July 2nd: Diaries 1991-2000

1991

you

1992

Time: 10.00pm

What a pisser. I came on tonight and I’ve got Sports Day tomorrow. It’s not fair. J + me were flirting with each other all day. He kept putting his hand up my skirt,* typical! I found out that PW fancies me + he dumped J today. BF asked me out and I said no, sorry. Amazing hey!?! I’ve also got my grade 4 piano exam tomorrow, Me + B have been really well close, Nina

*don’t worry, I didn’t let him!

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Digital Democracy?

[A version of this text was published in Socialist Register 2018 ed. Leo Panitch and Greg Albo]

DIGITAL DEMOCRACY?

NINA POWER

We stand on the cusp of enormous change, both politically and technologically, and the two can hardly be separated at this point. To speak from the situation in the United Kingdom at the moment is to recognize a series of sea changes and tendencies that will, and have already, changed much about contemporary life for millions. We need to be wary of both political and technological determinism here – the recent surprising hung parliament in Britain which saw the Conservative government drop more than twenty points in the polls on the back of a terrible election campaign and massive Labour activism shows that politics remains unpredictable, even when austerity and despair have become internalized. Technology’s future too remains uncertain, even as it is integrated more and more into the everyday lives of millions to greater or lesser degrees. We cannot begin to discuss the relationship between technology and politics, however, without acknowledging from the outset the fundamental asymmetries in its distribution in the modern world, or without a series of major caveats. As many feminist writers have pointed out, technology cannot be considered as neutrally or inevitably ‘progressive’. Cynthia Cockburn put it like this more than thirty years ago:

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Black Sheep Boy: Scott (1967), Scott 2 (1968)

[A version of this text appeared in No Regrets: Writings on Scott Walker, edited by Rob Young, London: The Wire, 2012]

Black Sheep Boy

Nina Power

Scott (1967)

Scott 2 (1968)

R-1206363-1329111030.jpeg

What is the opposite of love? Cowardice? Loneliness? Hate? Should music ‘about’ love and its opposite (whatever that is) be lush, excessive, all-consuming, or should it be restrained, hurt, withdrawn? The romantic fascination, or rather the fascination with romance, that reached its zenith in the 1960s with pop’s fixation on the boy band, was effervescent, uncontrollable. Female fandom, although not exactly without historical precursors, revealed the short circuit that exists between culture and desire, visual pleasure and ecstatic forms of identification. The boy band became the focus of myriad modes of projection, bolstered by the groups’ identikit outfits and assumed unities. The Walker Brothers were comprised neither of anyone originally named Walker, nor were they related to one another, but these facts are not important: what mattered was whether the assumed unity could hold, whether there was enough at stake in the game to want to continue playing it.

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Towards a Suspense Short Story of the Void

[Note: this story was written for and read out at the launch event of Objects of Feminism, South London Gallery, Wednesday, 8 November 2017]

plotting-patricia-highsmith

In 1983, Patricia Highsmith wrote a text called Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. I decided to take up Highsmith’s guidelines from this text and very loosely apply them to the text I wrote for Objects of Feminism entitled ‘Towards a Feminism of the Void’ in order to write a very short story. In my contribution to the collection, I tried to defend a certain idea of ‘strategic nothingness’, and expand upon an idea of a feminism of the void, so I wrote things like: ‘[We need] a revaluation of void-values, in which void-reason (the standpoint of the nothing) trumps … stuff-reason, where a cock is merely a cigar, and where a cold, empty place is instead a place of great comfort (if the rectum is a grave, is the womb a tomb)?’ and I also wrote: ‘[a feminism of the void] could be a renunciation of all the contracts we never signed but nevertheless find ourselves party to – compulsory heterosexuality, the regime of the visible, being treated poorly on the basis of resentment and anger that we have no ability to stop’.

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In Memoriam Mark Fisher, January 13th

Scan_20180112 (3)Mark on a seaside trip, c. mid-2000s

There is a line in Byung-Chul Han’s book The Burnout Society that makes me think of you: ‘the violence of positivity does not deprive, it saturates; it does not exclude, it exhausts.’ You were the person who diagnosed this condition better than anyone else, always. You lived the violence of positivity even as you did your best to harness it. You refracted everything, engaged everything and everyone. You dissolved cynicism in energy. You could go to sleep on the floor, like a lemur, and wake up and continue the conversation as if sleep was but a momentary blip between real desire, the desire for perpetual engagement, for never-ending conversation.

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‘Once You Start Listening You Can’t Stop Hearing It’

[Piece for The Wire’s issue 352 on ‘Words and Music’, June 2013].

Nina Power

self-checkout-machine-in-sainsburys-supermarket-england-uk-dxpmbw

Once you start listening you can’t stop hearing it. The voice – female, or female-sounding at least, pre-recorded ‘real’ voices or mechanised tones, or, often, a weird cut-up mixture of both, dominates the sonic landscape. From the supermarket checkout machines with their chaste motherish inquiries (‘have you swiped your Nectar card?’) to repeated assertions regarding the modes of securitised paranoia (‘in these times of heightened security’), the female voice operates as a central asset in the continued securitisation and control of contemporary space, cutting across what little is left of the public realm and providing the appearance and the illusion of efficiency, calm and reassurance in commercial environments. It is estimated that 70% of recorded voices in the UK are female, or female-sounding. We all know this vocal tone, because we have no choice but to know it: it spans a narrow range between reassuring and relatively high-pitched, though ever-efficient, to deeper, more refined and sales-oriented: from clipped bus stop name announcements to Cadbury’s Caramel bunny and Mark’s and Spencer’s ads that sound like you’re wading through sexy gravy.

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Soft Coercion, the City and the Recorded Female Voice

[A version of this text was published in The Acoustic City, edited by Matthew Gandy and BJ Nilsen, JOVIS Publishers, 2014)

emma

Four questions to begin with: What is the pitch of the neoliberal city? How does the pitch of the city construct images of and for the humanity that travels through it? How does gender relate to control of this space – corporate, commercial, privatised space and the few remaining places we might (often erroneously, or perhaps nostalgically) refer to as “public space”? How does the soundscape of the city relate to forms of control – what I will call here “soft coercion” – that often goes unnoticed, or at least blends into the background and becomes simply part of the tapestry of the urban sonic environment, alongside the whirr of traffic, the babble of the crowd, birdsong, sirens? We may think of the sound of the city as somehow being ‘neutral’ on its own terms, or at least cacophonous enough to escape linear description, but by paying careful attention to the patterns of urban sounds we do more than simply listen: the over-familiarity of certain sonic tropes starts to tell us something key about the way in which both gender and control are constructed and reinforced.

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