TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts

Friday, March 30, 2018

Luther and the 95 Theses: A 500th Anniversary of Protestantism


A burgher's epitaph, St. George's Church, Nördlingen, Germany. All photos are © Andrew Wilson and Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. Please write to them for permission if you want to reproduce these photographs.

The Luther interviews with author Andrew Wilson about his book, Here I Walk, were posted on Christmas 2017 and Easter 2018. This post provides one spot to find these interviews and related links, to observe what is commonly regarded as the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

The Risen Christ with the Four Evangelists, St. Peter's Mistail, Switzerland.

Andrew Wilson’s website is here. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can buy his book at the links below.

A basket of mushrooms from the Thuringian forest.


Click here to read all Interviews on this blog.

Luther's Time Outside Time: An Interview with Andrew Wilson Part II


The hill town of Bobbio near La Spezia. All photos are © Andrew Wilson and Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. Please write to them for permission if you want to reproduce these photographs.

Happy Easter! Today, I am very pleased to continue my interview with Andrew Wilson about his book, Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. The first part of the interview is here.

This post and related articles are published here to observe the 500th anniversary of 31 October 1517, when Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. See other posts on this topic, here and here.

Andrew and his wife Sarah retraced Luther’s journey on foot from Erfurt to Rome. Luther's Roman trip occurred six or seven years before the famous events in Wittenberg. By following Luther's footsteps, the Wilsons attempted to trace his experiences prior to his involvement in the Reformation.

While the first part of the interview deals with the Wilsons’ journey on foot in Germany, this interview covers the second half of the book and Andrew’s travels with his wife in Italy.

Note: All quotations are from the paperback edition: Andrew L. Wilson, Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. Afterword by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2016.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Protestant Pilgrimage? An Interview with Andrew Wilson, Part I



To celebrate Christmas, I am very pleased to post the first part of an interview about Martin Luther with Andrew Wilson. As I noted in a previous post, this past Hallowe’en marked the 500th anniversary of the day when Luther (1483-1546) nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

Andrew has written a book which seeks the origins of that historic event in 1517. He is the author of Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. He completed his PhD at Princeton Theological Seminary and then embarked on a fascinating project to retrace Luther’s steps when the famous monk undertook his only trip to Rome, on foot, in 1510 or 1511.


Andrew’s wife, Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, accompanied Andrew on the 500th anniversary of Luther’s journey to Rome in 2010. They hiked across half of Germany, through parts of Austria and Switzerland, over the Alps, and finally across northern Italy to Rome, in a walking tour that covered one thousand miles. Their remarkable effort inspired the book, Here I Walk. Sarah wrote the book’s afterword.

The Wilsons’ travels became a practical meditation on Protestant and Catholic faiths in the Millennial world, even as they physically retraced history. Luther’s first hand experience of Rome’s corruption is usually linked with his later protest against his mother church. Did something else occur on Luther’s trip that tipped him toward the Reformation?

It was only 500 years ago, but as Andrew and Sarah discovered on their journey in 2010, the exact connections to Luther’s world are elusive. Luther’s German Europe was a place of scattered principalities, dukedoms, and free cities, not unified nation-states. In Rome, the pope was a temporal prince as well as the Church’s spiritual father, who declared wars to protect his territory; the pope also made strategic alliances with other princes. Despite these differences, the aftershocks of what Luther accomplished in response to that late medieval papal model still remain imprinted in subtle ways on communities, and on people’s minds, hearts, and souls. There are threads of connection between that time and this one, some tangible, some intangible.

The Camino de Santiago: a map of the travels of Saint James in Europe, now a famous path for pilgrims. Image Source: Manfred Zentgraf/Wiki.

Because the Wilsons wanted to follow Luther’s path to Rome, theirs was a Protestant pilgrimage. Pilgrimages were historically an anathema to most Protestants because they could not imagine them apart from efforts to acquire ‘merit’ in the eyes of God, although as I have remarked in my post on the Camino de Santiago, even atheists now go on pilgrimages. There are other religious ways to walk along the Way of Saint James than the Catholic visitation of holy sites and relics. And in fact, the Wilsons wanted their trek to be ecumenical in nature. Pilgrims’ trails are ancient paths, anchored in a prehistoric human existence. (p. 78) The Way of Saint James was an important interconnected footpath long before Saint James ever existed! This path spans a continent and responds to something eternal in human nature.

