"Manhattan is the Rosetta Stone of the 20th Century"
Possible performances. Impossible narratives. Ruptured flow. Binary Dissonance. Questions of omission. The voice divorced from the body that gave it life, the face ruptured and ripped from the skull. The screen-saver: disembodied, simultaneous, play of death. Morphing. Identity in continuous upheaval, in the multiplying mirror of memory. Reproduction. Replication: Asymmetric. Telekinetic. Dialectic. Flow. The body as a site of textual malleability. The mind as a locale of total recall. Total displacement. Who's there? Erogenous, decoded amnesia. Biopsychic paradoxes. Eclipse of the self. Prosethetic. Synthetic. Memetic. Technophilia...
Back in 1875, ten years after the Civil War that had demolished half of the USA, and 25 years before the turn of the century that he so ardently seemed to strive towards, during the period in American history that brought us such issues as American self identity, reconstruction and "the role of the Negro", the "woman" question, the "Irish" question, the "Jewish" question, the "Indian" question, taxation, civilization and its emerging discontents, and so on, the American poet and theorist, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an essay that prefigures much of the discourse around "originality" in late 20th century culture. His essay was entitled "Of Quotation and Originality" and in it, Emerson was trying to come to grips with a kind of cultural inertia that he saw in the literature of his day. The central premise of his essay was that peoples' minds were too burdened with the weight of previous creative work, they only took elements from the past and reconfigured them to their own taste in their present day. But Emerson, being the creative individual that he was, tried to look beneath the surface that this kind of cultural saturation fostered. He wrote: "Our debt to tradition through reading and conversation is so massive, our protest so rare and insignificant - and this commonly on the ground of other reading or hearing - that in a large sense, one would say there is no pure originality. All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands (170)..."
Through love, I have reached a place/where no trace of Love remains,/Where I' and we' and the painting of existence/have all been forgotten and left behind/Now who can know where I am,/here where no knowledge, no opinion can be found./Here even Love is bewildered/and the intellect is crazy, talking nonsense./Totally impoverished, I have no wealth,/no identity of self/Free from faithfulness and faithlessness/a stranger to myself and all acquaintances./Yet only for this can I still be blamed/that a cry comes from me/Out of grief for Nurbakhsh I say/"You have gone. How is it that I know not where?"
Dr. Javid Nurbakhsh, "In the Paradise of the Sufi's" (whatever can be expressed in words is not sufism)
Two years later, December 6, 1877, to be exact, in a similar region of the world, Thomas Edison invented the first prototype of the phonograph, the "talking machine," also called "the memory machine" by recording the human voice onto a tinfoil roll: the first recording was of a friend of Edison's singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb." The linkage between Emerson and Edison is more than just a serendipitous fact. Edison always viewed Emerson as his life long mentor. In his biography about the inventor's life entitled "Edison: Inventing the 20th Century", Neil Baldwin wrote about their relationship as being a kind of rough and tumble trade-off between the pragmatic, take no shorts inventor, and the lofty poet. For Baldwin, Edison's initial discoveries and deployments of his mechanical and electric devices led him in time to invent things that were a way of trying to deal with America's expansionist urges. In a way, Edison viewed his invention of the phonograph as a method of having access to the past - something that would make it more than just a phantasm of collective memory. He liked to compare himself to the turntables he invented. "I am" he would jokingly say when he would boast about his technical efficiency, "like a phonograph." But the prosthetic relationship of voice and memory is not a new issue. It has haunted the notion of human identity for millennia. In this way, the phonograph, is as old as the human voice, and perhaps implicit as a phenomenon, in the bulk of human communication.
