Excavating the mind of the artist

“Cinema uses the language of dreams.”

Federico Fellini

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Among the plethora of mediums available to the artist, moving images have always had the privileged position of coming closest to matching the unpredictable whirring of the mind. It has perhaps become a cliché to liken the cinematic vision to the state of dreaming, yet it is one that rings true. Cinema has the unique ability to dig at once into the mind of the artist, the mind of the cinematic protagonist, and the mind of the audience, creating a separate sphere wherein all three may merge. Continue reading

APOCALYPSE (wow!)

The future is over. Through the cliché of the Post-Apocalyptic, it has been strip-mined of meaning. The ubiquity of the teleological narrative in mainstream media – the end-narratives of the ‘end times’ – has created franchises of nihilism, which advocate a political quietism that shuts down hope. In the slew of P-A (Post-Apocalyptic) movies since the 1970s onwards we have been seduced by disaster-porn: burning buildings, earthquakes, tsunamis, meteor strikes, epidemics, big freezes, zombie outbreaks ad nauseam. Yet expressing and exploiting eschatological fears is not something new. The end has been nigh for some time. Continue reading

‘The Machine Stops’: What E. M. Forster Knew About the Internet

“How can I possibly explain this? It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here.”

 This year marks one hundred and ten years since The Oxford and Cambridge Review printed ‘The Machine Stops,’ a remarkable short story by E. M. Forster which seems to predict the Internet. It is a strange, Wellsian tale set in a distant future where humans have abandoned the surface of the earth and retreated into a hive-like network of interconnected hexagonal rooms. Though they live alone, they have access to every material convenience and to everybody else in the world at the push of a button, through a global network of networks of machinery known reverentially as ‘The Machine.’ ‘The Machine Stops’ tells the story of Vashti, a ‘swaddled lump of flesh’ with a face ‘as white as fungus,’ and her son Kuno. Kuno is a ‘savage type,’ who defies the Machine to travel to the earth’s surface. After learning, contrary to what he’s been brought up believing, that one doesn’t ‘die immediately in the outer air,’ Kuno tells his mother that ‘The Machine is stopping […] I know the signs.’ To Vashti’s horror and disbelief, Kuno turns out to be right.

 The resemblance of the Machine to the Internet is so striking that it’s hard to believe that Forster could possibly have come up with it in 1909. Vashti has Facebook, inasmuch as she ‘knows’ ‘several thousand people,’ with whom she communicates by ‘button’ from the comfort of her armchair. Other ‘buttons and switches’ are her Amazon, allowing her to order food and clothing, and her Alexa, ‘producing’ music, ‘literature’ and ‘lectures’ on command and controlling her room’s lighting and temperature. Vashti talks to Kuno through a kind of Skype or Facetime, whereby a tablet-like ‘plate’ that she holds in her hands glows with blue light and permits her to ‘see the image of her son, who lived on the other side of the world.’

 Her favourite way to spend her time is ‘exchang[ing] ideas with her innumerable friends,’ who ask her if she’s ‘had any ideas lately’ before immediately interrupting to tell her their own ‘ideas.’ Her time is consumed by this constant exchange of ‘ideas’: short, shallow, ten-minute discussions of subjects, which are sent out unedited through the Machine for the whole world to hear. Vashti responds to this constant influx of ‘ideas’ with ‘irritation,’ which is ‘a growing quality in that accelerating age,’ but it never occurs to her to stop. In other words, she’s on Twitter.  Continue reading

Araki’s Apocalypses: Fragments of Doom

Ahead of Gregg Araki’s upcoming series Now Apocalypse, Jacob Engelberg presents a .gif collage exploring the theme of apocalypse throughout the auteur’s body of work. From alien invasions to New World Orders to fecund desert landscapes, and Armageddon Day itself, Araki’s fictional universes often find themselves on the brink of ruin. These precarious worlds—and the despondent characters who inhabit them—are typical of Araki’s singular style. If the world is doomed anyway, then we might as well jump headlong into hedonism as we tumble carelessly on our perilous decline into the abyss. Continue reading

Call for Submissions: The Still Point Blog – Spring 2019

The Still Point Journal is a literary journal for Arts and Humanities researchers, established in 2014. The Still Point Blog aims to be a forum for discussion, dialogue, collaboration and experimentation.