A German farming community left out produce for sale on the road, with the sign Selbstbedienung, meaning 'serve yourself' or 'self-service.'

This first part of this interview covers the Wilsons’ pilgrimage from Strasbourg to Erfurt, Germany, up to their passage through the Swiss Alps. The second part of the interview will cover their walk out of the Alps into Italy.

Note: All quotations are from the paperback edition: Andrew L. Wilson, Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. Afterward by Sarah H. Wilson. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2016. All photographs are from Andrew and Sarah Wilson's collection.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Luther's Hallowe'en


"A statue of 16th-century theologian Martin Luther stands on Marktplatz square on Oct. 20, 2016 in Wittenberg, Germany." Image Source: Time / Sean Gallup—Getty Images.

This Hallowe'en is very special, because it marks the 500th anniversary of the day when Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Germany. You can read the Theses in English, here.

Although Luther followed in the footsteps of other late medieval religious reformers such as John Wycliffe (c. 1320s-1384) and Jan Hus (1369-1415), Luther's act is considered the central moment in the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Woodcut of indulgence selling in a church from title page of On Aplas von Rom kan man wol selig werden [One Can Be Saved Without the Indulgence of Rome]. From a 1521 pamphlet. Image Source: Wiki.

The catalyst of Luther's protest was the sale of indulgences by a Dominican friar named Johann Tetzel (1465-1519). The reason Luther acted on Hallowe'en was not because of the significance of October 31st, but because he was anticipating the day that follows: November 1st, All Saints' Day. On 1 November 1517, Tetzel planned to start selling indulgences near Wittenberg, and he was famous for his abuse of the practice. The following rhyme is attributed to Tetzel:

"As soon as a coin in the coffer rings
the soul from purgatory springs."

Indulgences were chits, authorized by the pope to draw upon the virtuous power of the saints to reduce God's punishments for sins. Indulgences were believed to absolve sins of those still alive, and of souls trapped Purgatory, a No Man's Land between heaven and hell where souls worked and waited to be purified.

Through papal relations with local princes, the sale of indulgences proved a way of gathering money quickly and efficiently from poor people in Europe. Indulgence monies funded wars and big infrastructure projects. The sale of indulgences provided the money to build the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, which tourists still visit today. The same sales also supported roads, bridges, and other important construction work.

This practice was an arcane precursor to our modern system, which still conveys private funds into semi-public foundations or governmental public coffers, all in the name of humanitarianism and the public good. Behind those slogans, there remains an enduring tension between the individual citizen and the growth of violent and powerful statecraft and its satellite entities.

Thus, the issues driving Luther and his protest were more complicated than indulgences. Luther's act was part of the evolution of the modern conscience (or lack of it). Unravel the discussions on faith, and the subsequent schism inside the Roman Catholic Church helped to herald the values driving our Millennial  political and economic systems.

First page of the 1517 Basel printing of the Theses as a pamphlet. Image Source: Wiki.

This was the earliest glimmer of a democratic age. Several medieval critics had condemned venality in the Church prior to October 1517, but Luther's Theses sparked a shift in popular awareness.

Luther meant his complaints to launch a debate with Tetzel. He did not intend for his Theses to become a public manifesto, a rallying cry for the common people, and he wrote the Theses in Latin. However, they were translated into German and printed through a radical new technology - the printing press. The press had been invented in 1440 and spread thereafter through the German lands. This was how Luther's Theses were shared across Central Europe and sparked revolts by the peasants against their royal and ecclesiastical masters.

Luther, with his intent of taking worship back to the holy texts, also made the Christian faith more democratic. He translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into German, by-passing Rome's official Latin Vulgate. He wrote important hymns, such as Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), based on Psalm 46. And - in defiance of the Roman Catholic insistence on celibate priests - he got married.

