I was very pleased to have been invited to speak to Erik Davis, author of the hugely inspiring book TechnGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, for his Expanding Mind podcast. The interview can be found here.

It was nice to be drawn on some of the ideas that led to my interest in Haiti as a particular locus for Euro-American fears and fantasies about the negative consequences of African spirituality and religion in the Americas, and their sublimation into popular horror genres. Most of the theoretical influences that shaped my early understanding of the zombie figure and “voodoo terror'” in popular culture are conspicuously absent from Undead Uprising, which was written primarily for an audience interested in the political-historical roots of these spectacular tropes, rather than one versed in the sophisticated convolutions of contemporary critical  and cultural theory.

Among the less formally “theoretical”, though certainly more influential ideas informing the Undead Uprising, was William Burroughs’ notion of ‘control’, which Erik quickly spotted in the configuration of zombies and somnambulists as remotely-controlled agents-without-autonomy. If we took Burroughs’ idea of ‘control’ and ran it, along with the complementary concepts of ‘autonomy’ and ‘agency’, via the psychoanalytic theories of Freud, Lacan, Klein, Deleuze and Guattari, through Situationism and the Frankfurt School, and back through Marx and Nietzsche, to Hegel and Kant, you would probably have a good overview of the theoretical substratum of the book. Perhaps some day, this too will be unearthed.

Here’s Burrough’s essay The Limits of Control  (originally published in Semiotext(e): Schizo-Culture, vol. III, no. 2, 1978) as a taster:

‘It is highly questionable whether a human organism could survive complete control. There would be nothing there. No persons there. Life is will, motivation and the workers would no longer be alive, perhaps literally.’

 

 

On Thursday May 18 I will be giving a talk entitled ‘Chimerical Optics: Haiti, Colonialism and Voodoo Terror’ at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. More details can be found here. This will be a fully illustrated 2 hour talk using clips from several of the films discussed in Undead Uprising. It will take place at the legendary venue for all things underground and avant in London, the The Horse Hospital.

I have given an interview with Kat Ellinger about the upcoming talk over at Diabolique magazine. Special thanks to Kier-La Janisse, founder the of Miskatonic Institute, for this fabulous promotional trailer:

Below is the Kreyol translation of a text written for issue 9 of The Happy Hypocrite#ACCUMULATOR_PLUS – edited by Hannah Sawtell and published this month. The English version of the text can be found here. There will be launch for the journal on Thursday November 10th, 10 pm till late at 32 Ormside Street, London SE15 1TR at which Hannah and Jlin will be performing a sonic version of #ACCUMULATOR_PLUS that will be broadcast on NTS Radio on November 11th.

Thanks to Marie-Ange Magloire for the translation.

Komès la dwòl (WEIRD)nan Geto Byenal la (Pwovèb avèk zen ki ekri sou tablo a )

Gen yon ti moun ki di yon blan li grangou epi blan an di li tann li pral dèyè manje. Lè li tounen li tounen ak yon grenn Marinad… (lol!!!!)

A little child says to a white person ‘I’m hungry.’ The white person says ‘Wait for me, I’m going to get you some food.’ The man comes back with one little patty… (lol!!!)

An 2010 twa pwofesè sikoloji nan Inivèsite Bristish Columbia ekri yon atik pou jounal Behavioral and Brain Sciences ki rele “Moun ki pi dwòl nan monn nan? [i] WEIRD ki vle di dwòl an anglè, se yon akwonim pou Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic ki an kreyòl se Oksidantal, Edike, Endistriyalize, Rich epi Demokratik. Yo te ililize akwonim sa pou dekri ki tip de sosyete ke moun reprezante kòm ‘’nòmal” nan majorite etid sou konpòtman yo fè nan inivèsite (majorite Ameriken).

