Sunday, 8 July 2018

All For You by Lara Smiles reviewed by Ben Willmott



The tag singer-songwriter brings certain images immediately to mind – acoustic guitars, floral dresses or beards (sadly, never together) and a misguided prioritising of navel gazing self-examination over good old-fashioned entertainment.

Luckily for us, these are all cliches that London singer-songwriter  Lara Smiles appears more than capable of neatly sidestepping.  Enlisting the production skills of Killing Joke bassist, McCartney collaborator and super-producer Youth, this is the first fruit of the sessions for her forthcoming debut album and it's quite the stonker.

'All For You' kicks off by laying down a slinky, tight funk groove – the press release namechecks ESG but to these ears it's more like their fellow NYC comrades Liquid Liquid – and then throws itself headlong into classic pop chorus in a hail of crunchy guitar crossfire.  The ghosts of the Big Apple's legendary punk petri dish CBGBs in general, and Blondie and Talking Heads in particular, seem to be coming out to play as the barriers between dance and rock, pop and punk, headbanging and footsto9mping all dissolve in front of our ears.


Which, from what we've heard. is very much the modus operandi of the album to follow.  While it won't all sound like this – Smiles is just as fond of twisting the templates of electronic music to her needs as this guitar-heavy sound - it will doubtless show a similar disregard for convention, which is just how we like it. In the meantime, we challenge to hear this and not catch yourself humming it all next week.


Text by Ben Willmott 2018

Monday, 28 May 2018

Burnt Ends by Hot Sauce Pony reviewed by John Robbins


As Wiley mockingly asked in his hilarious, pigeonholer-mocking song of the same name.... 'Wot U Call It?!'

Well, that's not an easy one. A quick listen to 'Burnt Ends' – and at one minute, ten seconds, a quick listen truly is the only way to hear this song –reveals the following... A distorted bass intro that could be Lemmy in a particularly grumpy mood. A lurching groove that's so implausibly heavy it makes a good case for being included in the periodic table of elements. A rising wall of feedback fed through an array of mysterious pedals, and splintered guitar notes that sound like glass shattering. It's way too weird to be metal, too clever to be punk and it would have the average wimpy indie kid involuntarily evacuating their bowels in fear.

And above this amorphous explosion of sound, arrives the voice of Caroline Gilchirst, as pure and heavenly as her accompaniment is grimy and hellish. Just to add to the lovely confusion, you understand. 'Burnt Ends' is a teaser for this South London four piece's self-titled debut album, and in many ways it raises more questions than it answers, not least 'when can we have some more?!' Whatever it contains, we can only really be certain that it will be like nothing we've ever heard before.

On closer inspection, their promotional bumph reveals that the band themselves have created a name for it – avant hard. It makes total sense, even if you're unlikely to find a section devoted to it in Rough Trade. So take up their challenge and immerse yourself in the sonic equivalent of a star collapsing on itself or the atom being very violently split Go on – come and have a go if you think you're avant hard enough.



'Burnt Ends' is out on Brixton Hillbilly on June 22. 



Text by John Robbins May 2018

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

PAUL SCHUTZE - The Sky Torn Apart reviewed by Ben Willmott


Paul Schütze has worked for over thirty years on the fringes of the field of experimental music – alongside parallel work in photography, video and installation – and he shows no signs of selling out yet.
Hailing from Australia and a founding member of cult bands Laughing Hands and of Phantom City, he’s worked with everyone from Bill Laswell and Lol Coxhill to Max Eastley, Jah Wobble and David Toop.  His latest offering has an environmental theme, apparently drawing on the Nordic myths of Ragnarök in which the earth is subsumed by water as a consequence of divine conflict, which although is an anoient tale seems to have much relevance to the planet’s plight as the global warming catastrophe begins to take hold.
There’s only one, epic 56-minute track, and, as you might expect from someone whose label is called Glacial Movements, it moves almost imperceptibly along with its narrative while being eerie listening throughout.  Using sound to paint pictures, Schütze seems to have confined us to a claustrophobic jungle cave at first, where water drips down the walls and noises of great foreboding happen at sudden intervals.  Eventually it moves into more wide open territory, but even then, the long, searing synthesiser notes – there are echoes of Vangelis’ ‘Bladerunner’ score here – seem to have a note of discord and imminent jeopardy.  Trouble in paradise, for sure.
It’s what you might call ambient music except that far from being sonic wallpaper or even a reassuring, calming presence, this unnerving symphony creeps into your consciousness and twists your mood without mercy.  Play it in a chill out room and you’ll have the casualties running for the St John’s Ambulance!