This blog will discuss these issues, with an eye to showing how Luther's ideas still shape our world. I will be interviewing Andrew Wilson, who wrote Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. The book chronicles a fascinating effort by Andrew and his wife Sarah to retrace Luther's footsteps in 2010.

Andrew hypothesized that the real breach with Rome began when Luther actually visited that city in 1511. Sent on business on behalf of his order, Luther walked to Italy, starting in October 1510 from the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt.

It is obviously essential to know what Luther saw in Rome and what he thought of it, because it led to him being the Catholic Church's biggest critic in history, a mere six years later. The conventional interpretation has assumed that Luther found a cynical, corrupt and bellicose papacy, Rome as Babylon.

However, Andrew found that the documents about Luther's pilgrimage gave little solid evidence. He decided to retrace Luther's steps - in today's landscape - to find a story in the environment along Luther's pilgrim's path.

Andrew and Sarah Wilson with a statue of St. James at the Lutheran church in Oettingen-in-Bayern. Image Source: Andrew Wilson.

Together, Andrew and his wife walked over one thousand miles and documented their travels on their Website, here. Andrew explained what he discovered about Martin Luther in his book, published in 2016. That discovery, and how it relates to us now, will be the subject of upcoming posts in December.


For the whole Luther interview and all related posts, go here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

If Sin was Visible: An Interview with Dan Vyleta



Today, I am very pleased to interview novelist Dan Vyleta about his 2016 novel, Smoke; the Canadian paperback edition was released in July 2017.

Dan grew up in Germany after his family left Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s. He holds a doctorate in history from King’s College, Cambridge and has written three previous novels, Pavel & I (2008), The Quiet Twin (2011), and The Crooked Maid (2013). The Quiet Twin was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The Crooked Maid was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the 2014 J. I. Segal Award. Dan currently teaches creative writing at the University of Birmingham.



Dan’s novel Smoke is a magical historical story of Victorian England. The novel will remind readers of Charles Dickens, especially Oliver Twist, Hard Times, and Dombey and Son. As with Dickens’s novels, Smoke is a social novel which reaches a conclusion about what is wrong in society and what is right.

There is a contrast between the country and the city during the Industrial Revolution, reminiscent of Blake’s “dark Satanic mills,” except in this novel, the Victorian smoke in question comes not from factories but from people! Smoke begins at an élite school, with nods to later works: The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, and The Secret History.

There, the similarities with other authors end. Smoke begins with a quote from Dombey and Son (1848) – what if sin was visible?
“Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from the vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portion of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them … could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation!”
In Smoke, a fictionalized Victorian concern for morality conceals today’s obsession with transparency, truth, and corruption. As with other 21st century works, the historical setting really addresses Millennial problems. And the way Vyleta does this defies all expectations.

Note: All page references below are from the UK 2016 hardcover edition, published by Doubleday.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2016: Interview with Horror Film Director, Oliver Park


Vicious (2016). The lead actress is Rachel Winters. Directed, written and produced by Oliver Park. Video Source: Youtube.

Welcome to another Countdown to Hallowe'en blogathon, in which Histories of Things to Come joins hundreds of other blogs during October to count down to All Saints' Eve. Today, I am very pleased to interview UK film director Oliver Park, whom Bloody Flicks calls "the new face of horror." Park wrote, directed and produced the acclaimed short British film, Vicious (above). On 24 September 2016, he premiered his new short horror film, Still, in the UK at the Exit 6 Film Festival in a screening at the Vue Cinema in Basingstoke, Hampshire, with more screenings in coming months in the UK and USA. Originally from Bath, Park is also an award-winning actor.

Vicious is just over twelve minutes long and has won many international film awards. It scared me! Park visually quotes other horror films, but his take is new. He told TurnAbout Media about his inspirations:
"I was born in the 80’s, so I grew up with stories by M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King. Then, when I discovered horror films I quickly fell in love with films by Carpenter, Craven, Kubrick, Romero, Cronenberg, Russell, Barker and of course – Hitchcock (to name but a few). I remember being terrified by those stories and I would regret them every night as I was lying in bed unable to sleep!

