Cultural Marxists in Mascara

Due to phenomenal demand, Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues will be dusting off their feather boas and sharpening their eyeliner pencils as they channel the spirit of Suzi Quatro and Comandante Che for a short and sweet set at this year’s Havana Glasgow Film Festival, which draws on their fifth Dialogue, ‘1967’, a sell out at The Tron Theatre in May. But what is a Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogue, do i hear you ask?

The Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues is the unlikely but intriguing title of a series of performed lectures by a pair of academics at Glasgow University, David Archibald and Carl Lavery, Mixing Marxist theory with a glam rock aesthetic, they’re attempting to ‘perform thinking’ in front of a live audience, and break down the traditional hierarchies of academia.

Carl Lavery explained, “It came out of an article by an interesting American artists’ collective, Our Literal Speed, who made this comment about how in today’s academia, there are almost rock stars of academia, and they were interested in subverting that idea like in punk, though David and I were interested in running with the great inauthenticity, and staging ourselves ironically as glam rock stars.

“Since, we’ve tried to heighten the irony of what an academic glam rock star might be – and we’ve realised that we’re fucking ridiculous!”

The idea of the academic as rock star, as ridiculous as it may seem, is certainly vindicated by the celebrity of a figure such as Slavoj Zizek, who attracts as many adoring young people as Ed Sheeran, although his acolytes are a tad smarter than Sheeran’s.

As for Archibald and Lavery, while there is much humour in their performances, and there’s only a certain amount of gravitas a middle-aged man can have lecturing in his pants, there is also an underlying seriousness, and even pathos in their conversations, presented with a welcome lack of pretension.

Lavery is keen that this element isn’t obscured: “There’s also a desire to do some interesting critical thinking, within that subterfuge of us being idiots. There might be a way in which academia, by being true to itself in a weird way, and not speaking down, but by finding alternative ways to communicate, might actually be useful in today’s climate.”

Certainly, with the backlash against elites and rise of anti-intellectualism in Anglo-Saxon culture, academics may have to find subtler strategies to engage with wider audiences.

“I think that academics – and I know this sounds perverse, but it is dialectical – if they found ways to ironise or problematise their presentation, they could make it more acceptable, then I think their ideas could get across” Again, Zizek would appear to be a prime example of this process in practice.

Lavery is ultimately quite hopeful; “I think people are really interested in learning, they want to hear these things, and they won’t hear them anywhere else.

“What I think is essential in arts and humanities is to produce certain kinds of critical thinking, to catalyse imaginative ways of thinking amongst the audience. That’s what our game was, it’s never to patronise.”

Indeed, both Lavery and Archibald genuinely love glam rock, its limitations as a genre adding to its charm.

“Bolan’s amazing – the lyrics are really shit – they’re nonsense, but the rhythm and intensity that comes out of the song, the energy, it’s really amazing, I think.”

Get it on with Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues at the Havana Glasgow film Festival Launch, on Sep 28 at the Oran mor.