Analog Sea and Politics

AM KAI, Manfred Kastner, 1983, Analog Sea Review One

Last November I argued that the Analogue Sea Review should include photographs among the pictures that are such a valuable complement to the thoughtful and thought provoking words it publishes (22nd November 2019).  I sent Jonathan Simons, publisher of the Review, a copy and he has very kindly replied.  He expresses his personal admiration for some photography, but says that: a publisher need not ‘strive to represent all that’s valuable or trendy within his or her community’; and ‘creative genius is the exclusive domain of the rare artist who manages to peel him or herself away from public opinion and political obligation.’  I’m happy to acknowledge his case without accepting it all.

His reply raises another interesting issue, however.  He asks, ‘But why must Analog Sea be political?’ and argues that it is, ‘Unlike the politician, who has a mandate to serve and empower all of society equally.’   I think this is somewhat disingenuous.

My dictionary has several definitions of politics including: ‘the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy’; and ‘the total complex of relations between members of a society’.  Other definitions might include explicitly the power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.  Note that politics as practiced today is certainly not about serving and empowering ‘all of society equally’.

One of the attractions of Analog Sea to me is that it does not pretend to be neutral.  It promotes a sensuous tactile world of pens and paper, smells and tastes; a world of direct physical interactions; and a world where it’s easy to escape the Siren calls of the Internet and its shiny enabling technology. It has an agenda and the editorial tone is gently polemical.  Gentle though its polemic is, it clear in its intention to shape the agenda in two areas: how people choose to lead their lives; and the power of the Internet and the technology companies.

The Analog Sea Bulletin for winter 2018-2019 argues for, ‘undistracted time for daydreaming, tea-sipping, and conversation.’  According to Analog See Review Number One, although, ‘we find ourselves in a historical moment of pervasive mediocrity’, we have the opportunity to ‘turn our gaze away from spectacle and back towards raw, unmediated life’ through ‘”the emerging field of offline culture”’.  There we may have the ‘strength to dream’.  The second edition of the Review reiterates these thoughts, lamenting, ‘There is no time for drifting or wandering, no time for staring up at the stars.’

Analog Sea Review One

Jonathan Simons’s timely lockdown essay, ‘Life Beyond the Machine – Leisure as Dissent’, says we are ‘back at that age-old question of how we spend our time.’  And he has answers.  ‘Leisure begins only when we cease to be consumers.  It comes to life only as we step away from the marketplace and the optimization which defines shopping.’  That’s a different agenda from that of Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who pleaded for people ‘Eat out to help out,’ as pubs reopened on 4th July after the corona virus lockdown, echoing George W Bush’s infamous statement after 9/11.

The language is much more loaded, pejorative, and hence overtly political when it comes to the technology.

The Analog Sea Bulletin claims ‘that the Internet is sweeping up more of the real world every day’ and operating through ‘insatiable … behemoths’ (behemoth: a huge or monstrous creature).   According to the Analog Sea Review Two the new technologies are ‘making us passive’ after ‘the cable operators snaked their way into our homes’.   The tech companies are not friendly service providers according to ‘Life beyond the Machine’, they are ‘digital overlords, triumphant and emboldened.’  This might be brushed of as a bit of mildly radial gesturing, were it not for the fact that there are mainstream political concerns about the power and abuse of the Internet and the lack of corporate accountability and responsibility on the part of the major players.

Interior with a Young Man Reading,
Vilhelm Hammershoi, 1898, Analog Sea Review Two

Analog Sea has a view about the kind of society in which we live and an antipathy towards free market capitalism.  It is not party political and it may be political with only a small ‘p’, but political it certainly is.  It may be happy to preach to the choir, but change will require political action.

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