My father is also a huge film fan so he introduced me to the horrors from the 50’s and 60’s, the Hammer Horror collection – and two of my all-time favourites: Night of the Demon by Jacques Tourneur and Nosferatu by F. W. Murnau.

Modern day horrors are a new breed and cannot be compared to the older ones. I love the work of Leigh Whannell and James Wan, David Robert Mitchell, Tomas Alfredson, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza and of course Hideo Nakata and Takashi Shimizu (among many, many others)."


I do not know if Park draws from film noir, but for me, the first scene in Vicious echoed Experiment in Terror (1962; online here), when a woman comes home from work late at night. The scene is similar, down to the barking dog. The woman hurries to leave the lonely street and get inside her house, where she'll be safe. In fact, the dog is warning the woman not to go inside her house.

This is where Vicious starts, at the moment when the place where we feel most secure becomes a cauldron. The film combines horror genres: the home invasion, the haunted house, mental isolation inside the four walls. Perhaps Park's secret is his relentless subliminal insistence on the invasion, even rape, of Millennial privacy; the associated thrall of home-based technologies and Internet connections leaves us trapped and subjugated. Our time wasted. Our lives squandered. Our identities frayed. Park's films may have monsters, but they are secondary to the violated spaces they occupy. There is no privacy, no safe place left. Park remarked on Still's premise:
"My stories are designed to target real life situations - it's not about a 'jump scare'. Still takes you on a journey that we all go on, but then it takes a detour and asks 'what if...'. We all think of our homes as our safe place, when in fact, they can just as easily be our prison - or worse - our tomb. You think you're safe inside - you're not. You're trapped."

Image Source: Turnabout Media.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Entropy and Immortality: An Interview with Miguel Coelho


Dr. Coelho at the Murray Lab, Harvard University. Image Source.

Today, Histories of Things to Come is very pleased to interview biochemist Dr. Miguel Costa Coelho, a Postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, who has done ground-breaking research in the field of ageing. He is based at the Lab of Professor Andrew W. Murray and the FAS Center for Systems Biology at Harvard; and he is also affiliated with the Human Frontier Science Program.

Coelho's doctoral research at the Max Planck Institute in Germany traced the way a type of yeast actually gets younger as it ages. He found that when a stressed mother cell divided, it passed on all cellular junk associated with accumulated damage (the process we know as ageing) to one daughter cell, which died shortly thereafter. This left the other daughter cell pristine. Normally, both daughter cells would inherit cellular junk, allowing damage to accumulate in both over time. Coelho likened the outcome in this study to "the eternally young and beautiful Dorian Gray, and his corrupt and damaged portrait in the attic" (public access here; the full article is here).

There we have it, published 17 June 2014: under certain conditions, these yeast cells can grow toward immortality via compartmentalization, segregation and consequent elimination of progressive cellular damage as they divide over time. This finding was widely reported in the international press.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bitcoin: Economy of the Eternal Now


De Oude Beurs, Antwerp, Belgium (Urbex photo of the ruins of the world's first modern stock exchange, Antwerp).

In May, I chatted with Chris Ellis, aka ChrisJ of Feathercoin, about how cryptocurrencies could change global economics and society (see my earlier related post here). What follows today is not exactly an interview, but reflections on some of the things we discussed. We talked mainly about Bitcoin. But one senses that it is Ellis's work on Feathercoin - an altcoin established on 16 April 2013 and originally developed by Peter Bushnell at Brasenose College, Oxford - that brings Ellis to some of Bitcoin's biggest questions, and indeed, to some of the biggest questions surrounding all cryptos.

For Ellis, an economy is a system of how we define ourselves in relation to time. In a June 2014 interview, he noted Mike Maloney's remark that the ultimate form of money is time, the ultimate irreversible transaction.

