing camels already pointed in absurdist directions). Jodorowsky not only piles up bizarre religious and cultural imagery, he presents these juxtapositions in a defamiliarising way. Holy Mountain is an assault on the senses; an immersion in metaphorical thinking. Jodowosky seems to fit with the psychedelic era, but Holy Mountain is not a soft hippy adventure in love and peace. It is instead a violent rupture with everyday life.
5. Book: Slavoj Zizek – ‘The Greatest Threat to Europe Is Its Inertia’
One+One has long been fascinated the Slovenian Marxist philosopher and psychoanalyist Slavoj Žižek. This recently published article in The Spiegel online captures Žižek at his best, slipping between discussions of capitalism, the economic crisis, communism, politically incorrect jokes, the legacy of the enlightenment, Europe’s shared Leitkultur, Islam and multiculturalism. One of the things that we find fascinating about Zizek is his brilliant syncretic thought, which weaves together insights from Marxist-Leninism, The New Left, Conservative communitarianism, radical enlightenment and secular values, Malcolm X, and Christianity. Against a kind of “twitter storm” intersectionality which tends to turn all against all, Žižek exudes a kind of syncretic intersectionality grounded in shared struggles. As he himself says, “My answer is to struggle. Empty universality is clearly not enough. The clash of cultures should not be overcome through a feeling of global humanism, but rather through overall solidarity with those struggling within every culture. Our struggle for emancipation should be coupled with the battle against India’s caste system and the workers’ resistance in China. Everything is dependent on this: the battle for the Palestinians and against anti-Semitism, WikiLeaks and Pussy Riot — all are part of the same struggle. If not, then we can all just kill ourselves.”