Paul Schütze might be a strange cause to champion on a site devoted to more punk rock sensibilities, but ‘The Sky Torn Apart’ is far from hippy dippy thinking.  It’s sharp and undiluted, and all too easy to get sucked into.  Uneasy listening anybody?!
Cover photo by Bjarne Riesto
 Sleeve design by Rutger Zuydervelt
Text by Ben Willmott

Sunday, 6 May 2018

The 30th Anniversary of R.E.M's best album Green by Denni Rusking


Micheal Stipe: "The buzz words for Green were 'crunchy' and 'angular'; anything jangly or comfortable was out."
Music journalist: "A lot of people would say that you are mad"
Micheal Stipe: "A lot of people eat bacon and crisps for breakfast."
I never thought R.E.M was a great name for a band and when I was told R.E.M stood for "Rapid Eye Movement" (a physiological term for the stage of the sleep cycle at which dreaming begins) I liked it slightly less. I think the band have made more bad albums than good ones and I wasn't sad when they split up. And yet, credit where it's due... 30 years ago R.E.M (who were nearly called "Slut Bank") released a fucking fantastic record called "Green". I've been listening to "Green" a lot recently and I've decided it's the band at their absolute peak and I agree with both Kurt Cobain and The Times newspaper that "Green" is one of the best albums of all time.

"Green" was the band's 6th studio album and their first for a major label. 
Peter Buck: "R.E.M is part lies, part heart, part truth and part garbage". 
"Pop Song 89" and "Stand" are Big, dumb pop songs. They're so dumb they're kind of smart.
Orange Crush is probably about the Agent Orange chemical warfare programme in Vietnam


41:01 (11 tracks) first release on a major, Singer Michael Stipe had reportedly told his bandmates to "not write any more R.E.M.-type songs". Larry Graham 5 star review in Q The Times included it in their list of 100 best albums of all time
 “Run a carbon-black test on my jaw/ And you will find it’s all been said before” — “Hairshirt
"World Leader Pretend" is one of the great R.E.M. songs.
 “It was the first song I felt so confident about that we printed the lyric on the sleeve, allowing people to read it before they heard it,” Stipe tells me a few days later, in a London hotel. “I realised it was my take on Leonard Cohen. I was trying to be as smart as he was in his lyric writing.” The band had formed in 1980, “so you could say it was eight years in the making”, he adds.
Text by Denni Rusking 2018

Monday, 23 April 2018

Debut solo single by Gon Von Zola


Gon Von Zola shares the video for his debut solo single 'Blue Is...' ahead of a date at Hackney's Paper Dress tomorrow night (April 24).

Penned in collaboration with Sue Denim of 'Mighty Boosh' favourites Robots In Disguise, the track is lively and sun-kissed but there are darker undertones at work beneath the surface

Gon von Zola is based in North London but his heritage is an intriguing mix of Swedish, Indian, Estonian and German genes, arriving in London from his native Leipzig a few years back with a fiver in his pocket and a burning desire to throw himself into the capital's gig scene.

Formerly the mastermind behind band The Budda Cakes, he's played everything on 'Blue Is.,..' himself aside form the backing vocals, which come courtesy of Mia Unklar.

'Blue Is, ' is out on Before Sunrise Records on May 25.