Bitcoin is above all a technology of its blockchain, a time-stamped ledger either of economic transactions, or of interactions in Bitcoin's non-currency applications. According to Ellis, Bitcoin is really "a great big unstoppable clock." And that means that Bitcoin represents a watershed moment, the start of a change in how we understand time technologically, economically, socially and culturally.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Interview: Heidi Hecht, Mars One Candidate


Panorama under a pink sky at the NASA Mars Pathfinder landing site, 12 October 1998. Image Source: Dr. Timothy Parker / JPL / NASA.

At some point between the moon landing and Survivor, space colonization became a media event about amateur astronauts. In the rush to have humans land on Mars, the first trip will likely be one way only (see here and here) - and fully televised.

A manned Mars mission is vastly expensive and technologically demanding. The list of manned missions which never materialized is long. Telepresence proposals involved astronauts reaching Mars and studying the planet only from orbit.  NASA has a manned Mars mission scheduled for around 2030. But Mars One, a Dutch non-profit co-founded by Gen Xers Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, aims to beat them to the punch, sending its first four-person team by 2025, with five more four-colonist teams to follow by 2035.

Terraforming Mars is expected to take one thousand years. Image Source: ScienceBlogs.

Mars One sent out a global recruitment call from 22 April 2013 until 31 August 2013. Out of 200,000 applicants, 705 candidates remain in the Mars One selection pool. Final selection is expected by July 2015. By now, older applicants have already withdrawn. Most applicants are members of Generation Y: they are largely under the age of 36 and well educated. Of the 705 pre-interview candidates, 313 are from the Americas; 187 are from Europe; 136 hail from Asia; 41 come from Africa; and 28 are from Oceania.

Mars One organizers plan to fund the project by covering the candidates' Round 3 selection, training, preparation and departure in the biggest reality TV and Internet spectacle in the history of modern media. The show will have to raise USD $6 billion. Mars One takes its media model from the Olympics, which raised USD $8 billion between 2009 and 2011. Lionsgate was initially slated to produce the show. Those production rights have now passed to Darlow Smithson Productions, whose strengths lie in "factual storytelling to an international audience." Darlow Smithson is owned by the unfortunately homophonously-named company, Endemol (end 'em all). Wiki: "Endemol created and runs reality and talent game show franchises worldwide, including Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, Wipeout, The Money Drop, and Your Face Sounds Familiar."

Today, Histories of Things to Come is pleased to interview Mars One candidate, Heidi Hecht, about her application to travel to Mars. Heidi told me:
"My main attraction to Mars One is that it’s giving ordinary people a chance to prove they have what it takes to handle space work and especially the colonization of other worlds. If it works out, it’ll show that space travel doesn’t have to be just for rich people paying for rides or an elite few who do it professionally. Sure, it’s hazardous, but have you ever tried to cross the street in New York City? It’s about being willing to choose what I’m risking my life for."
Heidi studied computer networking and she is also a blogger. Her blog, Nothing in Particular, covers her Mars One experience here. She has a great post on time-keeping on Mars, which mentions the Mars watch crafted by master watchmaker, Garo Anserlian; she also discusses the Martian year, marked by the signs of the Zodiac, which was the basis of the Martian Darian calendar.

Mars One habitat. Image Source: NBC.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interview: Thomas Haller Buchanan on the Millennial Humanist Renaissance


Acta non Verba by Robert McCall (1919-2010).

Today, I'm delighted to interview Thomas Haller Buchanan, blogger at The Pictorial Arts, which is an oasis of light and beauty on the Web. Thom is also a professional illustrator. Buchanan's focus on art and visual culture is now finding expression through a new online journal: The Pictorial Arts Journal. The journal makes its grand debut online today, here, and this interview supports its launch. 

An additional publication is found at the same site, Delineated Life, which is an online magazine celebrating one special artist and their work per issue. The first issue of Delineated Life celebrates the 100th birthday of Pogo creator Walt Kelly (1913–1973).

In this interview, I ask Thom some questions about his new publications and what they mean in terms of Millennial optimism. The debut issue of the The Pictorial Arts Journal describes a continuity of visual culture from the Renaissance through to the modern period, especially the Renaissance-era value of humanism. Thom's journals are dedicated to reviving a new form of humanism suitable to our times.

