Modern Gothic, politics and plague



The BBC  documentary embedded here has proven to be a rather unexpected angle and source of investigation in my current research. It was sent to me by a film maker friend as a follow up to a conversation about Carl Marx, and Capitalism. I have only just gotten round to watching it.

And after making copious largely illegible notes on the film (which I shall include in this post) I Find myself genuinely inspired by the myriad of links that the video creates with both my current research and practice.

My initial idea for this blog was a link both my readings of Bourdieu back through to Marx- then stepping out into Max Weber’s ideas of Capitalism finding it’s ideological genesis within the protestant religion. Well It may seem a long and winding route but I do feel I need more of this background philosophical research to enter into the dialogues in my own work not least of all a film that looks at the modern world and seeks to critique some of its systemic failures both socially and ethically.

So back to the film from good old Aunty such a hot bed of radicalism! Roughly starting at 11mins In, This film begins to look at how Bramstokers Dracula mirrors an overall fear within people of the birth of modern age, creating a link through Carl marx’s use of the metaphor of Capitalism as vampirism of the workers.


‘Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him’. (Marx, 1984)


It then links Marx through to the 19th century founder of the arts and craft movement William Morris (1896) Who as one of the first Englishmen to read ‘Das Kapital’, began applying Ideas from Marx into the creative making and selling (shades of our current climate and recent lectures me thinks) The idea central to this is quality over quantity (not mass produced) and keeping the maker at the heart of the process from making to selling. Even if this lead to the work being inaccessible to all but the middle and upper classes.

William Morris

So of I go again, finding connective inspiration through this video. Moving this time to to John Ruskin The other Writer that inspired William Morris and his ideas on the aesthetic of the gothic, it is interesting perhaps that these three meant are linked in a loose ideological sense to Marx since Ruskin’s call for a return to spiritual aesthetics and ideas from the middle ages is so far from Marx’s idea of religion as opium of the masses.


But I am indeed going off on another ramble, and the avenues which are many and intriguing all, need to be brought back to my own practice and ideas. So following on the tangential links that at times feel both delicate and powerful. The film moved back into the Bramstoker connection with emerging technology, not least of all a suggestion that within Dracula there exists an almost paranoid fear of the ability of these new forms of technological reproduction the camera, the Phonograph, to create ghosts of the dead. This idea of being suspended between living and dead is central to my own ideas on viewing the space and character in my film. It is also a link between the idea of the ghost in the machine the use of a technology that achieves this phantasmagorical feat whilst linking character, space and place.


To make this connection more plain I want to wander off from the text for a moment and talk about my idea for 3 short films linked not just by a theme that of living in an age of consumerism and the challenges that this produces. But also how by linking a film that is predominantly engaging us through a space, one that engages on a temporal level, and one that looks at sense of place, or position perhaps, that is to say where we are positioned or position ourselves both in society and our relationship with and perception of reality.

By linking all of these three films together through a recognition of our current enslavement to the current obsession with time I hope to link back to much more direct issues: mental health or wellbeing, Challenges to the natural environment through our our loss of connection with it.

Perhaps a ramble is sometimes necessary to relocate us to our current position and then be able to navigate from there!

John Ruskin

The links keep on stacking up taking us back through Ruskin his use of river as metaphor for our mirror to our own monstrosity and that off our societies, which I am breaking deliberately when my character enters the water  in effect breaking the mirror (of ocean this time) at the end of  Low Season.

I would like to also claim a link between my work and T.S. Elliot ‘The wasteland’ But it is more surreptitious for me the other way round, I wrote down the poems title in an old note book to add onto my reading list after seeing an interesting chap reading it on the train home from college one day. I was building ides for my final piece on the film Ba and felt intrigued to dip within its pages, even the title seemed to conjure ideas about the film I was making, little did I know.


T.S. Elliot continues the strain of body of water as mirror of our own failings and as is mentioned the cinematic qualities of this poem are undeniable.

“Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear”
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

I want to continue linking this to Joseph Conrad ‘heart of Darkness’ both commenting on Imperialism the foundation stone of modern capitalism, and on into other references not mentioned here like Francis ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse now’, but the links are becoming mycelium and the blog ponderous and long!

Suffice to say this sweeping swooping fairground ride through 19th century art and philosophy has given me a blast of inspiration, and perhaps, outside of my clunky written attempts at linking these ideas and inspirations, a necessary chunk (albeit limited) of historical context.




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