Upstairs for thinking, downstairs for dancing -- M.I.A.'s curation of Meltdown festival is taking care of our musical desires with Mykki Blanco and JD Samson, Giggs, Soulwax, Princess Nokia and Yung Lean, Awful Records, Tommy Genesis, Young MA and more, but she also got our grey matter feeling a lot more colourful on Sunday with a panel discussion about "the complexities of global activism and art in a changing world".
The leader of the Fly Pirates sat down with the famously contrarian philosopher Slavoj Žižek (who did The Pervert's Guide to... films), the young Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat, and her controversial pal Julian Assange of Wikileaks --- who joined the conversation via live satellite link-up from his hideout at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Ostensibly about art and activism, the conversation ranged broadly. M.I.A spoke about how weird it is that tech leaders adopt the practices of yoga and zen buddhism to enhance their brand of modern capitalism (the 'misuse' didn't surprise Žižek, who noted Japanese writer Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki's related feeling that, "buddhist meditation is the best way to train killing machine soldiers"). They also discussed the remarkable calm of Jeremy Corbyn during the recent election, before moving on to a discussion of Wikileaks founder and fellow panellist Julian Assange.
M.I.A. acknowledged the "pushback on social media" following the announcement that Assange would be on the panel, but asked the speakers and audience to consider, "Why do they want him so bad?". 'They' being the authorities -- Assange is currently living in asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, avoiding extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of rape in a case that has been discontinued. Supporters argue that he would eventually be extradited from Sweden to America, where he is wanted for publishing secret war logs and other documents provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning that presented evidence of US complicity in torture, and involvement in the killing of civilians.
"For me, it's really important to have something like Wikileaks," M.I.A. says. "Because you know that they've already proved that they don't do stuff for money, and they can't be bought," she explains, concluding, "I think more figures like that in society are important". We couldn't agree more.
M.I.A.'s Meltdown Festival is at the Southbank Centre until this Sunday 18 June.
Text Charlotte Gush