Recording the voice proposes an ontological risk: the recorded utterance is the stolen sound that returns to the self as the schizophonic, hallucinatory, presence of another. But today, the voice you speak with, may not necessairly be your own. The mechanization of war, the electronization of information, the hypercommodification of culture, the exponential growth of mass media - all of these point to a machinic/semiotic hierarchy of representation, a locale in which the human mind, consciousness "itself" acts as a distributed network: a place where consciousness becomes an object of "material memory." The spread of global networks of all sort (information distribution systems, mail systems, satellite direct broadcasting, etc.) have created a sense of telephony unprecedented in human history as well: the complete integration of and simultaneous representation of the human world as a single conscious entity based on the implosion of geographic distance or cartographic failure. The mesh of sound, symbol and sentiment that electronic music represents, is another way of speaking, another fusion of techne with logos (one must not forget that the word logos is Greek for "word"), order imposed upon skill and the ability to deploy them both in the socio-graphic space of one's environment, that electro-modernity has brought us. It is not so much a new language, as a new way of pronouncing the ancient syntaxes that history and evolution have given us, a new way of enunciating the basic primal languages which slip through the fabric of rational thought and infect our psyche at another, deeper level. Could this be the way of healing? Taking elements of our own alienated consciousness, and recombining them to create new languages from old, and in doing so to reflect the chaotic turbulent reality we all call home, just might be a way of seeking to reconcile the damage rapid technological advances have wrought on our collective consciousness. Who knows? It might not. As Glenn Gould writes in his groundbreaking essay on recording, identity, and textual continuity, "The Prospects of Recording": "The most hopeful thing about this process - about the inevitable disregard for the identity factor in the creative situation - is that it will permit a climate in which biological data and chronological assumption can no longer be the cornerstone for judgements about art as it relates to environment. In fact, this whole situation of individuality in the creative situation - the process through which the creative act results from, absorbs, and re-forms individual opinion - will be subjected to a radical reconsideration."
For Emerson, as with Edison, the notion of recreating and reproducing text wasn't a mechanical issue, it was a psychological realm riddled with the paradoxes that always seem to follow culture wherever it goes. Today we operate under a recombinant aesthetic that even one hundred years ago was beginning to take shape. The only thing that differentiates today from yesterday, is the scale and scope of the paradigm. When in 1875 Emerson could write: "the originals are not original. There is imitation, model, suggestion, to the very archangels, if we knew their history. The first book, tyrannizes over the second (172)..." Today we have an entire youth culture based on the premise of replication (the word "replication" is derived from "reply"), a milieu in which much of what is heard, seen, and thought, is basically a refraction of the electronicized world that we have built around ourselves. Emerson's critique of how people absorb text closely parallels one of the first recorded copyright disputes in Western History. In 6th Century Ireland, St. Columba made a copy for himself of a manuscript of the Latin Psalter, and the original "owner" (one must remember that in Ireland, Christianity was an import, and almost all of the manuscripts were copies) -- Finnian of Druim Finn, protested. The king at that time ruled "As the calf belongs to the cow, so the copy belongs to its book." The two disputing parties went to war, and the "copyright violator" won, and of course, held onto the book (Scientific American, July 1996). But the sense of how people control and distribute culture in both Emerson and the St. Columba tale, holds true in a sense today as well.
But in another light, both Emerson and St. Columba, parallel the thoughts and observations of one of the original "structuralist" thinkers, Giambattista Vico, whose notion of "poetic wisdom" informed much of his thoughts while he was writing his book, "The New Science", a folio that acted, as Donald Philip Verene puts it, as "a theater of memory." Verene writes of the role of sound in Vico's work as a kind of zone of aberration, a place where many of the cultural motifs that "the ancients" used were able to be passed down through time in a process of continuous cultural combat between the elements of the new and old. For Verene, the New Science is a "place within which the universal structures of the human world are brought together with its particulars by the bonding of philosophical and philological thought into a single form of mentality. These two kinds of truth are held together in such a way that one cannot be grasped without the other... the reader confronts an order of contents wherein the logic of what is to be discussed is not evident. Instead there is a collage of topics such as wisdom, giants, sacrifices, poetic logic, monsters, metamorphoses, money, rhythm, song, children, poetic economy, natural law, duels, legal metaphysics, barbaric history. One encounters the scenery of the human world."(Veverene, p106)
