Juxtaposition | no. 01

 — design by Julie Smits

— design by Julie Smits

We all know that we ‘must have coal’, but we seldom or never remember what coal-getting involves.
— George Orwell | The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

I had time to see everything about her (…). She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and who looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that ‘It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us’, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her—understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone
After you who’s last, it’s DOOM, he’s the worst known.
— Madvillain (MF Doom & Madlib) | Madvillainy

The villain took on many forms...

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone
After you who's last, it's DOOM, he's the worst known
That'll have your boom blown or even thirst bone
Rock it to a worst clone, just don't curse the throne
Own his own microphone, bring it everywhere he go
So he can bring it to you live in stere-ere-o
Pan it, can't understand it, ban it
The underhanded ranted, planned it and left him stranded
The best, any who profess will be remanded
Yes sir, request permission to be candid? Granted
I don't think we can handle a style so rancid
They flipped it like Madlib, did a old jazz standard
Madvillain, more accurately, the dark side of our beings.
— Madvillain | Madvillainy | sample

The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

It is so with all types of manual work; it keeps us alive, and we are oblivious of its existence. More than anyone else, perhaps, the miner can stand as the type of manual worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but also because it is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience, so invisible, as it were, that we are capable of forgetting it as we forget the blood in our veins. In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal-miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an 'intellectual' and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior.

- Transcript

I think that…I had a screening for this film for prison guards once in Denmark and it was really interesting, they put words to something that I think we really as filmmakers must do whenever we look at another human being. They said, “We always try to separate the crime from the person.” And, I insist…I never for a second suspended my judgement of the crimes; I think my moral point of view throughout the film never flags and throughout the filmmaking never flagged. But, I insisted to myself that I see these men as human beings, because I know the moment that I condemned them as monsters or see Anwar as a psychopath, then what I’m doing is mainly reassuring myself that I’m not like them and that if the film has any core message it’s that we are all much closer to perpetrators than we like to think. Every article of clothing touching my body now is haunted by the suffering of the people who make it for us and we know that all of them without exception are working in places like Indonesia. That everything we buy is produced in places like Indonesia, where there’s been mass violence or perpetrators of one and in their victory they built regimes of fear that keep people too suppressed to get the human cost of everything we buy incorporated in the price tag that we pay. We have stories to justify this. Economists have stories to justify this. We, I think know it, and we tell ourselves that the trousers we’re wearing are Hugo Boss and not the work of virtual slaves, but the work of a fashion designer. So as to forget the true nature of our reality.

 
The strength of this country isn’t in buildings of brick and steel. It’s in the hearts of those who have sworn to fight for its freedom.
— Captain America

...transcript continued

I think the film asks people to look at the nature of reality and I knew that if for a moment I see these men as anything other than human, I’m once again escaping from the reality by telling myself, “I’m not like them”. So, I insisted to myself I always see Anwar and his friends as human beings and in order to deal with that…I feel I can’t make a film honestly about another human being showing what we human beings are capable of if I don’t allow myself to get close to them.And, I insisted that I would be close to him and if for a moment I see him as a monster or a psychopath, I will stop, I will withdraw, I’ll take some days off to rest, I’ll come back and approach him as one human being to another. Now, that was difficult because when you become close to someone, when you become intimate with someone, of course you become vulnerable to them and so hearing these awful stories, seeing these awful things then gave me nightmares, because I was open to the fact that I would hope I would never do these things, but I’m very lucky never to have to find out. And, so I would have these nightmares, then I would be afraid of the nightmares, that gave me insomnia, for weeks, for months and I think if I got through it, it was because of the support, and the friendship, and the love of my Indonesian crew in particular. Who were going through much the same thing and who in a way, I think together we tried to light what was a very dark journey for each other, with our care, with our friendship.

— Joshua Oppenheimer | Interview With Film Courage

— Essay & Design by Julie Smits


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Notes
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George Orwell wrote 'The Road to Wigan Pier' between the spring and winter of 1936, and it was published by Victor Gollancz in March 1937. Orwell spent two months up North, travelling from mining town to mining town to learn and write about the lives of the working class of the North of England. The book is a reminder of why welfare states exist and why it's terrifying when governments let their care slide. We shouldn't let the poorest of our society slip through the cracks; we shouldn't let anyone slip through the cracks. Doing so condemns all of us, it makes us a society of selfish ignorants, incapable of empathy or any long-term thinking.

*

Madvillainy details the villainous deeds of  'Madvillain', a.k.a.: the perfect union between MF Doom and Madlib. We follow the exploits of a master villain through abstract and dense flows interspersed with a curation of sound clips laid over some, often, rather obscure samples. The songs dragged into this essay are 'Money Folder' and 'The Illest Villains', with Doom rapping the verse in Money Folder.

*

'The Act of Killing' is a 2012 documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer about individuals who took part in the Indonesian mass killings of 1965-1966. The very surreal effect of the film comes from the individuals happily reenacting the murders they committed during the mid-sixties.