LIVE DATES

Tuesday April 24 – Paper Dress, Hackney
Wednesday June 13 – Mark Beaumont presents… Camden Monarch





Text by John Robbins 2018

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Push The Boat Out

Push The Boat Out is a group show curated by
 James F. Johnston and Harry Pye with guidance from Amelie Lindsey
The exhibition takes place in the last week of July at The Art Academy Newington.
The 8 artists in the show are; James F Johnston, Gordon Beswick, Morrissey Hancock, Kate Murdoch, Cedar Lewisohn, Corin Johnson, Nicola Hicks, and Harry Pye

Please Note: The images you are about to see probably wont be in the exhibition they are just here as a very rough guide / introduction

ARTIST # 1  James F. Johnston
Image above: Mad Sky Over London by James F. Johnston 2018
Image above: Red Bird by James F. Johnston 2018
Image above: Age of Cruelty by James F. Johnston 2018
Image above: The Moon by James F. Johnston
James has exhibited prints based on his paintings in two recent shows at Gallery 64a in Whitstable.
In Jan 2015 he was part of PJ Harvey's Artangel project that took place in Somerset House.
To read James Johnston's profile on Wikipeda click on here

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ARTIST # 2 Gordon Beswick
Image Above: Magic Mountain by Gordon Beswick 2017
Image Above: (Left to right: Gordon Beswick, Jonas Ranson, Harry Pye holding screen print of Elephant & Castle by Gordon Beswick and Harry Pye)
Image Above: Horizon by Gordon Beswick 2017
Gordon Beswick was educated at Newcastle Under Lyme and Brighton College of Art. Gordon Beswick's films have been shown at Tate Britain, The South London Gallery and The Institute of Contemporary Art. . Collaborative paintings by Gordon and Harry Pye have appeared in celebrated shows at Sartorial Contemporary Art in Kings Cross and Galeria Thomas Cohn in Sao Paulo. In May 2010 Beswick & Pye were invited to take part in Tate Modern's Souls For Sale extravaganza and had their work exhibited in the Turbine Hall. In December 2010 Gordon and Harry's painting “Stacie of Preston” was sold at a charity auction held at The Victoria & Albert Museum. Money raised went to the Breakthrough cancer charity. In April 2012 Team Beswick & Pye took part in "Secret 7" at the Idea Generation gallery in Shoreditch. Their design for a seven Inch single by The Cure was sold in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. In the same month a compilation of their films were screened at Tate Britain's Manton Studios as part of Late at the Tate. In October 2012 Team Beswick & Pye's painting of Martin Luther King was featured in part of Art Below's Peace Project. The painting was exhibited at Gallery Different and a poster of it was displayed in Regent's Park Tube Station. In November 2012 Beswick & Pye were featured in The Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Gallery. 
 In 2013 Team Beswick and Pye painting The Beatles on a gigantic egg that was sold at an auction at The ICA for over £4,000. The money went to The Action For Children Charity. In the same year Team Beswick & Pye’s painting of Lady Thatcher appeared in both The London Evening Standard and on the BBC news. In 2015 their paintings of Elephants and tigers were included in the “Let’s Make A Better World” show at The Cello Factory in Waterloo. 
In 2016 Team Beswick and Pye made a portrait of Chris Packham (“A Starry Starry Night in Southampton”) which was turned into a 225cm wide billboard poster by Southampton School of Art.

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ARTIST # 3 Morrissey Hancock
Image Above: Chromatic version 1 by Morissey Hancock 2016
Image Above: Chromatic version 2 by Morissey & Hancock 2016
Find out more about Patrick Morrissey and Hanz Hancock's collaborations by visiting here

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ARTIST # 4 Kate Murdoch
Image Above: 10 times 10 by Kate Murdoch


Image above: 30 Pieces of Silver by Kate Murdoch
Kate Murdoch is an artist whose work reflects a fascination with the passage of time, the permanence of objects and the fragility of existence. It is human nature to surround ourselves with objects; they provide us with a sense of self and reveal our connections to the wider world. Often loaded with meaning, objects reflect both our internal emotional world and the external image we present to others. From the mundane to the meaningful, they are steeped in social and political history and part of our identity.

Murdoch works with found objects, images or materials taken from the everyday and mostly dating from the last century. These elements are modified, transformed or placed together so that they retain a sense of their original function, but also assume new meaning. Murdoch’s work employs an economy of means, a process of reduction that results in a restrained, formal aesthetic. Implied narratives are never fixed and allow for audience (re)interpretation. Often interactive in its display, Kate's work invites viewers to form their own associative memories, attachments and responses to her assemblages and installations, in some cases encouraging the handling of some of the actual objects presented.