To read a definition of humanism to which Thom refers in the interview, see Professor Paul Kurtz's Humanist Manifesto 2000 (here).

Pictorial Arts Journal cover © Thomas Haller Buchanan.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Interview: Colin Hall's Real Life X-File



In the past few years of blogging, I have seen some bizarre things on the Internet. Conspiracy theories have always been around, but since the turn of the Millennium, they have proliferated online to create a new kind of post-Postmodern folklore. Along with users' feverish circulation and misalignment of data, the Internet erodes the line between real and virtual, between fact and fiction.

Irrationalizations pose as quasi-rationalizations. The ideas which have sprung out of this mindset have become increasingly counter-intuitive and counter-factual: you have, to name a few, 9/11 truthers and associated chatter around Osama bin Laden's death and the purported deaths of the Navy SEAL team members who invaded his compound (this, despite the fact that the man who shot bin Laden was recently interviewed by Esquire); Illuminati New World Order fear mongers; and Bigfoot hunters. There are people who do not believe the moon landings took place, or that there are sinister reasons why we never went back to the moon (besides money and politics?). There are even people who seriously think that Queen Elizabeth II is descended from a race of lizard aliens!

In a way, what Web cultists fear is less important than the fact that their off-kilter belief systems foster new communities online. The Web turns social alienation on its head, so that the marginalized come together in interesting ways, as with the case of Preppers and computer hackers.

At the same time, we would be naive if we did not acknowledge that governments, corporations and practically every major organization have not appreciated the value of the Web for propagandistic, marketing and political purposes over the past fifteen years. The 'Web' might become just that: a tight knot of social control. Part of that control may stem from our willingness to believe the unverifiable, the fantastic, the strange - even though right now, weirder online beliefs are associated with anti-establishment attitudes.

Most outlandish Web myths are just surreal popular entertainment. However, the more unsettling stories occupy grey areas and test our ability to verify fact and fiction.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Interview: Generation Y: Real World Praise, Virtual Control



I am pleased today to interview Matthew Duhamel. He is a writer and animator who recently wrote an opinion piece (here) at the Website Kotaku. The piece is entitled: All My Life I Was Told I Was Special. It Was A Lie.

Matthew, thank you for doing an interview with Histories of Things to Come to follow up on your Kotaku piece. You spoke in general terms about your age group. Your background chimes with some of the experiences commonly associated with Millennials. Therefore, I’ll include some generational questions, even though obviously an individual perspective can’t pinpoint group attitudes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Interview with Chris Flodberg: Apocalypses, Catharses and Serenity


Double Image Catharsis (2005).

It’s my pleasure today to interview a young Canadian painter, Chris Floodberg, whose work resonates with many of the concerns of our times. You can see the full gallery of his work at his Website here.

ToB: Chris, thank you for talking to Histories of Things to Come about your paintings from the past Millennial decade. You received a lot of attention for your 2004-2005 series, Matters of Denial. The painting above, Double Image Catharsis, is an example of apocalyptic scenes that you presented, of a devastated, haunted and gutted society. Many of the richly-coloured paintings feature opulent settings and half-eaten feasts, as the viewer comes to the leftovers after the party is done and nightmarish urban scenes have surrounded the table.

To start, I was thinking about the painting title, Double Image Catharsis. Is there a metaphorical duality embedded in the Matters of Denial series – two perceptions, two realities? I wondered if these pieces present a viewpoint from the other side of the looking glass. That is, are they mirrors, which, when held up to a brightly packaged reality, show ruined truths? And if the paintings do reflect an ‘other’ or alienated voice, was there an implied generational shift in perspective here?

Chris Flodberg: I don’t like to think of the paintings as having one fixed interpretation. I think of them as fin de siècle narratives; the picked over foods, messy tables, and destroyed backgrounds could be a collective metaphor for the end of abundance and optimism. The viewer is left to pick up the pieces so to speak, and consider how to find meaning, or at least negotiate a relevant position for themselves in a world ravaged by excesses carried over from the past. Giant oil paintings are inherently decadent as objects, and there is an unavoidable irony in the work. The pieces critique gluttony, but only the wealthy may own them. I find this really interesting, and often humorous. I’m surprised that anyone would hang such a negative indictment of themselves in their own home.

