January 12, 2017
[politics] BBC’s Adam Curtis: How Propaganda Turned Russian Politics Into Theater
… This, from Adam Curtis seems pertinent somehow …
So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing, and above all, confusing. To which the only response is to say, “oh dear.” What this film is going to suggest is that that defeatist response has become a central part of a new system of political control. And to understand how this is happening, you have to look to Russia, to a man called Vladislav Surkov, who is a hero of our time.
Surkov is one of President Putin’s advisers, and has helped him maintain his power for 15 years, but he has done it in a very new way.
He came originally from the avant-garde art world, and those who have studied his career, say that what Surkov has done, is to import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.
His aim is to undermine peoples’ perceptions of the world, so they never know what is really happening.
Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theater. He sponsored all kinds of groups, from neo-Nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to President Putin.
But the key thing was, that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing, which meant that no one was sure what was real or fake. As one journalist put it: “It is a strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused.”
December 14, 2016
[docu] Is the Art World Responsible for Trump? Filmmaker Adam Curtis on Why Self-Expression Is Tearing Society Apart
… another interview with BBC documentary maker Adam Curtis
… ‘I believe you can be clever whilst also being very clear and imaginative for ordinary people. You can do it by being funny sometimes, by using music that people like, and by writing very simply and very clearly. But you can’t make ordinary people out to be chumps—I come from a working class community, and I know they’re really clever. They may feel completely isolated and fed up and pissed off, but they’re not stupid. They’re angry, and they were given a giant, big button that said “Fuck off” on it, and they pressed it. And I think the same thing happened in the Midwest, in your country. They didn’t believe Trump’s stories, they were just given this button—and they pressed it.’
November 4, 2016
… go watch this long, new, iPlayer documentary from Adam Curtis … ‘Our world is strange and often fake and corrupt. But we think it’s normal because we can’t see anything else. HyperNormalisation – the story of how we got here.’
October 13, 2016
[docu] Hypernormalisation: Adam Curtis on chatbots, AI and Colonel Gaddafi
… Adam Curtis interviewed by Andrew Orlowski about his new documentary
Rather than deal with something complicated, Western powers found that Gadaffi who had until then been isolated and ignored by the Arab world, fitted the bill of a cartoon villain.
“Gadaffi illustrates, like a flash of lightening on a dark night, just how corrupt, how hypocritical, and how empty of values our middles class elites have become,” Curtis told us. “It was quite shocking to me. It’s just rubbish that he had WMDs. There were no biological weapons and he’d got a a centrifuge but none of his people knew how to put it together – it was in boxes.”
But after being demonised in the 1980s and 1990s, Gadaffi finds himself rehabilitated.
“After the Gulf War all these people go out and make him into a modern thinker: David Frost, Anthony Giddens, even Lionel Ritchie went out there, and said Gadaffi was good. Then, after they Arabs Spring he was a villain again, so they just dropped him.”
“I was thinking of making a sort of comedy…
February 13, 2015
[curtis] Infinite Adam Curtis
… go watch a perfectly done, never-ending Adam Curtis documentary … ‘Four hundred times a second, on the Moon, Condoleezza Rice tried to undermine Marilyn Monroe. A tipping point which would later be disastrous for those who study their careers…’
January 20, 2015
[tv] Jon Ronson in Conversation with Adam Curtis
… Curtis discusses his Bitter Lake
– his new film … ‘I found a man in the [BBC Archives] who spends his time recording the bits in between the programmes when they are broadcast. He writes down in detail all the announcements and the trailers, plus all the bits where things go wrong. So far his log of this stuff has got to 7,500 pages. He’s convinced that we don’t really understand television. He says the idea that you can break television up into discrete programmes is wrong. He believes television is really one long construction of a giant story out of fragments of recorded reality from all over the world that is constantly added to every day, and has been going on for 70 years. But what really opened things up for me was the realisation that there was an even further forgotten source of images. Not in London, but hidden all over the world. A BBC news cameraman called Phil Goodwin came to me and told me that the BBC offices in major cities have kept all their recorded footage in cupboards and store rooms. There are hundreds of tapes of what are called rushes – the original, unedited material from which news reports are created. And they were just lying there…’
May 9, 2014
[docu] Fail better
… another Adam Curtis
After the broadcast of Curtis’s 2007 film The Trap, which traced the influence of game theory – the idea that humans behaved as self-interested individuals – on contemporary economic thought, Prospect magazine’s Max Steuer argued that the series “greatly exaggerates the power of ideas, and at the same time almost wilfully misrepresents them”. Others made similar criticisms of All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace, which linked the anti-state philosophy of Ayn Rand with the “techno-utopians” who developed modern computing. At the very least, don’t his films encourage precisely that gloomy feeling – a sense that power is in the hands of an unaccountable elite – that so exercises him?
