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<nettime> Scatter(ed) Dynamics (text): audio.culture.theory
tim jaeger on Thu, 2 Jan 2003 20:37:59 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Scatter(ed) Dynamics (text): audio.culture.theory

This is a text that I wrote for the SUBSOL  (http://subsol.c3.hu/) e-zine. 
It wasn't published (I couldn't revise it in time), but it's here an riffs 
on a variety of topics, going from Walter Benjamin, to new electroclash 
bands, to new audio and modes of production...I think it picks up where some 
of what Kodwo Eshun writes about in his book MORE BRILLIAN THAN THE SUN: 
Adventure in Sonic Fiction  leaves open for investigation, both in audio 
practice, theory, etc....  It's most likely of interest to 
practitioners/writers of any audio arts, sound art, and new music media.

Anyway, it's divided up into two parts, here's the first..Enjoy, and if you 
have any comments I'd love to hear them!

-Tim Jaeger
thelast100years.com (in progress)


Our current predicament/scenario/moment/etc. is an utterly discontinuous 
one.  It is both a culture on hyperalert for the New, and one where old 
traditions/rituals die hard. The Modern and Postmodern have converged 
seamlessly, without clean fissures or breaks to differentiate between a 
drive towards enlightenment/essences and an appropriated play-time where 
things collapse in upon themselves and signifiers lack meaning. Or, more 
specifically, the (mutated) subjectivities that are produced and activated 
throughout this time period.

Walter Benjamin views a period like the one we're in now as containing both 
past resonance and future predictions, as he wrote about in his Arcades 
Projects. While I disagree with Benjamin in that there is no “true history” 
that can be uncovered by unmasking a bourgeoisie experience of history and 
lived life, I agree that there are all sorts of 
anterior/exterior/Para-histories that can be synthesized. There are 
histories, all constructed, that emerge and demonstrate nonsynchronous forms 
of mutation and growth (Felix Guattari, a psychoanalyst, and Manuel De 
Landa, a historian/philosopher, mention two, Guattari's "auto-enriching" 
relationship to the world that he speaks of in Chaosophy and De Landa's 
"meshwork" model from his Thousand Years of Non-Linear History).


If this non-synchronicity produces anything, one thing is a culture based on 
a "metamodelisation" that takes into account the variety of modeling systems 
that already exist. These numerous histories/models (and I'm using the term 
liberally here...thinking of Kodwo Eshun's Sonic Fictions that he writes 
about in More Brighter Than The Sun, the numerous histories of 
genetics/matter and cellular replication, or even Deleuze and Guattari’s 
endless series of ‘becomings’ or where life-patterns of humans come to 
resemble those of animals ) can be (re)-inserted into the present in a way 
where causes and subjectivities are traced back through them, and a more 
aware Trans-Modernity is one that acknowledges its past, and seeks to make 
the inserting action transparent (cut, pasted, open-sourced) as part of the 
blueprint or code in constant creation.

“Becoming” isn't just relegated to humans morphing into the sleep/work 
patterns of fish or beavers and other animals that Deleuze and Guattari 
mention numerous times throughout Capitalism and Schizophrenia, nor is it 
virtual humans coalescing into F/X'd cartoons. “Becoming” becomes humans 
exfoliating entire histories into themselves, their lives, their activities.


The Electroclash movement (or the ‘new new-wave’) is a good case in point 
(Combining aspects of ‘80s new wave and more recent gritty techno, as well 
as a punk-rock take on 80s high-fashion) of this: Metamodelers like 
Ladytron, a band of 21st-century electro-Maoists, acknowledge our condition 
of permanent "newness" that never seems to cease. "We are now seeing so many 
significant changes in our lifestyle, which would have killed someone from 
the 1950s. As a result, new things will become less important to people, 
simply because there are so many of them. We can't stop it" they note from a 
’01 issue of *surface magazine (a design mag).