In Vico's own words, excerpted from "The New Science", there is the preliminary exploration of what Vico calls "the physics of man," a place where human value structures continuously evolve and change in response to the underlying myths that hold together the fabric of their cultures: "philosophers and philologists should be concerned in the first place with poetic metaphysics; that is, the science that looks for proof not in the external world, but in the very modifications of the mind that meditates on it. Since the world of nations is made by men, it is inside their minds that its principles should be sought." (Principles of a New Science, 1759). Vico always refers to myths as the underlying forces driving the unconscious impulses of culture. Earlier in his explorations of cultural transformation and his "physics of man" he posits "contests of song" as a way of transferring the values of society: "the civil institutions in use under such kingdoms," he writes of "the ancients," are in a way always mediated by the way they engage the culture that generated their "auspices". He continues: "[the civil institutions] are narrated for us by poetic history in the numerous fables that deal with contests of song... and consequently refer to the heroic contests over the auspices...Thus the satyr Marsyas...when overcome by Apollo in a contest of song, is flayed alive by the god... the sirens, who lull sailors to sleep with their song and then cut their throats; the Sphinx, who puts riddles to travellers and slays them on their failure to find a solution... all these portray the politics of the heroic cities. The sailors, travelers, and wanderers of these fables are the aliens..." (The New Science, p244)
"The receiver gave out a buzz of a kind that K. had never before heard on a telephone. It was like the hum of countless childrens voices - but yet not a hum, the echo rather of voices singing in an infinite distance - blended by sheer impossibility into one high but resonant sound that vibrated on the ear as if it were trying to penetrate beyond mere hearing..." Franz Kafka, The Castle
Emerson, like Vico before him, develops his argument for a kind of respectful synthesis at the core of how culture evolves and changes. Mid-way through his essay we find him quoting Goethe, who as far as we know, was probably quoting someone else: "Our country, our customs, laws, our ambitions, and our notions of fit and fair - all these we never made, we found them ready made; we but quote them. Goethe frankly said, What would remain to me if this art of appropriation were derogatory to genius? Every one of my writings has been furnished to me by a thousand different persons, a thousand things: wise and foolish have brought me, without suspecting it, the offering of their thoughts, faculties and experience. My work is an aggregation of beings taken from the whole of nature. It bears the name of Goethe." (p190) Todays notion of creativity and originality are configured by a postmodern discourse characterized, one might say, by velocity: it is a blur, a constellation of styles, a knowledge and pleasure in the play of surfaces, a rejection of history as objective force in favor of subjective interpretations of its residue, a relish for copies and repetition, and so on. We inhabit a cultural zone informed by what Deleuze liked to call a "logic of the particular", a place where the subjective, multiple, interpretations of information lead us to take the real as a kind of consensual, manufactured situation. Where does this ebb and flow that both Emerson and Columba seem to be arguing for fit in? Today's cultural discourse, without doubt, is configured by, and in a strange way, echoes, much of the early characteristics of the Frankfurt school: until the 1980's its influence on academic circles had become the ground from which almost all critical discourse seemed to reflect off of: Antonio Gramsci's "ideological hegemony", T.W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer's "culture industry", Hans Enzensbergerger's "consciousness industry," Jameson's "use value overcoming exchange value", Friedrich Schiller's "mind managers," Michael Real's "mass mediated culture" and of course, Herbert Marcuse's "systematic moronization" and "repressive tolerance." Their intellectual descendants: Tod Gitlin, Andrew Ross, Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams, Ariel Dorfman, John Fiske, Neil Postman, still hold many of the tenets advanced by the early pioneers of cultural criticism.
These days there seems to be some sort of confusion as to what is performance, what is "live" - what is valid.. There are corollaries, axioms of previous migrations of meaning that somehow never seem to reach the dense locale of late 20th century youth culture, a place where many of the issues that drive the discourse of both cultural criticism and philosophy tend to be generated. We live in a time where the human body is circumscribed by a dense locale of technological sophistry: a place where the line dividing the organic and inorganic elements that form the core essence of human life is blurring. Unravel the distortions of the present day: sampling to me is like sending a fax to yourself from the sonic debris of a possible future; the cultural permutations of tomorrow, heard today, beyond the corporeal limits of the imagination. Do you get my drift?