“Well, I am a creature of my time,” he concedes. We’ve found our way to a café in the shopping centre near Thamesmead, where we can chat at greater length. “What I’ve been trying to do is analyse why progressive ideas failed.
“Secondly, I’m interested in telling stories, because I like telling stories and I think ideas are important. I take particular influences of particular groups of people as a way of showing how that idea spread out. I never say this is where it all came from, this shadowy group of people. I’m telling you a story, like a novelist would, but as a factual story to try and bring it to life to you.”
March 4, 2014
[curtis] Adam Curtis: “We don’t read newspapers because the journalism is so boring”
… another interview with Adam Curtis … ‘So much of the way the present world is managed is through – not even systems – its organizations, which are boring. They don’t have any stories to tell. Economics, for example, which is central to our life at the moment … I just drift off when people talk about collateralised debt obligations, and I am not alone. It’s impossible to illustrate on television, it’s impossible to tell a story about it, because basically it’s just someone doing keystrokes somewhere in Canary Wharf in relation to a server in … I dunno … Denver, and something happens, and that’s it. I use the phrase, ‘They are unstoryfiable’. Journalism cannot really describe it any longer, so it falls back onto its old myths of dark enemies out there.’
January 31, 2013
[tv] Looking Beneath The Waves
… another Adam Curtis interview … ‘The great wonder of our time is also a disease of our time: the desire to experience things for ourselves. It’s just the thing at the moment, what we don’t want is to be told stuff. We don’t like elites any longer because we’re all like each other. We want to know it ourselves, we want to feel it. It’s partly due to the rise of individualism. But what we get to is what I call the “duchess paradox”, where everyone is now a duchess in society. The real problem with that is that if you’re all duchesses then what’s the point of being a duchess? Everyone’s a celebrity now. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, they want to be treated like celebrities. They want to go to spas, they want to get married in big, posh houses. People will pay for VIP tickets to concerts. It’s extraordinary. Everyone is desperately searching for where it’s at. The point is there is nowhere it’s at – “it” simply just doesn’t exist. It’s the great tragedy for that generation: they just want to experience something.’
February 21, 2012
[curtis] Interview With Adam Curtis (Part 1): ‘…my working theory is that we live in a managerial age, which doesn’t want to look to the future. It just wants to manage the present. A lot of art has become a way of looking back at the last sixty years of the modernist project, which we feel has failed. It’s almost like a lost world, and we are cataloging it, quoting it, reconfiguring it, filing it away into sliding drawers as though we were bureaucrats with no idea what any of it means. They’ve got nothing to say about it except that they know it didn’t work. It’s not moving onwards—we’re just like academic archaeologists. It’s terribly, terribly conservative and static, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe in a reactionary, conservative age, that’s what art finds itself doing. The problem is that it pretends to be experimental and forward-looking. But to be honest, in some ways I’m just as guilty. What I do is not so different—using all sorts of fragments from the past to examine the present. Maybe this is simply the iron cage of our time—we’re like archaeologists going back into the recent past, continually refiguring it, surrounding it with quotations. It’s a terrible, terrible prison, but we don’t know how to break out of it.’
July 9, 2011
[notw] Rupert Murdoch – A Portrait Of Satan
… great collection of archive material on Rupert Murdoch
from Adam Curtis – guest starring Robert Maxwell
and Woodrow Wyatt
Then – in 1995 – Murdoch begins to change. He decides he likes Tony Blair and tells [Woodrow] Wyatt he may support him at the coming election. Wyatt can’t believe it. He had thought that Murdoch would always support the Conservatives.
And then Murdoch does something worse. He tells the editor of the News of the World to cut back on the column that he had allowed Wyatt to write every week.
Wyatt is in despair. There is a wonderful moment in the diaries when Wyatt sleeps all night on the floor of his study next to the phone waiting for Murdoch to ring.
He never does.
June 20, 2011
[docu] The Loving Trap
… perfectly done parody/hatchet job of Adam Curtis. [via Meg
June 12, 2011
[ilike] A Near Perfect Guardian Headline
… ‘Adam Curtis To Make TV Project Inspired By The Wire’
June 2, 2011
[docu] How The ‘Ecosystem’ Myth Has Been Used For Sinister Means
… Adam Curtis on the history behind self-organising systems … ‘Field Marshal Smuts was one of the most powerful men in the British empire. He ruled South Africa for the British empire and he exercised power ruthlessly. When the Hottentots refused to pay their dog licences Smuts sent in planes to bomb them. As a result the black people hated him. But Smuts also saw himself as a philosopher – and he had a habit of walking up to the tops of mountains, taking off all his clothes, and dreaming up new theories about how nature and the world worked.’