Mwen itilize tèm sa an jeneral pou mwen pale de milye sosyal atis vizitè nan Geto Byenal an Ayiti yo. Baz pwopozisyon an se ke atis WEIRD la genyen ide ki byen defini sou sa yon pyès la vle di, de valè li ak fonksyon sosyal li. Ide sa yo soti nan lekòl boza WEIRD, edikasyon inivèsitè epi inivè boza yo kotwaye WEIRD, men nou pa nesesèman retwouve ide sa yo nan moun ke domèn sa pa enfliyanse. Vizyon WEIRD la jeneralman li itopik, li ideyalis, pwogresif e sosyalman responsab, li konsidere ke la se yon bagay ki an opozisyon ou byen nan yon fason, ki ka konropi, pa pragmatis ou byen objektif komèsyal finansye. Menm jan Hans Abbing poze deba a nan Why are artists poor? (Poukisa atis yo pòv?) Kwayans sa yo plis baze sou yon mit epòk Romantik la ki di ke la se yon bagay ki sanse “sakre” [ii]. Mwen te kapab ajoute ke dominans teyori kritik Maksis nan lekòl avèk inivèsite WEIRD yo ranfòse sans sakre sa. Sa ki transfòme kwayans prèske teyolojik sou finalite sakre la a, an kwayans ki kritik, anti kapitalis epi ki emansipatè sosyalman.

Ti machoun’n a yon dola ou fé sòs

With one dollar we can make a sauce

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This is a draft cover for my forthcoming book Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and the Zombie Complex (Strange Attractor Press), which I expect to be on the shelves by the end of the year. It will not be the final design, but I thought I’d share it as it may never see the light of day otherwise.

undead-uprising-cover-mock-up

Ghetto Biennale II

February 25, 2016

Footage from the second Ghetto Biennale in December 2011 shot by Alex Louis from Tele Geto.

In an earlier post (23/12/15) I mentioned an incident that occurred during the penultimate night of the Ghetto Biennale in which a young man from Lakou Cheri, Gerard Masalen, died after a fight with another man. I think it is important to write something here about the circumstances surrounding Gerard’s death within the broader context of GB IV, the political tensions in the streets of Port-au-Prince at the time of the biennale and the experiences of some of the participants and guests that have not been widely discussed or publicly shared. The main issue I’m trying to tease out here has to do with the complex relationship between the actual and perceived risks for artists participating in the biennale, the implicitly economic and often fraught nature of inter-personal relations between visitors and locals, and how the perceptions and realities of such are understood, represented and managed by the GB organization.

My own contribution to this year’s biennale was a “gossip wall” hung within Lakou Cheri, the main site of the biennale, on which local people and visitors were invited to write anonymous stories about what was going on “off-screen” as it were. I would collect any gossip at the end of each day, then wipe the canvas clean ready for the following one. The idea was to create a kind of local gossip column that would potentially give voice to dissenting or critical opinions about the biennale. This was part of a broader project conceived as a means to gather material for an essay in the forthcoming Ghetto Biennale catalogue that would be based, in part, on the opinions of people outside the biennale’s inner circle. I mention this to frame my comments here in terms of the broader project I was involved in during the biennale. That being said, my account of the circumstances leading up to and following the events that night is primarily a personal one, supported by details gleaned from conversations with biennale guests during and after the event, witnesses, members of the organizational team and people who knew Gerard personally.

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More Zen

January 4, 2016

Here are some more statements gathered during the Ghetto Biennale. Many thanks to Joseph Constant for collecting these from the Lakou Cheri community and to Alex Louis for the translations.

