Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Live at the Lotus Lounge

Music The latest edition of my podcast is now available to stream or download. This a live set featuring myself and New York's legendary DJ Sims (Sarah Sims Erwin) live at the Lotus Lounge NYC circa 2003. It starts with about half an hour of chilled-out Street Soul from myself followed by an eclectic mixture of Gangster Rap, Latino flavoured Jazz, and Loungecore from Sims before I come back with some Dancehall and Classic Jazz-Funk. Enjoy... Live at the Lotus

Some brief notes on Time

Time: the socio-political
The ways we have marked out time, from the obelisks of ancient Egypt and Babylon to the atomic super-clocks being developed today that are said to be more accurate than time itself, the socio-economic system in place and the way human beings experience time have always remained inter-linked. It is perhaps not surprising that slave based societies such as the ancient Egyptians, owing their power to the systemization of social relations enabled by the development of mathematics, also appear to be the first societies to deploy time keeping devices. In the middle ages where man’s still relatively direct relationship to the land meant that the seasons and weathers fluctuations informed his working patterns, the micro-management of time was unnecessary. But as feudalism began to be replaced by capitalism during the Renaissance our relationship with time started to shift. In 1584 Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar that we use today propagating the centralization of papal power. Somewhat ironically Rome had been systematically replacing the God given circadian time as churches were turned into giant sundials by the drilling of a hole in its roof in order to predict the arrival of Easter. When the Gregorian calendar was finally adopted in England in 1752, in order to catch up with this now standardized European calendar from which it was lagging behind, Wednesday September the 2nd was immediately followed by Thursday September the 14th. This apparently resulted in widespread riots by angry mobs chanting ‘Give us our eleven days back!’.

The political nature of time was made explicit in revolutionary France when gunshots were fired at town hall clocks to mark a radical break from history. French Revolutionary Time was subsequently introduced where, in the enlightenment spirit of obsessive rationalization, the 24 hour clock was replaced with a decimalized system dividing the day into 10 decimal parts each of these 10 parts were divided into ten others and so on, so the hundredth part of the hour is the decimal minute and the hundredth part of the minute was the decimal second. With the emergence of globalized trading, precise time keeping for navigation became a priority. As a ships position at sea could only be determined with accuracy if a navigator could refer to an accurate clock, the then standard pendulum-based clocks originally conceived by Galileo were unsuitable for the task. In 1714 after the loss of numerous cargos (and lives) the British government offered twenty thousand pounds to whoever built a clock that would keep accurate time at sea. A young man took up the challenge by the name of John Harrison, a carpenter at the time, who on hearing of the competition dedicated his life to this quest and eventually succeeded at his 4th attempt. The government originally refused to pay up, but, after the intervention on his behalf by King George, Harrison eventually received his payment at the age of 79, becoming a multi-millionaire in today’s money.

The phrase time is money represents the commodification of time as an object to be exploited in the accumulation of greater capital, and it was capitalisms transformation during the industrial revolution that brought about the now normative adherence to clock-time we observe today, as a synchronic form of time and work discipline was imposed on workers. Up until the 19 Century British cities ran to local solar time and it was only with the introduction of the electric telegraph that enabled the imposition of a standardized single time zone (GMT) that industrialists demanded despite much local opposition. The emerging power and influence of rail companies such as the Great Western Railway sped up the rationalization and standardization of time to increase the efficient distribution of goods and materials. To placate local objections many cities ran, for a period, a dual time system. The clock at the Exchange in Bristol for instance, which is ten minutes behind London Time (or London is 10 minutes ahead of Bristol), still features two minute hands: one showing GMT the other Bristol Time.

A hyper-rationalization of time management was developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor In 1911 reaching its apex in the industrial mass production methods of the Ford motor company in Detroit. It involved scientific analysis of the time/productivity relationship in pursuit of the maximization of profits e.g. the screwing of a single bolt being calculated at 15.2 seconds. Capitalisms other has a less historically linear relationship with time. The Soviet Union fetishized production as much as America and adopted an equally technological view of time. Aleksei Gastev, an avant-garde poet who wrote futurist prose eulogizing industrialization and the coming era of the new man, advocated Taylerism through ‘the movement for the scientific organization of labour’, or NOT (nauchnaia organization truda), which he described as his last artwork. These ideas, imported from capitalist America, underpinned the Soviet commodification of time epitomized by Stalins 5-year plans 1928 and 1932. Unfortunately for Gastev his own time ran out in 1938 when he was arrested on false charges of counter-revolutionary terrorist activity and shot by the KGB, and as Heidegger and others have observed death is the limit point of our social temporality.

Year Zero was declared by Pol Pot when his Khmer Rouge completed their take over of Cambodia in 1975. It was George Orwell who observed Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future. Here, a pre-industrial agrarian utopia was founded where history not only ended but ceased to exist and time stood still. Cities were forcibly emptied as the entire population was made to farm the land in organized labour camps and any expression of nostalgia for pre-revolutionary times was referred to as memory sickness and could lead to execution. This anti-technological state existed as the antitheses of the Soviet/American view of time as a site of progress – here you would be killed for simply owning a wristwatch. When the regimes rule ended, after eight months and 20 days, one quarter of the country’s entire population of about seven million were dead.

Re-posted from Time: a group exhibtion