Freakish Acts of Nature and Other Distractions (2004).

ToB: Of course, you painted these pieces when a lot of people were still riding high and the early Millennial boom was on. Have you found that people look at your Matters of Denial series differently now, perhaps as prescient, given post-2008 Recession attitudes?

Chris Flodberg: The paintings definitely play into a particular paranoia and cynicism that evolved out of the geopolitical and economic conditions of the past 5 years. At the time they were painted, the images struck a chord in many viewers and seemed to echo their own post-911 anxieties. While the paintings poke at real, immediate events, I don’t think of them as being historically specific. The dramas that play out in the paintings are ancient and persistent. Hopefully the paintings will always be relevant.

Waiting for Simon (2007).

ToB: In your artist’s statement, you remark: “In a world where newness has become a value in and of itself, I am more moved by the compliment that what I am doing technically feels like something from the past, while embodying something that is currently relevant.” Your piece from 2003, ‘Fruit, From Orchard Trees and Other Myths,’ has a Renaissance quality, but the title disarms that stylistic choice. The Matters of Denial series offers late Renaissance still lifes against Baroque and Neoclassical versions of Postmodern backdrops. Did you ultimately merge artistic styles in a neo-historical way? Did your choices of styles from different eras intentionally portray a temporal disconnect?

Chris Flodberg: I’ve always loved old museum paintings. My impulse as a painter has been to emulate the bravura and painterly skill of the masters. In terms of style, the language is fundamentally descriptive and ultimately aligned with pre-impressionist 19th century painters. This kind of painting is showy direct, and flourishy, which I think suits the themes. I don’t think of the paintings as having mixed styles in so far as technique, but I do see various references to different historical subjects mashing together with entirely current images.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 2: Urban Exploration



English Urban Explorer, Phill Davison.

Urban Exploration (Urbex), stretches back about twenty years in its current form. With the aid of photo-sharing sites like Flickr, a whole generation of intrepid Urban Explorers are uncovering corners of history in our cities and sharing them with us. They enter sealed properties, abandoned locations, forgotten dwellings, shut up institutions, and closed industrial sites; they photograph neglected infrastructure and crumbling transportation networks.

In Britain, this is a movement that recalls amateur exploration of municipal development in the nineteenth century, which became the founding inspiration for many important charitable organizations, such as the Fabians and the Salvation Army. Today’s explorers are not driven explicitly by politics and religion, as their nineteenth century forebears were. Some Urban Explorers are interested primarily in the aesthetics of abandoned places, others show civic devotion to their own municipalities. Still, their work provides a key to new sensibilities. They reject the ‘throwaway’ mentality of rampant urbanization. They are witnesses of recent urban developments that are undocumented in the archives – and largely unexamined by the universities. Of course, urban decay is a trend that, for the most part, civil and institutional authorities are not keen to share. Urbex covers the ‘secret history’ of our cities over the past few decades and show the end results of recent municipal policy-making. The decline of old institutions, schools, railways, barracks, asylums and many other public buildings and structures is a trend that few people grasp as a general phenomenon. Yet Urbex is a growing pastime in many developed countries precisely because that decline is a general problem.


When Urbex images appear in Survival Horror videogames and movies such as Silent Hill, younger gamers likely don’t realize that they are looking at images taken from reality, not fantasy. Their games transmit a grim, largely unacknowledged problem in many cities.




Today, I’m privileged to interview Urban Explorer Phill Davison, who hails from Leeds and who has devoted his considerable talents as a photographer to capturing the concealed areas of that city and abandoned parts of Northern England. Phill has already enjoyed press coverage by the BBC; in the Yorkshire Evening Post (see the story online here) and at the blog The Post Hole.

Phill has over 1,800 photos posted on his website at Flickr here; his My Space page is here, with his main explorations listed here.