SHAPE CAN BE OFFENSIVE...THE SHADOW IS LARGER THAN THE TREE...SOON MAN SHALL BE...MUST FREE...THE LOOK IS ALWAYS FIXED. IT MUST BE UNHOOKED...STOP TIME! GAUGE THE PACE OF YOUR BREATH...TURN THE MOON AROUND. THEN REWIND YOUR HEARTS... Linton Kwesi Johnson, Dread Beat and Blood
Elocutionary acts of speech, language as a stream of performative sounds, sounds as the end product of a series of gestures marked by ellipses of silence, places of disappearance on the fabric of the body... the polyphonic, hungry gaze of a culture of repetition, and so on and so on... [skip/fade/enter/delete]
Performativity as a source of discourse that cuts across the terrains occupied traditionally by the history of medicine, film studies, art history, philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary theory, and fiction. It attempts to find an artistic or cultural pretext for each of the expositions of performance... The West first realized this notion of "imaginal hypertext" through the auspices of two radically different theorists: Giordano Bruno with his "memory palaces", that mirror previous thinkers such as Augustine (in his Confessions, Augustine treats memory as a personal space where "the Divine" acts as a receptacle for the personal memories one has accrued in life), and his essay "On the Composition of Images, Signs, and Ideas"; and much later on, Deleuze and Guattari (but Deleuze and Guattari are so dense, that they would require an entire essay, so that's a topic for later discussion). Bruno was burned at the stake by the Papal Inquisition for heresy because he believed in the world and the self as a kind of semiotic unity. For him, human existence was a holistic all embracing search for identity in the signs of a transcendent culture of heterodoxy.
Bruno's work, like the dj mixes I always allude my writing to, was to be ranged over and through: much of his work is like Vico, Walter Benjamin's "Pasagen-Werk", and Ferdinand Saussure (founder, along with Charles S. Pierce, of structural linguistics, and whose work comes to us only through the fragments of his lectures that his students managed to save) was fragmented, and involuted, and mainly a kind of exploration of textual slippage: his style of writing was to be explored, traversed with the same sense of physical movement that we achieve when we walk through the streets and byways of the urban landscape: through verse, image and aphorism, he tried always to synopsize memory as a space open to the world, completely generated through the auspices of humanity's engagement with the environment it finds itself in. Bruno's "hermetic" thinking refers to other medieval and historic characters (a list too long to elucidate here), but his own contribution is an obsession with heterodoxy, of using the surface elements of perception to search for the underlying unity of the world. He wrote in the Dedicatory Epistle of the De Imaginum...Compositione, about a kind of unified field of perception, what contemporary thinkers like Deleuze and Guattari would call a "morphogenetic field", or a place where all is flux, and human expression rests on a kind of associative action, rather than the rationalist notion of categorical thinking: "It is that sort of eye which sees all things in itself, and is like wise in all things. By this sublime method we could be like that sort of eye, if we could discern our species substance so that our eye could perceive itself, our mind enfold itself. Then it would be as possible to understand all as it would be simple to do all. However, the nature of things in composition and that possess the body does not permit this. For its substance abides in movement and quantity, even if by itself it neither moves nor is moved..." (Bruno, p XII). Bruno uses the common Medieval notion of the eye as mind (this was common in Renaissance neo-Platonist philosophy). His intent was to say that the mind does not analyze itself: that rationality ends where it begins. So where from there? What textual jumps, what shock-cuts in the text? [skip/fade/enter/delete]...
"From this play of night, light and leather, can I let myself take identity? Equipped with contradictory visions, an ugly hand caged in pretty metal, I observe a new mechanics. I am the wild machinist, past destroyed, reconstructing the present." Samuel Delaney, Dhalgren
There are other zones of expression that manifested in physical performance, movements of the body as bearer of meaning, such as Marinetti's notion of a "Synthetic Theater" where human action and gestures "destroy the Solemn, the Sacred, the Serious, and the Sublime in art with a capital A." His critique of art and identity mirrors that of two women: the African-American conceptual artist and philosopher, Adrian Piper, and one of the first multimedia performance artists: Valentine de Saint-Point. Saint-Point, the author of a multimedia "kinetic theater" entitled "Manifesto of Lust," performed on December 20, 1913, a "kinaesthetic incantation" at the Comedie des Champs-Elysees in Paris: Saint-Point professed words of love, fragmented "poems of atmosphere," love poems, hate poems, while projections of calculus equations and rotating colored lights bathed her disfigured shadow on the fabric behind her. Saint-Point's work is only