Kate Murdoch lives and works in South London. She has exhibited as part of the Whitstable Biennale, Deptford X, Frieze Art Fair, and at galleries including Transition, Firstsite, WW and APT.
For more info/C.V. click here

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ARTIST #  4 Cedar Lewisohn


Above image by Cedar Lewisohn


Above image by Cedar Lewisohn

Cedar Lewisohn is an artist, writer and curator. His interested in various forms of exhibition platform, as well as experimental forms of writing. For more info visit here

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ARTIST # 6 Corin Johnson


Image above marble sculpture by Corin Johnson


Corin trained as a stone carver before completing his BA in fine art at City in Guilds. He regularly executes monuments for churches and stately homes as well as sculpting marble for contemporary artists in Cararra, Italy. His ‘own work’, not that he doesn’t commit himself to his craft, is given freer reign and a lighter subject – more often than not it is polychrome wood carving." - Marcus Harvey
For more info on Corin visit: http://www.corinjohnson.co.uk

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ARTIST # 7 Nicola Hicks
Image above: drawing by Nicola Hicks


Image above: print by Nicola Hicks


Image above: life study by Nicola Hicks

Nicola Hicks was born in London in 1960 and studied at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art. In 1995 Hicks was awarded an MBE for her contribution to the visual arts.
For more info on Nicola visit: here
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ARTIST # 8 Harry Pye
Image Above: Life Drawing by Harry Pye 1992
Image Above: Tin Tin in Deptford by Harry Pye 


Image Above: Portrait of Kenneth Williams by Harry Pye 2018

Image Above: Weird Nightmare by Harry Pye in collaboration with Rowland Smith 2017
Harry Pye has curated shows for both Elefest and Deptford X. He was recently part of the team that organised the "Inside Job" exhibition at Tate Modern
For more info click here

Monday, 26 March 2018

Phone Talking by Paul Walsh

In this café a young woman is talking. Talking to a person I can’t see. The breathless, bitty chatter of a virtual conversation. The way she sits, strokes her phone, and the way she responds when she’s finally connected to the person at the other end of the line makes me realise her primary reason for coming here is to relax by having  conversation in this café by phone. Her call is neither an interruption of something else, nor a surprise, but an intentional public act. Phone talking replaces people talking. Devices moderate connection, instead of the human ear, voice, or heart. We pare down public talk to a private blur.

***    

Public talking still exists, or course. You know the thing.Slavoj Zizek is here - come stroke his aura, watch him perform! But who enjoys such intellectual beauty contests? They solidify the depressive state you’re in. They increase isolation rather than diminish it. Sterile events in sterile rooms. No drinks. Nothing to look at, you spend a whole evening enduring a pet project kept warm in an academic hothouse. Forced to sit still and admire the knowledge-fronds towering above you (the long nouns and longer sentences extending up and beyond the jungle canopy) after a time you wish the universe would finish this meal, swallow you up and burp loudly. Captured like fish in a net, these cognitive contests gather people but there’s no idea what to do next. We huddle around an intellectual commodity, and then disperse.
Yet I’m just as guilty, because I’m drawn to these events too. Drawn to the promise of new ideas, new thinking—and perhaps change. And so I’m walking through the wind and rain into the curvaceous exoskeleton of Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Weltfor something called Rethinking Class and Class Politics Today. And the main attraction drawing us in, like bats to a cave, is the radical ultrasound of Italian post-Marxist Antonio Negri.
Rethinking Class and Class Politics Today is one session in a three-day symposium named Dangerous Conjunctures – Resituating Balibar/ Wallerstein’s Race, Nation, Class, the whole thing marking the thirty-year anniversary of Étienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein’s book Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. I discover this information from the handout provided, a document which I’m learning to decipher with no codebook to hand. I collect a magic headphone machine from the cavernous foyer, for the simultaneous translation of the event into German, Italian and English. I’m fully informed and ready for battle and so head for the auditorium. But there’s an usher at the entrance. A sentry at the intellectual gate.
‘Can I go in?’ I ask.
‘Yes, but there’s nothing happening in there yet,’ he says.
‘Good.’ I walk in.
The hall is almost empty, strangely peaceful, just the quiet hum of projectors in the background. More a church than a cave. Some of the chairs are marked RESERVED. A few minutes pass and then the panel members walk in, in pairs or small groups clutching bags, pens and papers. They greet one another, ask about the sound, timing, and drinking water. I watch the soundmen rig everyone up with radio mics. Cameramen check their angles.
There’s a framed black-and-white photo of a man on the large white table around which the panellists will sit. He’s smiling. It’s a proud picture, the kind of picture you see on a mantelpiece or in a family album. It looks odd sitting there with the unopened bottles of water, computer leads and plugs because it’s the only old object and the only human object. The bright white table toward which we all point is where the INPUTS will take place, the handout informs me—the concept of class lying unconscious, ready to be examined like a patient on an operating table—and after INPUTS there will be DISCUSSIONS.
A bell rings. People stream in just like at the opera. I want opera glasses to look more closely at everyone’s hair. Antonio Negri’s hair is magnificent.

