All Watched Over By Adam Curtis

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Sitting in front of All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, it is easy to let the brilliance of the style wash over you. Illustrated with dazzling imagery, one big idea morphs seamlessly into another, while Curtis’s hypnotic narration smoothes away any cognitive bumps. Like attending a lecture by firebrand philosopher Slavoj Zizek, one comes away feeling overwhelmed and inspired by the relentless pace and mesmerising variety of idea. But there remains a niggling feeling you may have been bamboozled, a feeling that if you stopped and thought about the big themes, they would collapse into a pile of … Continue reading

Where to start with Adam Curtis

new-adam-curtis-documentary-hypernormalisation

A friend asked me where they should start with Adam Curtis. It’s a good question. Curtis has been making films since the early 1980s and really came into his own in the 1990s and 2000s. His latest films Bitter Lake (2015) and HyperNormalisation (2016) constitute a break with the past insofar as he has taken his style to its end. What follows next may be a great decline, or it could be a radical new phase in his work. But let’s get back to the question. The latest films may be hard-going for newcomers to the Curtis style. So I’m going to list my … Continue reading

Rethinking cultural appropriation

In my article ‘The trouble with cultural appropriation’ I took a critical stance against this concept and it’s popularisation through social media. I argued that the use of the concept, and much of the online bluster around it, often employs moralistic and essentialist presuppositions. Since I probably came across as a mansplaining arsehole I’ve written this follow up piece to take a more sympathetic angle. It’s always worth guarding against the cheaper arguments against so-called ‘identity politics’. For starters, it’s good that there is a debate around this issue. Social media has many faults, but it has allowed new spaces … Continue reading