prefigured, in terms of intensity and ability to communicate with the audience, by films of destruction, like the Lumiere Brothers' "Demolition of a Wall" (1896) and Edison's film of a time-lapse recording of a bullet ripping a lightbulb to shreds at the turn of the 20th century, or composers like Raymond Scott and Carl Stalling, whose compositions for cartoons like Bugs Bunny are etched, it seems, into the fabric of late 20th century culture like some strand of DNA sequence coding our collective memory for future mutations. On the other hand, in the field of philosophy, later in the same century, Piper in her essay "Xenophobia and Rationalism", critiques much of what Western society has viewed as "rational" through the agency of Kant and several other "Rationalists", and his notion of the "sublime" as a starting point for the recognition of both culture, perceptions, and what can be considered art. Kant's statement in his seminal essay, "Critique of Pure Reason" paves the way for much of what Piper herself critiques in Kant's work: "the transcendental concept of reason is none other than that of proceeding from a totality of conditions to a given condition. Now since only the unconditioned makes the totality of conditions possible, and conversely the totality of the conditions is itself always unconditioned; so a pure concept of reason in general can be explained through the concept of the unconditioned, so far as it contains a basis of the synthesis of the condition (A322/B379)... Concepts of pure reason... view all experiential knowledge as determined through an absolute totality of conditions..." What intrigues Piper so much about Kant's openness to "anomaly" is the sense that the "total" groundwork of knowledge is always in search for new aspects of information, her "remix" of Kant's idea of, as she puts it, "xenophilia": "So Kant is saying that built into the canons of rationality that structure our experience is an inherent disposition to seek out all the phenomena that demand an inclusive explanation. When applied specifically to the transcendent idea of personhood, this disposition to welcome anomaly as a means of extending our understanding amounts to a kind of xenophilia. That is, amounts to a positive valuation of human difference as intrinsically interesting..." Kant's notion of "the sublime" is extremely important for any critique of late 20th century culture. What we are seeing here with her critique of Kant's notions of "synthetic reason" and its relationship to what she calls "xenophilia" is a sense of configuring the known, recasting previous information, just as Emerson wrote of in his essay "Of Quotation and Originality."
In a strange way the juxtaposition of all of this information resembles the Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher, Lucretius, whose remix of Epicurus's notion of a "swerve," or "clinamen", which he advanced in his poem "On the Nature of the Universe" (written in 55 B.C.), holds humanity's perceptions of the dance of the atoms that compose the universe, and human beings' memories (meaning the corporeal sense of the body remembered, recalled, rewound, as a physical object in the universe), as the very fragments that hold our sense of existence together. "Fragment clings to fragment" Lucretius wrote, "thus the universe is born." Memory, the time of corporeal passage, the body's interaction with the universe, the body as a unified field of atomic interaction of fores regulating "mind and spirit"... More could be said on these topics and their relationship to electro-modernity. Other people have written books on stuff that for this essay alone, would be one phrase, one sentence, one word, perhaps. The way Edison viewed much of this kind of transmigration of memory patterns and their relationship to sound can be seen through his relationship with Emerson's work. In this regard, Edison subscribed to three figures for most of his "metaphysical" beliefs: Liebniz, Swedenbourg, and Emerson. Much of Leibniz's work was based on the belief that the universe was composed of an infinite number of spiritual forces or energies (monads, Greek for "units"), a kind of divine plan of ratios made of fragments ranging in size and importance from God to the hosts of angels that he used to guide his plans. Swedenbourg also borrowed heavily from Leibniz, with his idea that every being in the universe had a kind of harmony or correspondence with the "divine plan" or "heavenly sphere."
The blues impulse transferred containing a race, and its expression. Primal (mixtures...transfers and intimations). Through many changes, it remained the exact replication of The Black Man In The West... But evolution is not merely physical: yet if you understand what the physical alludes to, is reflective of, then it will be understood that each process in "life" is duplicated on all levels. The Blues (impulse) lyric (song) is even descriptive of a plane of evolution, a direction...coming and going...Through whatever worlds. Environment as the social workers say...but Total Environment (including all levels, the spirtual). Identification is Sound Identification is Sight Identification is Touch, Feeling, Smell, Movement... Amiri Baraka, Leroi Jones, The Changing Same (R&B and New Black Music).
