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Tuesday, April 15, 2008


A post-war taxonomy. The NATO Codification System is a means of classifying practical any object imaginable, with a view to easing the complex chain of military logistics between the member states of NATO, 'based on a "One Item of Supply, One NATO Stock Number" concept'. The artist Suzanne Treister has used NATO Supply Classification in her work: 'Within the codification system the NATO Supply Classification (NSC) uses a four-digit coding structure. The first two digits of the code number identify the Group, eg. Group 77 - Musical Instruments, Phonographs, and Home-Type Radios, whilst the last two digits of the code number identify the Classes within the Group, eg. 7710 - Musical Instruments (complete).' See samples above: (NSC) 8830 (Boogie Woogie shoes), (NSC) 9915 (St Edward's Crown), and (NSC) 7730 (Volga Russian Tube Electrophone, 1967)). Treister is soon to publish her work in a book from Black Dog Publishers.

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Elsewhere, our fears eventually become our fetishes. See the forthcoming re-print of the 1963 Civil Defence Handbook number 10 by V and A Publications, which turns the potential horrors of post-nuclear Britain into a cosily retro object combining nostaglia with design fetishism. Handbook number 10, 'Advising the Householder on Protection Against Nuclear Attack', at least contained a few crumbs of comfort and optimism, a spirited, plucky response that evoked the Home Guard of WWII. Gradually, the concept of Civil Defence evaporated, and the leaflet that followed, the infamous 'Protect and Survive', in both leaflet and film form, painted a far bleaker picture, as evinced by the cultural reaction. More information at the excellent Protect and Survive Archive of UK Civil Defence Material. See too this essay at Subterranea Britannica, 'Struggle for Survival: Governing Britain after the Bomb, which charts the evolution of the official approach From Civil Defence to Emergency Planning. Survival was the name of the game. The Americans had a similar shift from the naive futility of early films like Duck and Cover to a more gung-ho, survivalist approach, spawning a whole genre which thrives on the internet (e.g. the Best Prices Storable Foods store).

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Beatle Money, an economic history of the Beatles: 'Reliant Shirt Corporation paid $25,000 for the exclusive rights to make and produce Beatle T-shirts in 3 factories that they had purchased just for the purpose of making the shirts. In 3 days they sold 1 million shirts.' / Bon Ton, an mp3 blog / underground Greenwich at the Greenwich Phantom. See also the Greenwich Industrial Society. Related: 'A pensioner who created a labyrinth of tunnels under his house over 40 years has been forced to pay 300,000 for repairs carried out by a council.' We would love to see a survey of those tunnels / Warped Reality, an mp3 blog / Lost City in the Woods, a post at the Architect's Newspaper featuring the photography of Christopher Payne.

'Russia builds luxury Agalarov Estate', a concentrated district of architectural follies and residential extravagances: 'Scottish baronial mansions, grand Mediterranean-style villas and vast, neo-Gothic castles'. The developers are Crocus City, and it doesn't look good. Check the Crocus City Mall ('Shopping as an art form'), sporting as lumpen a pediment as it's possible to create. More at the Guardian. Such developments are handy for feature writers who want to decry the ongoing dominance of authoritarian kitsch, as well as containing the people who demand it within a gated and security-protected space. But little else.

Hauntology, or the confluence of the past with the present through the spectral and ephemeral image of the ghost, is a term coined by Derrida, an idea that 'suggests that the present exists only with respect to the past'. It seemed briefly fashionable, then was rapidly discarded (only 16,600 google hits) as the past ceased to be a phantom but a throbbing, living thing, thrust in our faces every day as 'inspiration'. The original concept probably underestimated visual culture's inexorable extension and ability to shape-shift and insinuate it across all other cultural forms. Influence is everything, and the past is no longer ghostly, but a living, breathing presence. (originally found via the promising but apparently abandoned dismantled king is off the throne).

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