Oliver Hirschbiegel: Das Experiment (2001)

German director Hirschbiegel‘s debut feature ‘Das Experiment‘ does not quite shine as an accomplished cinematic piece (it is plenty rough around the edges,) but what it does is that it brings ample material to the table for engaging in debates surrounding the psychological ramifications of incarceration, confinement and captivity. The distribution and struggle for power is thematically anything but novel, but in choosing to adapt Mario Giordano’s novel titled ‘Black Box‘, Hirschbiegel does manage to orchestrate (however imperfectly) a taut and bleak look at the ‘discipliners’ and the punished, housed in modern prison systems. Read More…

Mark Khaisman: The Banality of Packing Tape

Of Ukrainian origin, but now working out of Philadelphia, USA, visual artist Mark Khaisman produces work of some intrigue and interest by using an unusual material, that is not only everyday and pedestrian but is industrially produced for disposable, single usage. No, it is not rubber. Trained as an architect at the Moscow Architectural Institute, Moscow, Russia, Khaisman marries his considerable experience in architectural practice with the rather ancient and venerated stained glass practice. Like the stained glass practitioners of yore, Khaisman literally ‘sculpts’ light by using layers of translucent packing (duct) tape to control the passage of light through it, creating effective illusions in various shades of pale, dark, medium browns of adhesive packing tape. Read More…

Arne Næss, Ecosophy and Deep Ecology

Norwegian professor and philosopher, late Arne Næss, remains a key figure in the awakening of 20th C occidental consciousness to the real threats of the ecological-environmental crisis. I am posting this on ‘Earth Day’ to bring his (often marginalized and neglected) ideas to the fore, and also to remind us (myself included) of our inter-relatedness with, and the common fate that we share with all life forms on our planet. My first brush with Næss, quite a few years ago, was through readings about deep ecology – I thought him too ‘white-male-crisis’ for my taste then, but with distance, and time, I have come to appreciate his ideas more. His personal philosophy, which he called Ecosophy (not to be confused with Félix Guattari‘s usage of the same term,) encompasses the complexity of the relationship of humans to their natural environment, and he calls for a higher spiritual and psychological evolution of humankind, to ‘Self-realization’, a set of ideas which he formulates later as Deep Ecology. The deep ecological attitude is not only a state of ‘Self-realization’, but also a state of questioning – asking the bigger questions of life, being, society and culture, natural diversity, human instrumentality. The deep ecological attitude is also ‘longitudinal’, the ability to envision human activities and the natural world in large sweeps of time – giving rise to the ‘deep long range ecology movement.’ Read More…

ECU International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, 2016

Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, is offering scholarships for pursuing full-time on-campus postgraduate research (PhD or Master by research) programmes across all the schools and disciplines, including ‘Creative Industries‘ (Film and Video; Game Design and Culture; Photomedia; Interactive Media; Animation; Graphic Design; Environmental and Spatial Design.); ‘Arts‘ (English; History; French; Politics and International Relations; Visual Arts; Fashion and Textiles; and Writing.) and ‘Communications‘ (Advertising; Journalism; Media, Culture and Mass Communications; Public Relations.) Read More…

Panama Papers and the end of the Age of Secrets: A tribute to John Doe

It came in, unconvincingly, as a breaking news ticker on my phone. Little did I know then, that my finger tap in response to that ticker blurb would open up a flood of information about the largest information-secrets leak in the history of humankind. Listening in, as the dull April day trudged on, I heard voices across the internet, from lands near and afar, unified in expressing their outrage, anger, bitterness even, at the uncovered audacity and the disrobed blatant abuse of power, position, money, political machinery, of naked deceit, betrayal and subterfuge – over the four and a half recent decades. That it was an unsightly sight, would be a gross understatement. From ‘John Doe’ to ‘Panama’ to ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ to ‘Mossack Fonseca’ and the ‘ICIJ’, the obscure and the unfamiliar became part of the lexicon of outrage. Read More…

Damon Gameau: That Sugar Film (2014)

What you eat and drink is what you are, and what you become. In the broader tradition of diet/food/health awareness documentaries like Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Super Size Me‘ (2004,) Australian actor-director Damon Gameau, in ‘That Sugar Film‘ (2014,) inflicts a food and drink experiment on himself – of consuming the Australian ‘average’ of about 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for two months. What unfolds is a quirky, and at times, humourous look at the far reaching damage caused by the hidden sugars in our everyday, supposedly ‘healthy’ store brought food and drink. Read More…

Hans Ruedi Giger: Biomechanical fantasy as spectacle

The ‘dark legacy’ of Swiss artist-designer Hans R. Giger is undeniably far-reaching and indelibly memorable. A graduate of the (then called) School of Applied Arts, Zurich, Giger came into prominence with an airbrush and free-hand painting style which found their way into the pages of his first published work – Necronomicon (1977). His fantasyscapes were dystopic, drained off luminescent colour, bereft of the life giving rays of the sun, and with his thematic obsession with the biomechanical universe – coupling industrial machine to organic animal-human, he manages to marry the distant future and the distant past with an inimitable, unforgiving bleakness. Read More…

John Rawls: Justice and Modern Political Philosophy

John Rawls was the only American philosopher of the last century who made a considerable impact on modern debates on ideas of justice and the nature of the welfare state, constitutional, individual liberties, permissible inequalities and political duty/obligation. My first, and I should say only, encounter with Rawls was through the pages of his magnum opus ‘A Theory of Justice‘ (1971/1999) where he posits his principles by which a just society could be given direction – that there must be basic liberties (of faith, association, speech etc.) and that the perceived and palpable inequalities that inevitably arise from liberty are so organised to bring maximum benefit to the worst off, and that includes vital equality of opportunity. As a political philosopher, Rawls was certainly influenced by the earlier social contract theories of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in which citizens willingly give up some of their liberties in return for state protection and order. Rawls states his ‘priority rule’ thus: “a less extensive liberty must strengthen the total system of liberty shared by all.” Another ‘priority rule’ is that equal opportunity is more vital than heading towards a certain totality-of-society outcome, or what a (paternalistic) government may believe is for the good of the citizens of a nation. Read More…

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