As to Edison's relationship to their writings, Baldwin posits: "...Thomas Edison was equally at home exploring possibilities in metaphysical "realms beyond" as he was in the absolutely grounded world of material phenomena.... It naturally followed that when he was in the last decade of his life, Edison returned with deep preoccupation to existence after death. In so doing he tapped once again into a long, speculative tradition, inaugurated by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716), the Leipzig-born philosopher, mathematician, and statesman, and the foremost intellectual theologian of the seventeenth century..." We must not forget here, that "Rational" is derived from "ratio", and the notion of repetition is implicit in this worldview. Edison was fascinated with Emerson's essay "Representative Men" (1850) in which Emerson expounded a system of thoughts based on the idea that "every material thing has its celestial side, has its translation through humanity, in the spiritual and necessary sphere where it plays a part as indestructible as any other...." The inventor for Emerson, was someone who "began [his/her] lessons in the shipyards and dissecting rooms" and who could go from there, and derive notions that would move the inventor into "the dim spirit-realm." In this place, Emerson felt that the inventor would find that "nature is always self-similar repeating to herself in successive planes" of perception built upon aggregate "units" and "particles". Today, we are informed by a kind of textuality of what I like to call "the post-rational," or a milieu where the "text" of the natural has been displaced by its human derived interpretations, a place where Lautremont's description of beauty as "the chance meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table" and Rimbaud's idea of poetry as a "systematic derangement of the senses" hold sway. Perhaps when we view the contemporary concept of text through the lens of a kind of camera obscura, we are shown a place where even Roland Barthes definition of text in his infamous essay "Text, Discourse, Ideology" as "the phenomenal surface of the literary work; [it is] the fabric of the words which make up the work and which are arranged in such a way as to impose a meaning which is stable and as far as possible is unique," is under serious doubt. Later on in the same essay, Barthes makes an argument that text is a kind of interplay between "signifiance" and "jouissance," and that text reflects human expression as a kind of transcendent engagement. "Text" he writes, "takes part of the spiritual glory of the work, of which it is the prosaic but necessary servant. Constitutively linked with writing (the text is what is written), perhaps because the very graphics of the letter - although remaining linear - suggest not speech, but the interweaving of a tissue (etymologically speaking,'text' means tissue)...the text is a weapon against time, oblivion and the trickery of speech, which is so easily taken back..." This, of course, reflects his infamous dictum in which he announced the end of the text as a stable object for linear reference: "that is the pleasure of the text: value shifted to the sumptuous rank of the signifier...", in his essay "The Pleasure of the Text."
"I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar sensations of time travel. They are excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling exactly like that one has upon switchback - of a helpless head long motion! I felt the same horrible anticipation, too, of an imminent smash...Then in the intermittent darkness, I saw the moon spinning swiftly through, her quarters from new to full, and had a faint glimpse of the circling stars. Presently as I went on, still gaining velocity, the palpitation of night and day merged into one continuous greyness; the sky took on a wonderful deepness of blue, a splendid luminous color like that of early twilight; the jerking sun became a streak of fire, a brilliant arch in space; the moon a fainter fluctuating band; and I could see nothing of the stars, save now and then a brighter circle flickering in the blue..." H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
In 1699 a tome entitled "Choreographie ou l'art de decrire la danse, par caract_res, figures et signes emonstratifs" (choreography, or the art of describing dance with demonstrative characters, figures and signs - "writing with chorus") appeared on the scene of the time. To choreograph is, originally, to trace or to make models for dance. This is what Feuillet, who invented to word, thought of when he invented it in 1699-1700. Choreography, for him, was a kind of glossary of rhythmic movements. It was the first codified system of rules and regulations for human movement in Western culture, and it became one of the standard methods of choreographing dance movement. According to the collective of authors who published the book "Traces of the Dance", this codification of signs and symbols describing human movement migrated into other areas of culture: Liebniz, Rousseau, etc. According to Foucault in his history of the imagination of the 1700's, this kind of movement is made into correspondences with the very "wheels of the universe" of that time. Invented by a courtesan to King Louis XIV, Raoul-Auger Feuillet, the drawings and glyphs that were its visual hallmark, resemble what we call today, graffiti. They also bear a strange resemblance to Jackson Pollock's action paintings. Better yet, Giocommi Balla's "kinetic paintings." Or Joseph Beuy's notion of social sculpture...