***

                                                                      Kelly Gillespie

The event starts with some personal experiences of class. Kelly Gillespie, an anthropology lecturer from South Africa, shows us some slides. The first shows a Cecil Rhodes statue outside the University of Capetown. In March 2015, political activist Chumani Maxwele collected shit, real shit from black townships, and threw it at the statue, lighting the fuse for the Rhodes Must Fall movement that spread across the world, with calls for similar statues to be removed.
Kelly tells the story of her grandfather, the man in the framed photograph resting on the table in front of her. How he was a Cornish tin miner who came to South Africa to make a better life for himself. How he took part in a strike in the twenties for better conditions and wages, but how this strike was in support of white miners rather than all miners (black miners were confined to the low-paid, unskilled jobs). How her grandfather was able, over time, to buy property and acquire wealth, and how this acquisition of property—at the same time pushing black families out to the periphery of town—laid the foundations for her own upbringing, her university education, and successful academic career. In her life story, race and class are intimately intertwined.


Antonio Negri and Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar

Antonio Negri speaks next. In the sixties he was a young militant active in a movement which combined political work with real struggles in the factories, struggles which led to new insights outside of classical marxism. Through his experiences he realised that the concept of class didn’t work as it was meant to. The way the mainstream Left parties conceptualised class—through the outdated subject of the universal, male, proletarian factory worker—meant that their concept of classblocked change rather than facilitated it.
The struggles of Italian workers went beyond what Left parties could understand, and far beyond ‘factory-ism’. Negri explains that the intervention of women caused the concept of work itself to become plural. The Wages for Housework Campaign, with women demanding payment for the work involved in reproducing (male) labour power, started not from abstract universals but from the particular conditions of women in the home, and the importance of these conditions to Capital.
Two big struggles opened up at that time. A demand for universal wage equality – 5000 lira for workers [not that much money at the time] – with all workers getting the same wage. Then Turin’s massive Fiat Mirafiori car plant went on strike in the ‘hot autumn’ of 1969, with 50,000 workers downing tools, a key intensification of the struggle. [The strike was famous for its militant student-worker alliance and the slogan Che cosa vogliamo? Tutto! - What do we want? Everything!
Unions reacted, as did Capital. The trade unions refused demands for universal wage equality outright. Large factories started to lay workers off, and the distribution of work changed as parts of the production process were moved to different locations. The rising hegemony of a new working class, powered by the mass migration of workers from Italy’s poor south, was attacked and ultimately defeated in a long and bloody struggle. Negri says of his work during these years: ‘It was all research.’
Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar speaks next. Born in Mexico in the 1960s, she grew up with revolutions and civil wars all across the continent, and her generation of militants asked how can we engage in this process?
She speaks of the friction she found between groups. The friction between the way indigenous people—with a lived experience of colonialism—approached politics and the way leftists approached politics. This friction, and the tensions, coalitions and confrontations between indigenous people and Marxists formed a large part of her political development.
She speaks of Bolivarian miners. After the collapse of the state mining company COMIBOL in 1985 and the opening of the mining sector to foreign investment, tens of thousands of miners lose their livelihoods. These miners move to the cities to look for work and she sees the strategies they use to survive in times of economic shock. People fall back on 'fertile, productive' relationships; what she calls ‘communitarian weavings’ more than anything else.