  1. Yo te kenbe Nadege avek mari moun yo – I saw Nadege with her man
  1. Le’w kon’n fè mange tan kou’m wap gen mari – The better you cook, the more men you get
  1. Nataly toujou app rete rad nam men zanmi – Natalie’s always borrowing clothes from friends
  1. Yap pale nap travay – They’re talking, we’re working
  1. Yok poupè, nou pakapè yo – Everyone’s afraid, I’m not afraid
  1. Ti machoun’n a yon dola ou fé sòs – With one dollar we can make a sauce
  1. Se annepye ki pou ba wou enpotans twal kay – A centipede can teach you the importance of an old rag
  1. Mete dlo nam diven’w – Put some water on your fire
  1. Sigen paròl pyej gen repons dyan’m – Difficult questions need a firm answer
  1. Chak pen gen fomaj yo – Every bread has its own cheese
  1. Chodye frete pa bouyi pwa chèche – When you borrow a pan you shouldn’t cook dry beans
  1. Range bretèl soutyen’w – Fix your bra strap (Pull your socks up)
  1. Tou nouvo, tou dous – Everything new is sweet (in romance)
  1. Kòmanse rasi bay degoutans – When things start to get stale it’s disgusting
  1. Mat lot sou ou, bay militon’w koulè – There is a woman who is with another woman’s man, so you better give more colour to your vegetable stew
  1. Se nan chemen jenen yo kenbe chwal malen – It is embarrassing the way they keep difficult horses (in the traffic)
  1. Parol pa tach – Words are not spots (bad words don’t hurt you)
  1. Chat konnen rat konnen bayik mayi a rete la – Cats know, rats know the corn pot will stay here
  1. Lè ti poulet cho, se mafini kidèyè – When the little chickens are excited, the hawk is coming
  1. Kenbe you’ni kenbe tout – To keep one is to keep all
  1. Bat chen an tarin met li – You beat the dog and wait for the owner (everyone has someone on his back)
  1. Jan chat mache se pa konsal peche – The way cats walk is not the way they fish
  1. Koule chen an, se koule gren n li – The colour of the dog is the colour of his dick (The way you act is the way you are)
  1. Sak pa gen dan yap manje chan m chan – Those without teeth have to eat the corn starch (Poor people have to eat anything)
  1. Pale pale w ou paka fèm anyen – You can talk all you want, but you can’t do anything to me
  1. Ou fin dim nou ren men, e pi wap trip sou mwen – You told me that you loved me, then you start to play games with me
  1. Kiyès ou ye pou’w gen yon fan’m pou kow? – Who are you to have a woman by yourself? (No matter who you are, your woman probably has another man)
  1. Mennen koule lekòl se you’n fèl chita se 2 – Bringing a snake to school is one thing, making it sit down is another (You can change a person’s life but not their personality)
  1. Pagen pryé ki pa gen amen – Every prayer has an amen (Every problem has a solution).
  1. Labouyi mwen pat konnen si ou t esho – I didn’t know the porridge was so hot (You underestimated someone)

GB IV ZEN 19/12/15

December 23, 2015

 

Final Wall (cropped))

Ho ho ka ka sa santi – Oh oh, this shit stinks
Pou ki Haïti mouri? – Why is Haiti dead?
Gerald, Nou pap bliyem – Gerald, we will never forget you

The final message on the gossip wall is a reference to the death of a young man from Grand Rue, Gerard Masalen, who died after a knife attack during the final celebrations of the Ghetto Biennale IV on Saturday night. I will blogging about the circumstances of his death, its meaning and implications for the GB, and my general reflections on the overall event in the coming weeks. 

Many thanks to Henrike Naumann from the Museum of Trance crew and Willmond Guillaume for ensuring that the gossip wall canvas was returned from the Grand Rue in safe hands.

GB IV ZEN 18/12/15

December 21, 2015

20151220_055848

18/12/15
Men bon zen! Gen yon nèg ki ap dòmi – This is a good  bit of gossip! There is a man sleeping
Connais tu toi même? – Do you know yourself?
Gen moun ki pwan pen patat plizyè twa – Some people take the potato-bread many times
Pa okipe saf yo non – Don’t worry about them being greedy

Chinese (untranslated)

GB IV ZEN 17/12/15

December 19, 2015

DSC02937

17/12/15
French
Vive est obligatoir, mais grandir est un choix – Living is obligatory, but growing up is a choice

Kreyol
Pa bliyè onè ak respé – Don’t forget honour and respect
Gen moun ki sou tròp tablo nan Ghetto Biennale la! – Too many people in the Ghetto Biennale write that on their paintings
Ou tripotay vre kisa map chèche la? – Why are you looking for gossip here?
Se yon zen m’ap chèche menn wi saw di anko – Of course I’m looking for gossip, what about it?
Nan kasse pwa fen veye cheni – When you shell the beans watch out for the caterpillars.
La jounen an vwayaj penitans make jou – A bad journey marks your day.