A warning from Anthropology

In fact, a warning not just from Anthropology: Scholars in various disciplines including philosophy as well as anthropology have reprised Walter Benjamin’s concern that ‘cultures’ – along with their ideas and manifestations of progress – are built on the ‘rubble’ of the past. For example, one ageing political philosopher reported that he had ‘already’ lived through six philosophical fashions each of which proposed the fatal shortcomings of any that had preceded them. The anthropologists warn us not to be quite so ready to find fault with past achievements; one obvious example is the doctrine of human rights which lies at the heart of humanism.

I was reminded of all this when I saw the riveting film, ‘Barbara Rubin and the NY (New York) underground explosion‘. In effect, the film demonstrated the experimental ‘no-holds barred’ extraordinary achievements of the young film maker during her relatively brief moments of film-making in New York City (and New York state) during the 1960s. In a way Rubin conformed to Benjamin’s observation in the sense that she was committed to breaking the established conventions in which art might have found itself – but, at the same time, the film also shows us how a rather more diffident art-making culture has now come to displace the sheer brazen inventiveness of the alternative or ‘counter-culture’ that once held sway more than 50 years ago. I was re-invigorated by the film and my first response was to buy an old vintage copy of International Times. I would like to re-present some of that older style of communicating. It certainly would make for a great deal of fun and the delights of expressing a more genuine creative freedom.

And always the problem of ‘identity’ (after Barbara Rubin)

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