We invite submissions for the Still Point Blog throughout the spring of 2019. We welcome blog post submissions of 400–500 words (accompanying images or photographs encouraged). However, if you have a longer – or shorter – piece in mind, please contact us to discuss it. We would also be delighted to publish videos, images or any experimental forms of disseminating or reflecting on research. Continue reading

Introducing the new editorial team

Welcome to followers old and new of the Still Point blog.

As the new editorial team gear up to begin a new year of blogging in 2019, we thought we’d get your academic content tummies grumbling with a glimpse behind the curtain.

Here we introduce ourselves and give some insights into how we became familiar with the Still Point and why we wanted to get involved.

Don’t worry! There’s still time for you to get involved too. Continue reading

Exhibitions 1 – Charles Dickens: Man of Science

 

Attribution: Charles Dickens by Daniel Maclise, oil on canvas, 1836, National Portrait Gallery, London.

In an 1850 All the Year Round article, Charles Dickens writes about his visit to the Royal Polytechnic Institution as a young boy. He recalls how scientific lectures and exhibitions on display were both entertaining and accessible – an experience that opened up new vistas of knowledge:

There was an indefinable feeling as if it were not real, out-and-out, holiday place: as if our education were in some way going on whenever we were there. Instruction, we felt, lurked behind amusement, and it was impossible to forecast, from the programme of the entertainments, exactly at what point the baleful genius of mental improvement might be expected to claim its victim. There were diverting objects to look at, doubtless, but even machinery in motion – a charming object always to any boy of a well-regulated mind – can be turned to an evil educational account.’ Continue reading

Reflections 1: Anxieties of a Graduate Teaching Assistant

For postgraduate students there is a tendency to feel our identities have been subsumed under the research we carry out. The dissertation reflects the ultimate form of self-expression even if it is the ideas, not the sentiments behind them, that determine its value. However, there are other instances where the ‘personality’ of research carries great currency in academia. In their second year, several PhD students opt to teach undergraduate seminars. What I have learned from this experience, thus far, is that how I engage with the material shapes their educational experience in the classroom.

This term, one of the modules I’m involved with is taught by my supervisor. Knowing him quite well, it is interesting to see how much of his personality comes into the content of the course. The lectures and seminar activities demonstrate a comprehensive presentation of the module’s topic but also relate back to several critical issues approached in his own research. While he is careful to establish a line between content, criticism, and even personal sentiment, the environment of active engagement that he creates prompts students to do the same. Not all academics are comfortable bringing passion into the classroom. Continue reading

Still Point Blog Theme: Resolution – Call for Submissions

The start of a new year is often a time for reflection; likewise, the Still Point blog has been inspired to take an introspective turn. During the month of February our team, along with other contributors, will be engaging with the topic of ‘Reflections’. For us, this theme encompasses a number of considerations: reflections on the last academic term, individual experiences as Graduate Teaching Assistants and guest lecturers, organising conferences and the proposed strike action by the University and College Union.

We are also pleased to announce that for the month of March the Still Point blog will be focused on the theme of ‘Resolution’. We are seeking blog posts from doctoral and early career researchers – although submissions from Masters students are also welcomed – that directly engage with and examine the subject of ‘Resolution’ in a variety of ways. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to: reflections on new year’s resolutions both academic and recreational (whether successful or otherwise), the quality of resolution as a positive/negative trait, the need for resolution during the research process, figures in the arts and humanities that embody the quality of resolution etc.

Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis until the next theme is announced. Entries often take the form of non-fiction prose, but we also accept fiction, poetry, photography, and other forms of visual art.

Ideally submissions will be:

–          Between 500-750 words that can include high quality images; however, longer feature submissions may also be accepted.

–          For visual and multimedia artists, send us high quality images of your artwork, and embed links to sound, video work, or gifs, accompanied by up to 300 words.

At the Still Point blog we encourage creative and innovative responses both to our themes and the presentation of blog posts. As such this is a unique opportunity to promote your research on an academic platform and creatively respond to your research experiences.

Please send submissions to blog@thestillpointjournal.com