May 29, 2011
[docu] Adam Curtis: The Rise of the Machines
… Andrew Orlowski interviews Adam Curtis … ‘I’ve always wanted to make a film about managerialism. It’s impossible, because with managers nothing really happens. What I’m dealing with here is the ideology behind managerialism. Behind all this, behind the flipchart, is the idea that you’re nodes in a system, and ‘our job’ is to keep things stable.’
May 24, 2011
[tv] Grace Dent On Adam Curtis’ All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace
… ‘And look at me, I’m so happy. Twitter alone has given me retinal migraine issues, RSI and cajoled me into believing I am a free-thinking revolutionary fanning flames of liberty in Iran, Libya and Syria, when in fact I’m just a woman in pyjamas, hugging an Intel Pentium processor, waiting for Ocado to fetch more olives. Up the revolution … oooh, have these got pimentos in them? Yum, yum, slurp.’
May 11, 2011
[tv] Adam Curtis – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
… promotional trail for Adam Curtis’ latest documentary … ‘WE DREAMED THE SYSTEMS COULD STABILISE THEMSELVES THROUGH FEEDBACK.’
May 10, 2011
[docu] Have computers taken away our power?
… Adam Curtis on his new documetary series “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace” …
The central idea [of All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace] leads Curtis on a journey, taking in the chilling über-individualist novelist Ayn Rand, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, the “new economy”, hippy communes, Silicon Valley, ecology, Richard Dawkins, the wars in Congo, the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory, and the computer model of the eating habits of the pronghorn antelope.
You can see why Zoe Williams once wrote that, while watching one of Curtis’s programmes, “I kept thinking the dog was sitting on the remote.”
May 5, 2011
[ObL] For 10 Years, Osama bin Laden Filled A Gap Left By The Soviet Union. Who Will Be The Baddie Now?
… Adam Curtis On The Death Of ObL … ‘With Bin Laden’s death maybe the spell is broken. It does feel that we are at the end of a way of looking at the world that makes no real sense any longer. But the big question is where will the next story come from? And who will be the next baddie?’
[via Feeling Listless
July 5, 2010
[science] The Undead Henrietta Lacks And Her Immortal Dynasty
… Adam Curtis has posted his BBC documentary on the story of Henrietta Lacks
on to his blog
… ‘Henrietta Lacks’ cells are immortal.’
May 21, 2010
[tv] Eye of the storm: Adam Curtis, the BBC’s in-house provocateur
… long engrossing profile / interview of Adam Curtis
‘It can be hard to identify the cinematic progenitors of the Curtis aesthetic because his films sometimes seem like outward manifestations of the world wide web. His projects reorganise and remix previously existing material with new interviews and fieldwork into a new kind of narrative, one that seems analogous to a web browser with 20 tabs open at once. They debunk the utopian ideologies of earlier eras while offering grand, unifying narratives to make sense of our current hyperlinked universe, and succeed to the extent that viewers can keep several complicated arguments in their heads at once. After one emerges from the hypnotic sway of a Curtis film, it can take several days of reflection and research to assess the validity of his arguments.’
February 23, 2010
[politics] Adam Curtis On How All Of Us Have Become Richard Nixon
… ‘Just like him we have all become paranoid weirdos.’ (more…)
December 12, 2009
[curtis] Dubai 1975
… Adam Curtis digs up some intriguing footage of Dubai in 1975 from the BBC Archive
… ‘It is a glimpse of Dubai just before it started to become the strange fantasy world it is today. It has a great creepy British under-secretary for foreign affairs, plus very good tartan fashions.’
October 21, 2009
[tv] Adam Curtis Uncovers The Secrets Of Helmand
… Adam Curtis interviewed by Andrew Orlowski … ‘Documentaries, and a lot of television now, is possessed by the mantra that people will only watch your film, or listen to your program, if it “touches something in them”. So the reporting has to find something in Afghanistan that’s some terrible thing that has happened “to somebody like you, or just like your child”. It’s done with the best intentions, and a certain kind of desperation to keep an audience. But it makes it more and more incomprehensible. Because it becomes a land full of victims and out there in the darkness, dark forces we don’t understand.’
