After England

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I noticed it watching TV at first. A series of glitches in a TV programme. What was strange about it, was that it didn’t appear as a modern glitch, but some kind of retrograde VHS style breakdown.

Many of the programmes on TV also seemed to be getting quieter. Thinking about it more, it dawned on me that the signal had been converted somehow from stereo to mono.

Looking back it is perhaps interesting to note, that rather than thinking we were heading for some kind of technological meltdown, I had reflected on the possibility that there was something wrong with me physically. Annoying though it was, as with any kind of irreparable issue, I just became used to it.

Similar retro glitches started to occur on my work computer – The keyboard would only register every other letter and the screen had a constant irritating waver in the image. All this added to the many distractions that always prevented me from completing any work.

I was supposed to be researching the pioneering Scottish documentary filmmaker John Grierson. The glitches stopped me from producing anything and I would just sit in my chair fantasising about the project.

I kept returning to a scenario for a film in which an actor playing Grierson exists in a post apocalyptic England. Together with a younger cameraman, who may or may not be Humphrey Jennings, they explore the ruins of a nameless English City in the process of being reclaimed by Nature.

After work, I remember walking back through the woods and becoming terrified by the appearance of a strange form of ghostly digital phenomenon. These abstract shapes resembled early computer graphics or psychedelic sequences from 1970‘s science fiction films.

The visualisations would become regular occurrences over the next few days,   as an active force began to possess electronic devices across England. The effect had re-focused my attention on the physical world. I rarely used electronic equipment any more and would stare at the sleeping surface of my computer screen as if were an obsidian black mirror. I no longer saw it as a one-way surface with me looking in. I began to realise that the screens we use every day, had actually let something out and into us, into me.

We had and have no understanding of technological parasites. As with all parasites, once the machines, signals and finally our bodies had been taken over, it was impossible to notice the changes that were taking place until it was too late. The parasite was much more ancient and powerful then any aspect of our humanity. Our relatively old human ways, were quickly supplanted.

Even nostalgia could not help us to remember the old ways. Our ruins, books and archives offered no comfort. Technology adapted and advanced much faster than human culture with its tendency for repetition and cycles. In other words, culture never stould a chance.

To some the technological parasite offered the possibility of divinity, to move beyond human concerns or the organic. However, a parasitic relationship is one in which one member of the association benefits while the other is harmed.

As the digital became stronger, the organic became weaker. Some parasites can be necrotrophic, which is to say that eventually they kill their host. Others can be biotrophic, meaning they rely on their host’s survival.

We do not yet know what kind of parasite is within us. Biotrophic parasitism is an extremely successful mode of existence for both parties. We should also consider that as many as half of all animals have at least one parasitic phase in their life cycles. Almost all free-living animals, including humans are host to one or more organic parasite.

All over England, there was more and more dissatisfaction between the two opposing groups who either encouraged or tried to prevent the acceleration of the parasite. We put our fate in the hands of scientists, psychologists, manipulators and politicians. Those whose interest was still only ever in the short term.

As our current way of life devolved, systems collapsed and our City’s became ruins, Many people left to form more basic settlements in the countryside. Myself, like Grierson in my fantasy, carried on documenting the process of decay wandering the old cities.

Those in support of the parasite formed a new religion, in which words and sounds, emitted from hand-made devices were used to attempt a type of evocation, which they believed would open up space and time. The affects and combinatory sequences of human voice, sound and image induced trance effects on those who gathered to watch.

Occasionally, whilst on my rambles around the city. I will find an abandoned TV, in a forest or on a piece of waste ground. I will sit down in the dirt or on the grass and gaze longingly into the black mirror. All of the world appears still reflected in its surface and I feel comforted.

There is a feeling when I stare too long at the blank screen that a deep longing brought this all to happen. A longing that was in all of us for a feeling of comfort that could be sustained forever.

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