They fabricate a perpetually Darwinian self-regulating machine that balances 
itself out with propagandistic images culled from the recent past, where 
badly designed product not of a pedigree-clone variety is eclipsed by Modern 
AlphaProduct, "pared down," which becomes consumable and ready for purchase. 
Mind and body-space are at a premium, and they find it worthwhile to target 
the most fertile territory and cultivate in the least amount of time 
possible. They invite people to "imagine a future where less is really more. 
  Where a single new product unifies sofa, shoes, and the art of the walls" 
as new, all-encompassing totalizing products.   Electroclash unities all of 
these different movements, cultures, fashions, musics under one moniker. It 
is very much a meshwork, and ‘auto-enriches’ previous movements for a new 


An artist like Achim Wollscheid also embodies this ‘metamodelisation’ 
technique, especially with his remix of "all" the participants on the 
MASCHINELLE STRATEGEM compilation that the sub-division of the Mille 
Plateaux record label put out. (Ritornell). In this work, he takes sections 
of each of the participant’s tracks, and mixes it all together.  The remix 
is an appropriate enough model. Questions that might be asked when embarking 
on this kind of strategy might be: What's been left out? What can we make 
different? How about this version? What about that version? Your "essence" 
becomes my source material.  Watch out, you've been mulched. In Ladytron's 
case, the scheme just needs to be effective. Our bodies and minds are 
already prescient enough to accept varied foreign hosts with great ease. 
This "non-linear" history becomes a concretization of underlying 
auto-enriching schisms, feedbacks, and rhythms, not a linkage between dates 
and events.  From the violent schiz comes the organized, not the other way 


Everything from Sherrie Levine's photo-interpretations to Ladytron's staged 
revolutions functions as maps of causality that demonstrate this rather than 
functioning as "individual(ized)" efforts. Both utilize previous 
artist/intellectual labor as capital which speeds up the process of 
invention/re-invention/the new fall identity revolt sponsored by Calvin 
Klein, etc.  For Guattari, any type of invention is dependent on this…The 
freedom to articulate and express anything is dependant on the "dead" labor 
of others, and documentation becomes a refrain working off of capital 
recuperation and labor.  And just as production is dependent upon capital, 
so is its double: consumption.  As such, there is no labor that is not 
dependent in some shape or form on labor that preceded it.  There's no free 
ride on the culture-train. Weightlessness is an illusion. Sorry, your ticket 
expired long ago, but you have the chance to renew it. Which 
"labor-refrains" from the past we purchase and which fluxes of product and 
process we refer to reflect our subjectivities, of how we live, of our 
prosthetic relations to the outside world, and the capital that allows us to 
transform dead artistic/intellectual labor into newly enriched possibilities 
of expression.

Take the Lettrist Isadore Isou, working throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s and into 
the present. Going back to quanta levels, he began to view letters and 
sounds themselves as cultural-artifacts/elemental forms with revolutionary 
potential (both as a link between music and musical effects (onomatopoeia) 
and poetry, collage, as well as almost every other social field (cinema and 
architecture), so it's reduced to an almost elemental form.   Isou's desire 
for these new formations emerge around the same time as journalism and 
wide-spread publications have slang and jargon coming into contact with 
higher-speech idioms and modes of speech. This, as well as the French 
literary group the Oulipians' struggle for building linguistic labyrinth of 
escapes, mirror the drive towards a practice that struggles for new and more 
diverse ways of speaking, coining language, of avoiding becomes a "dead 
tongue, or "dead cells". Isou and the Lettrists synthesize new 
letter-strands. Isou's condemnation of other avant-garde works is not 
focused at the individual enunciations themselves, but rather in their 
failure to create adequate meta-models which create a "perpetually new" 
state of living (one that Debord tried to articulate). This is where life 
itself, and all the quanta it contains, catches up with art, becomes 
trans-modern. Isou tries to get at a perfect model, one that digs down into 
the bowels of language itself.


Isou’s experiments turn ordinary language into something different, foreign, 
almost like science fiction.  Due to this science-fictionalization of life, 
and the impossibility for a comprehensive narrative taking into totality all 
accounts, at once, the word "performance" becomes insufficient as a 
descriptive agent for those working in these realms. Replacing it with 
"trajectory" or, better yet, "transmission," suffices to categorize the 
activities of those like Antonin Artaud whose events bypass the simple 
art-historical terms. His Rodez transmissions hypothesize by mapping the 
body, the intimate abject, by electronically "leaking" information across 
disciplines and time periods and becoming a brutalized human shell.  
Likewise, our "everyday" actions are already labor-refrains and 
performance-transmissions that are more caricatures of the roles we already 
play, of the ways we move, and of how we have been affected by both 
historical, genetic, and environmental determinants.