July 24, 2009
[curtis] It Felt Like a Kiss – The Film
… Adam Curtis’ new experimental film is available to view for a short time exclusively from his blog … ‘When a nation is powerful it tells the world confident stories about the future. The stories can be enchanting or frightening. But they make sense of the world. But when that power begins to ebb… the stories fall apart…’
June 22, 2009
[curtis] Charlie Brooker on Adam Curtis’ latest projects
TV industry! Here’s a little bombshell for you. From now on, all of Curtis’s work will be produced first and foremost for the internet. It will be hosted at bbc.co.uk/adamcurtis (coming soon). Go there to find a trailer for It Felt Like A Kiss. An hour-long cut of the whole thing will be placed on the site on the last day of the Manchester International Festival (MIF). It will also host his next two projects: “A long thing about our complicated relationship to the Congo over the last 100 years and how our idea of nature as a sacred yet terrifying realm has risen up during that same time.” That will be followed by a piece about “the political and cultural ideas that underlie the internet – and the idea that we are all linked in an interconnected web – out of which can come a new form of democracy.”
[tv] Adam Curtis’ Blog
… the BBC documentary maker behind The Power of Nightmares
and The Way of All Flesh
starts blogging … ‘This is a website expressing my personal views – through a selection of opinionated observations and arguments. I’ll be including stories I like, ideas I find fascinating, work in progress and a selection of material from the BBC archives.’
November 22, 2007
[tv] The TV elite has lost the plot
— Adam Curtis interviewed by Andrew Orlowski … ‘Mark Ravenhill who wrote a very good piece which said that if you analyse television now it’s a system of guidance – it tells you who is having the Bad Feelings and who is having the Good Feelings. And the person who is having the Bad Feelings is redeemed through a “hugs and kisses” moment at the end. It really is a system not of moral guidance, but of emotional guidance. Morality has been replaced by feeling.’
March 14, 2007
[tv] Metafilter discuss Adam Curtis’s The Trap
… My feeling was that the ‘secret history’ aspect of the docos has deliberately given the nod to the idea that in some sense there are an infinite number of secret histories, but perhaps that’s my preconceptions interfering.”
March 11, 2007
[tv] Cry freedom
— Preview of Adam Curtis’s The Trap
… ‘”I realise what I said at some times may have over-emphasised rationality,” an elderly John Nash tells Curtis in an extraordinary interview, after emerging from years of battling schizophrenia. “Human beings are much more complicated than the human being as a businessman.” In fact, the documentary notes sardonically, experiments show that only two kinds of people behave like perfect little economists in every arena of life: economists themselves, and psychopaths.’
[tv] Charlie Brooker on Adam Curtis’s The Trap – What Happened To Our Dream Of Freedom?
(on BBC2, tonight, 9 PM) … ‘Curtis has an uncanny knack for hovering coolly above recent world history and spotting huge, sweeping, disturbing trends, then recounting them in a way that feels subversive and playful, thoughtful and entertaining, all at once. He has an incredible eye for archive footage, assembling one haunting montage after another, apparently from thin air. His programmes unfold like a series of revelations; watching one is like having all your slumbering suspicions about the world – suspicions so dormant you didn’t even realise they were suspicions – confirmed and explained for the very first time.’
February 26, 2007
[quote] Arthur Miller Quote on Suffering and Psychoanalysis: ‘My argument with so much of psychoanalysis, is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness. When in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know, have come out of people’s suffering. The problem is not to undo suffering, or to wipe it off the face of the earth, but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to “cure” ourselves of it constantly, and avoid it, and avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call “happiness”. There’s too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him – of defining him, rather than letting him go! It’s part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad!’
(Spotted on Adam Curtis’ documentary Century of the Self
April 29, 2006
[film] It Becomes a Self-fulfilling Thing
— a discussion between Errol Morris
and Adam Curtis
… ‘Where people do set out to have conspiracies, they don’t ever end up like they’re supposed to. History is a series of unintended consequences resulting from confused actions, some of which are committed by people who may think they’re taking part in a conspiracy, but it never works out the way they intended.’
[via Kottke’s Links
May 18, 2005
[documentary] The film US TV networks Dare Not Show
— the Guardian on Power of Nightmares
being shown at Cannes … ‘The film is […] incendiary for its analysis of what Curtis controversially insists is the largely illusory fear of terrorism in the west since 9/11. Curtis argues that politicians such as Bush and Blair have stumbled on a new force that can restore their power and authority – the fear of a hidden and organised web of evil from which they can protect their people. In a still-traumatised US, those with the darkest nightmares have become the most powerful and Curtis’s film castigates the media, security forces and the Bush administration for extending their power in this way.’
May 2, 2005
[tv] Cannes to screen BBC’s Nightmares
— the BBC documentary Power of Nightmares
is to be remade as a film … ‘The BBC Two series questioned whether the threat of terrorism to the West was a politically-driven fantasy, winning a Bafta TV award among other prizes. Its three one-hour episodes are being edited into a single two-and-a-half hour movie by producer Adam Curtis after the festival asked to screen it.’