Faye Planer probes the nation’s angriest wit on his views of the upcoming Olympics, and on what on earth ‘psychogeography’ is all about.
I hear that you are unenthusiastic about the prospect of the Olympics this summer. In your eyes, what is the greatest folly of this whole affair?
Rather unenthusiastic is putting it waaaaay mildly: I think the Olympics suck dogshit through a straw. People believe they encourage da yoof to take up running, jumping and fainting in coils – but this is nonsense. They’re a boondoggle for politicians and financiers, a further corruption of an already corrupt self-appointed international coterie of Olympian cunts, an excuse for ‘elite’ athletes to fuck each other, snarf steroids and pick up sponsorship deals, and a senseless hitching of infrastructural investment – if there’s any reality to this anyway – to a useless loss-trailing expenditure on starchitectural bollix. The stadia themselves are a folly. The new Westfield is a temple to moribund consumerism – in ten years time they’ll all be cracked and spalled; a Hitlerian mass of post-pomo nonsense.
If the Olympics did not exist, would it be necessary to invent them?
They didn’t exist for thousands of years. The modern Olympics is a fatuous exercise in internationalism through limbering up and then running down to entropy. The modern Olympics have always been a political football – nothing more and nothing less – endlessly traduced and manipulated by the regimes that ‘host’ them. This one is no different, presenting a fine opportunity for the British security state apparatus and its private security firm hangers-on to deploy the mass-suppression and urban paranoiac technologies in the service of export earning. Some peace, some freedom.
Assuming we will always have the Olympics, could you suggest a better way of doing them?
Why assume that? If you want to run and jump, go do it in a field for free. If you want to run and jump with a Kenyan or a Croatian, go out and find one – there are plenty around my way – and go and run and jump together in a field. Costs nothing. You may even make a few bob by charging people to watch you.
You walked around the Olympic site a few years ago. What were your observations? Have you been back since?
I didn’t see much of it – there wasn’t much of it to see. I joined Sinclair for part of his circumambulation of Hackney for his book. I can’t remember a lot about the walk at all, except that Iain held forth a lot – but that’s OK, he’s good at holding forth. He and I agree on most things Olympic and consensus is a big barrier to keen observation – ask Lordy-Lordy Coe and Tessa Jowls. I haven’t been back – it’s not my manor, thank God.
Could you explain the principles of pyschogeography and do you think it’s something that can only be applied to urban spaces?
Ooh, big question. I take my lead on matters psycho-geo from the Situationist fons et origo. It’s part of the tearing down of the Society of the Spectacle mandated by late capitalism; unstructured dérives or drifts across the urban landscape cut across the predetermined routes of commercial necessity which were best defined by a graffito I once saw on a supermarket wall outside Yate in Somerset: ‘Work, Consume, Die’. What I think of as ‘the man-machine matrix’ wants you trammelled on EasyJet watching a six-inch screen implanted in the back of another human’s head, wants you stuck in a car coughing out lead particulates, wants you staring at a VDU, doesn’t want you on foot, transgressing.
I went to a talk you gave about J.G. Ballard. What do you think he would have to say about the Olympic transformation of the east end of London?
He’d probably have loved it! He loved modernity, he loved big things – he was ambivalent of course, but it gave him a sort of visceral thrill that he connected to his wonderstruck childhood in Shanghai which at that time – the 1930s – was one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.
‘Really, one may say that the whole Olympic process was a pasteurisation of the city… the microbes disappeared and from a hygienic point of view maybe that was positive, but really what happened is that the variety was destroyed in the process…’ Manuel Vázquez Montalbán said this about the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Do you believe that London is being pasteurised too?
No, I’m quite confident that London is too big and too anarchic to be seriously pasteurised by the games. It’s so big, so filthy, so nasty that it could probably eat twenty Olympiads for breakfast and spit out the Ferroconcrete bones.
Iain Sinclair believes that cities aspire to be like an airport departure lounge. How do you envisage cities of the future?
Declining in the West, certainly. With no industry and an ageing population – except for Gastarbeiter – the cities will decline into monumental care homes rather than departure lounges. No one will want to go anywhere because their private health insurance provider – which is what the Government will become – will make them stay here. The colours will be muted pastel, the building will be soft and foamy, the food will be puréed.
You are the ringmaster: what sport would you make Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP enter in the Olympics?
Something equestrian – he could be the show pony.
What would be your sport of choice?
Riding him – hard.