    Recent performances act more as "caricatures," or events where elements 
of the daily are hypered via media. What is being transmitted, however, is a 
code, a map that allows users of our performance-interfaces to navigate more 
carefully the rest of our daily existences. We transmit these maps/codes so 
that our everyday performances immediately become traceable within the 
confines of this map. Semiotics meeting electrons. Chemicals meeting 
mechanics. And so on. So that, like the Surrealists, with Dali's attempts to 
compile catalogs and lists of phantasmal objects that refer back to the 
mechanics of the unconscious and the Situationists with their rapid 
constructions of urban ambiences and experiences wanted, we somehow save the 
everyday, somehow make it more worthwhile, or at least more navigable, and 
make the code more transparent.  Whether the clarification comes in the form 
of a hyper net.performance, or other forms, they are, like Debord says, ways 
to "read" other information in our immediate field of influence, ways to 
engineer a new improvisatory lexicon which posits itself as another 
possibility, another force of combinations that adds to, yet acts to counter 
the present spectacle.  So it’s a difficult terrain to be in.

Cultural schizophrenia is, ironically, both a cultural luxury and a 
necessity.  Switching-identities through fashion, psychoanalysis, 
subconscious dream-states that are in continuous fluctuation, etc. require 
currency and capital to facilitate, yet it is also a natural semitropical 
drive starting at the cellular level where the individual cell loses its 
borders, and becomes more amorphous.   It’s chemistry in motion. Our new 
21st century Schizophrenia is a product of the culture of the copy, the 
culture of the cut. Like Sherrie Levine and Ladytron.  Cutting and pasting 
constantly, endlessly, maddeningly.


Misunderstand Marx talking about this process leads me to this: "a –cut- 
which does not serve the purposes of labor is useless. In addition, the cut 
falls prey to the destructive influence of natural forces. Labor in this 
case acts as an all-consuming force which consumes other instruments, other 
products of labor."

Just as a Powerbook is a processing-machine, and Max/MSP is audio software 
with which users can program, code, and construct their own virtual 
instruments, combined they become meta-samplers and schiz-machines. Max/MSP 
consumes other instruments only to turn them into new, different instruments 
for others to use and produce new instruments with. The same with 
turntables, or small CASIO keyboards spitting out sampled rhythms from old 
New Order records. Instruments beget instruments beget instruments beget 
more instruments. Meta instruments. The dead labor of yesterday is the 
source material of today.


The CUT then becomes a fragment-in-space, a fracture waiting to be adhered 
artificially into a new point in time. The changes are memetic, as foreign 
hosts/bodies are effortlessly coagulated with existing material.  Nostalgia 
is obviated because the timescale that the operation takes place in is 
instantaneous, and virtually untraceable... Literally as well as 
figuratively, the CUT is in a new sort of space, a temporary space, and 
programs like MAX/MSP provides the chance to make artificial cuts at the 
most advanced level, to personalize your "cut" and make it available to 
others. like surgeons perfecting techniques and then putting them onto the 
mass-market for free.

Even in cities themselves, the metaphor of a Virus is prevalent now that the 
streets have been fully planned/designed as areas of consumption, as 
pathways to capital flow. The virus areas, the areas the Situationists were 
trying to rekindle as abject to capitals' flows and promises, urban spaces 
that haven't been necessarily colonized, or attempting to turn the ones that 
have over into public spaces where outré images and ideas can 'flow': where 
terms that aren't in use can prosper again.

We have to transcend these terms to find ways to highlight needs and desires 
that aren't created/produced/synthesized by the capitalist machine: in other 
words, we need new terms and inserted histories to counteract the barrage of 
omni-present spectacle hype, where money morphs into image-flow and 
(re)production. If we can't find spaces without, public-spaces, un-colonized 
spaces, then we will re-frame spaces from within and act as a Brechtian 
power-up to the otherwise rigid segmented spaces that constitute reality.

Tim Jaeger

(E-mail me for specifics on sources, books, records, texts described at 
tejaeger {AT} hotmail.com if interested...)

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