Atmospheres 2 at the London Museum of Garden History

Lectures are the new rock n roll, or the new indie, or the new alt cinema or something.

I’ve got no interest in laborious formal education. Tedious. People who have taught the same stuff too many times to people who are only there for a secondary reason – like they need to do a five year stretch of it before they can get a half decent job. Usually all you learn is that you should have had the confidence not to feel that you needed to take the class in the first place. I never want to do another exam again.

But I do like these informal, temporary free universities. Where people congregate for no other reason that they are drawn to the subject. Looking for leads and following threads in areas that lie adjacent to conventional academia.

Atmospheres 2 focused on ‘Hauntology’. Various definitions of this slippery concept can be found on the web. I liked this one: ‘Derrida in his Specters of Marx …reflects on the persistance of the concept of (utopian) revolution despite its apparent eradication from the scene of politics and history (the book is ‘work of mourning’ published in the early 90s after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the inaugeration of the ‘end of history’). As such the concept of social and political revolution takes on a ghostly aspect – present and not present, eluding the categorical definition of western metaphysics, apparently erased yet still palpable in traces and echoes and uncanny visitations.”

At the event Mark Fisher was the only speaker to take us deep into hauntological ideas. What I took from his talk is that hauntology is some kind of unauthorised crackle and hiss in the background music. Some surviving memory of consciousness within the all enveloping spectacle of global capitalism. In the utter and unprecedented cultural stagnation and inertia this is not endlessly repackaged nostalgia but flashbacks flaring in the gloom.

‘Can we be guided by these lights…instead of the the ultra bright strip lights drawing planetary destiny into an eternal shopping mall surrounded by a sweatshop?’

Somewhat at a tangent Paul Devereux’s talk set out the latest developments in the unifying theory of pre-historic sites.

That these sites operated on all levels.

– The stones sang (you hit them – they ring)

– The caves and tombs respond to noise at mind-altering frequencies

– The stones themselves were understood to have healing properties

– These sites are physically located at the epicentre of the landscapes

– The accompanying cave paintings or rock markings are made up of trance-friendly dots

– Psychedelic plants are found nearby these sites

Some of these ideas are emerging at the Preseli Hills end of the Bluestones’ journey to Stonehenge where Paul Deverux and his merry men are plotting out the landscape in this new multi-dimensional language of the Neolithic landscape.

One of the reasons why I too have been to the ruined sites of the Preseli Hills sites. And why so many people are attracted to ruins – was illuminated in a talk by Christopher Woodward, author of Ruins.

We like ruins because we us our imaginations to fill the gaps.

The overgrown ruins of Rome inspired countless poems, paintings, essays and novels. Once they were cleaned up in the 20th Century the flow of creativity stopped abruptly.

These ruins also help in powering societies cyclical periods of anxiety. Rome being the uber ruin. The most powerful warning particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries – as the Coliseum was still one of the biggest structures in the world right into the early Victorian era.

In the evening there was music – but we left.

We’d done the lectures.

One thought on “Atmospheres 2 at the London Museum of Garden History

  1. A personal primer to music thats Haunted to get you started:

    The Sinking of the Titanic, Gavin Bryars
    Anything by The Boards of Canada
    Half Machine Lip Moves, Chrome
    Coil (especially Music to Play in the Dark vol.1)
    Endless Summer, Fennesz
    Pole (especially 3)
    Burial
    A Stairway to the Stars, The Caretaker
    Sleep Has His Home, Current 93
    Other Channels, The Advisory Circle
    Inner space, The Lost Film Music of Sven Libaek
    The River, William Basinski
    And almost everything put out by Touch Records.

    Any more suggestions welcome.

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