Today, the notion of movement and choreography find themselves re-inscribed into a zone of flux: dance, sound-texture, all find themselves in a place where James Snead's notion of "concealed repetition" underlies much of dance movement. This aesthetic inherits much of the premises of what art critic Lucy Lippard called "the dematerialized object." Sound and signification. Sound as social text. Sound as bearer of social memory. Who's there? Speed to the edge of perception.
The word: Flow. Say it. Roll it on your tongue. Spit it out. Swim in it. Caress it.
"No philosophy transcends its age..." Hegel
I begin my conclusion with an excerpt from Samuel Beckett's play,
"Krapp's Last Tape." The essay unwinds, the tape spool rolls, reality
takes on a shimmering tinge, a kind of fractal distortion at the edge of
Theater directions: (abstract pain, frozen silence, torn ligaments embedded with Digital Audio Tape Ribbon, scenes from Alain Robbe-Grillet's nouveau roman "Last Year at Marienbad" mixed with footage from LA riots in 1994, and Islamic Fundamentalists protesting in Pakistan in 1997, are projected on the walls of woven fabric behind the actor. The tape begins to play, the curtains rise: (pause) He suddenly bends over machine, switches off, wrenches off tape, throws it away, puts on the other, winds it forward to the passage he wants, switches on, listens staring front.
TAPE: ...gooseberries, she said. I said again I thought it was hopeless and no good going on, and she agreed, without opening her eyes. (Pause). I asked her to look at me and after a few moments -(pause)- after a few moments she did, but the eyes just slits, because of the glare. I bent over her to get them in the shadow and they opened. (Pause. Low) Let me in. (Pause) We drifted in among the flags and stuck. The way they went down, sighing, before the stem! (Pause) I lay down across her with my face in her breasts and my hand on her. We lay there without moving. But under us, all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, and from side to side. Pause. Krapp's lips move. No sound.... Krapp motionless staring before him. The tape runs on in silence...
Whether performance comes to you via the route of tribal ritual or Medieval Passion plays, or the experimental spectacles Leonardo Da Vinci staged in front of bemused spectators for his "river pageants", to more recent things like the Futurists notion of a "Synthetic Theater" a place where "synchronism" was the all pervading motif, to performance artists like Q*Bert, Joan Jonas, Stelarc (whose body was controlled for performance pieces by needles electronically connected to the World Wide Web), Robert Morris, Yves Klein, Wu Tang Clan, KRS-1, and Robert Wilson, there is one thing that you will probably notice immediately: there is a sense that all of these things can be and usually are, expressions operating on many levels, in many fashions. In a sense, the more recent development of "hypertext" is probably the first literary form to take on the approximation of textual inscription and reinscription as performance. But that's another essay. I write to you from a milieu in which creativity, rests for the most part, in how you recontextualize the previous expression of others, a place where there is no such thing as "an immaculate perception." Sampling as the digital equivalent of Feng Shui? Sampling as a kinesthetic theater of memory? Sampling as the structural inheritor of Mikhail Bakhtin's "chronotopic" literary explorations... In the ecology of narratives, recycling myths is a very old game, a dance between presence and absence. Perhaps this is what Claude Levi Strauss spoke of when he called the "primitive mindset" that of a "bricoleur..." Sociographic expression - sound writing - mirrors the sense of continuous inscription and re-inscription of text that occurs when the needle, the focal point of sound, electricity, and the refractive characteristics of crystalline structure (the diamond on the tip of the needle), is put into action when you press "play" on the cassette deck you use to make a mixed tape or ride the fader on the mixing board. Soniture. Ecriture. Sound and the electric imagination in youth culture as the manifestation of language as total text, or as Toni Morrison puts it in her essay "Playing in the Dark:" "The imagination that produces work which bears and invites rereadings, which motions to future readings, as well as contemporary ones, implies a shareable world and an endlessly flexible language." Replication as differentiated from mere reproduction. Replication as it stands derived from "reply": the copies transcend the originals, the original is nothing but a collection of previous cultural movements. Flow... The turntable's needle in dj culture acts as a kind of mediator between self and the fictions of the external world. With the needle the dj weaves the sounds together. Do you get my drift?No Footnotes
Just straight up text...
Paul D. Miller, a.k.a.
Dj Spooky That Subliminal Kid
the memory of Phillis Wheatley.