***

The next part of the event was an attempt to rethink ‘difference’ and class—to overcome the idea of class as a homogenous thing, and reinstate it as a usable thing for political struggle.
Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar spoke first about her problems with the ‘multitude,’ which Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt have put forward as a conceptual alternative to the universal proletarian subject. She says that when struggles are open and flourishingand the multitude is in action, then everything is fine, the multitude can sustain itself. But in everyday life things are not so simple. Life has to be sustained. And so, can the concept of the multitude really fight against nation, family, and property? Antonio responds with the idea of the commons, saying that the concept of the public needs ‘to open to the commons,’ because the commons is today the terrain where new political capacities can be built.
Kelly Gillespie replies that this is all far too ‘romantic’. The political subjectivities that are produced by neoliberalism are often violent. Neighbours don’t trust each other, for example. In South Africa the idea of a commons is unrealistic. With mass migration to the cities from the Bantustans, there are ghettoes with high levels of unemployment and criminalisation. Here there’s too much mistrust and poverty for any ‘commons’ to emerge.

***

Break. We’re invited to go outside because activists have installed something outside the building, outside the shell where we sit. Walking outside the entrance to the building I see a torso on the ground in a pool of blood. Just legs blown clean off. Beside the sculpture is a sign asking us to remember the attacks in Afrin, Syria, by the Turkish army.
So we look. We consume. We go back, back in our shell. The moderator mentions the ongoing struggle of the YPG (People's Protection Units) and YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) in the Kurdish autonomous regions. A woman from the audience shouts out
What about Syria? The Syrian revolution started seven years ago and the West is letting everyone down!
The moderator, Sandro Mezzadra, thanks the audience member for the intervention. We move on. The other moderator, Verónica Gago, says that in view of previous sessions in the symposium, and the increasing violence people are experiencing, we should be talking, and thinking about self-defence.

***

The floor is open—and the audience blow all the energy out of the room. The questions and comments are for no one. Over-intellectual to the point of absurdity, what people say has little connection to what the panellists have said—we’re subjected a long round of intellectual air-blowing that sweeps high above the auditorium’s chairs, tables and bottles. We endure:
·         a long question based around the Buddhist concept of displacement
·         a meandering seven-minute mini-lecture ending with the rise of human capital by Étienne Balibar
·         a trenchant defence of traditional marxism which no one had even mentioned, let alone attacked
Everything that could be ignored was ignored. We went from personal experiences of class to delicate slices of idea-cuisine. How did we go from an intellectual wake—with at least the potential of some movement, and perhaps dancing—to a funeral?
The question I wanted to ask was this: If the Right is solving the problems thrown up by a generation of neoliberalism—problems the Right frames in terms of national identity, class, and race (the very themes of this event)—then how the hell should the Left respond?
But I didn’t ask this, because the potential space for dialogue-thought-action was soon filled by the ballooning knowledge-displays of an intellectual officer class, who make anybody who isn’t academically-minded feel like one of Edward Galeano’s “nobodies”. I left feeling like an intellectual rag-picker.
What’s dangerous about this? I’m thinking as I walk out into the cold air and see snow flakes being blown around in small circles. Why is it that so many are talking to an interlocutor that others aren’t allowed to see—connections moderated by axioms, concepts and theories rather than the urgent beating of the social, the personal, and the necessary? Theory-talk is just more phone talk; connections of ones and twos; the endless exploration of propositions; the making of abstract sand-castles while a new tide rushes, roars and rises around feet.
This has little to do with changing things but more to do with hiding and obscuring; the eclipse of the real by the intellectual; the triumph of academic faith over a politics of change, and ideas.
Phone talking. Not real talking.
But you’re just anti-theory. I’m not. I simply ask for theoretical borders to be expanded; and for theoretical border police to stand down. For the intellectual miscreants, migrants and refugees to be let in. For more voices to be heard. More stories to be told. And perhaps, a little more friction.
Because the dangerous conjuncture is right there.


                Text and images by Paul Walsh March 2018