Friday, 25 November 2016

Hacking the Silence with Hannah Thompson

We are in Senate House - 'the vast bulk of London University insulting the autumnal sky' (Evelyn Waugh, Put Out More Flags). The glacial brutalist monolith is softened by wood, glass and bronze deco fittings once you get inside.

According to myth, the Chancellor's Hall - now the ceremonial focus of the building - was earmarked to be Hitler's office. Tonight, a long table bears a sprawl of gadgets with a hint of Bakelite, dinky pound shop pseudo-Tupperware boxes housing unfathomable electronics, an arterial system of leads, and gear from the dictatorship of Apple.

'Hacking the Silence' is sound artist Hannah Thompson's final event in her Leverhulme-funded residency at Senate House Library. Hannah doesn't press 'play' and sit back. It's live performance, manipulating captured sounds of the building and people.

Roars, gushes and filigree episodes move around the hall as different speakers are animated.

At one point Hannah darts out to play her amplified violin; she ends with a heartbreaking recorder solo.

In the Second World War, when the Ministry of Information was based in the building, this space would resonate to gunfire:

"The hall bridges the space between Senate House’s northern and southern blocks and has tall windows providing views west towards Gower Street and east towards Russell Square. It is one of the only rooms that faces both approaches. This geography led to it being used as the headquarters of the Ministry’s unit of the Home Guard. Guns were set up overlooking each entrance and practice drills would take place in the hall. This was said to ‘create a great deal of disturbance’ because the room was also used for meetings." - Dr Henry Irving, Leeds Beckett University, from a blog Senate House Revealed.

Hannah Thompson: 

Hacking the Silence is part of the Being Human Festival. 


Saturday, 19 November 2016

The BDSM of Brexit

Mercandbear Fet tying Anna Noctuelle; photo: Fred Hatt
Brexit is remarkably similar to Japanese rope bondage, despite one glaring difference: bondage is consensual, as in this sample by Miss Anna Bones from to which I have made only minor alterations:

“What is there to actually learn about Brexit?”

It depends! Some people just want to learn some basics so they can have a bit of safe Brexit, others want to become as proficient as they can. If you’re after Brexit fun, then it’s probably not super important to learn about Brexit in suspension, but it’s a very good idea to learn about anatomy, the different kinds of pins and needles you can get, and how to use safety shears.

Anna Noctuelle; photo: Fred Hatt
Brexit requires a good degree of pain processing ability! It’s especially useful to learn to distinguish ‘good Brexit’ from ‘bad Brexit’, meaning the kinds of Brexit that are not harmful (for example, the Brexit you get after a vigorous workout), and that are harmful (such as any kind of sharp Brexit). This will involve trial and error until your brain is able to recognise when it’s OK to push through a Brexit and when it’s time to tap out.

Which bring us to one super important skill: communication! Perhaps this is the most important part of Brexit: learning how to communicate from inside Brexit. The more specific you can be, the better. This also comes with experience – for example, what kinds of Brexit you are feeling, if there are sensations you are not enjoying, if a Brexit needs to be reviewed, etc.

It’s also a good idea to learn how to negotiate before doing Brexit, such asking the Brexiteer questions as well as knowing what kinds of important information to disclose. These can include: any Brexit issues you may have (for example, you sprained your ankle), any medication you may be on, the kinds of Brexit you feel like/don’t feel like, or body parts you are not OK having Brexit on.

Communicating can be difficult: some people space out and become non-verbal, others find it difficult to express their needs or communicate unpleasant sensations out of not wanting to cause offence or because they don’t want the Brexit to come off just yet. This is totally OK. The important thing is to try to have a conversation about it beforehand.

Anna Noctuelle; photo: Fred Hatt
“What about the Brexiteer?”

There are lots of Brexit styles and different people enjoy different techniques and sensations, so it’s really useful (and also loads of fun) to watch people Brexiting in the community.

Brexit can be intense and very physically demanding – this is especially true of suspension-focused Brexit.
Inexperienced people who do not know their Brexit well are less likely to communicate when something is hurting, but Brexiteers rely on feedback because often they must focus on a particular Brexit technique which they are learning, all the while being mindful of others. This is the perfect storm for small nerve injuries.

“Does this mean I have to be super fit and bendy to do Brexit?”

Nope! Brexit is not one size fits all, it’s a very diverse activity enjoyed by grown-ups of all ages, all physical compositions, backgrounds, genders and sexes.

It’s about finding the kind of Brexit you enjoy doing and finding people who want to do that with you. Different people have different Brexit thresholds, and the beauty is in this diversity.

It is also worth noting that although most of the Brexit imagery online depicts petite young bendy girls Brexited by males, this is not the reality of Brexit – there are lots of male identified persons who enjoy being in Brexit, and lots of female identified persons who enjoy Brexiting, and if you’re not into binaries, there is a lot of gender queerness in the Brexit scene as well.

In sum, the Brexit world is a lot more diverse that you might think by just googling ‘Brexit’ on your browser!

Drawing from

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Supreme Court: watching the Justices

Supreme doesn't mean secret. You can usually watch Supreme Court hearings from the public seats in the courtrooms. Although the Brexit Article 50 hearing is likely to be, er, busy.

On a normal day, if there are no places left it might be worth waiting, as some observers may just want to sample the atmosphere rather than stay for the full session.

All hearings are filmed. If a hearing is likely to be popular, the court might relay it on a screen in an overspill area with temporary seating.

All hearings are relayed live on two small screens outside the café on the lower ground floor in a space for standing, not sitting.

And you don't have to be in the building. You can watch live or catch up afterwards on

Judgment summaries are available on the Supreme Court's YouTube channel. The comments section has been switched off, presumably to avoid Twitteresque slanging matches and anonymous denunciations.

Here is Lord Mance reading the summary of the judgment in PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd. On my mobile (but not my laptop), YouTube serves up subtitles by a mad poet. YouTube's voice-recognition software needs further development.

'Solicitors' can come out as 'sisters' or 'a-listers'.

The encounter involved the partner of AB, not of an insect. The double vision is an occasional feature.

You'll never get this one without help. 'Were lured to some descendants' is Software-ese for 'while Lord Toulson dissents'. I repeat, this imposition has everything to do with how YouTube reaches my BlackBerry via a distant planet, and nothing to do with the court. 

PS if you want to see a hearing, please check in advance that there will be one on that day. The court provides free written information for children and adults, some of it translated into other languages.