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Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 00:32:13 -0400
From: Drazen Pantic <>

conceived by Brian Conley

'WAR!' is a radio performance that occurs in two radio stations linked
together via the Internet for on-air interplay. In this performance, a
group of 10 audio artists will be situated in each station armed only with
cartoon sound effects. Restricting themselves to these sound effects, the
groups will interact as organized opponents, rather than coordinated
sympathetic allies as in most musical collaboration. The artists will
participate in an imagined theatre of conflict / struggle for domination.

'WAR!' is intended to be a public radio event that reflects upon
'civilized' man's capacity for organized aggression and violence. The
performance is a satirical imitation of a horrific and totally repugnant,
but entirely common, state of human affairs. The structure of this project
arose from asking the question: How can one respond, within the domain of
art, to organized cruelty? Documentary film - to show it as it is - is, of
course, one mode, but in the videodrome cruelty can become not only
neutralized but fetishized. As a reaction to these possibilities, Conley
decided to retract from direct representation. Instead, he thought it would
be effective to draw a group of artists together and present a symbolic
situation in which the insanity could be made manifest.

In this project, two groups of highly creative and skilled artists utilize
only cartoon sound effects to generate a symbolic struggle for domination.
The two groups employ everything at their disposal - intelligence,
strategy, organization, creativity, technology - to oppose and dominate the
other. Participants prepare a group of soundtracks to be used according to
the unpredictable nature of the live interplay between the two groups. Each
group structures itself in whatever way it sees fit, though Conley suggests
they employ strategies described by various theorists of war such as Sun
Tzu, Von Clausswitz, or, more recently, Van Creveld. In the 2,000 year old
text The Art Of War, Sun Tzu gives prescriptions for handling conflict and
the waging of war, the primary aim of which is to not  do battle. But if
battle is unavoidable, he gives philosophical and strategic guidelines for
conducting it, such as planning a siege, assuming a seductive or unassuming
presence, or using surveillance agents. For example, Sun Tzu says 'Maintain
Discipline and adapt to the enemy in order to determine the outcome of the
war. Thus, at first you are like a maiden, so the enemy opens his door;
then you are like a rabbit on the loose, so the enemy cannot keep you out.'
The two opposing groups use such strategic theory to conduct this battle,
whose terrain is the domain of the audio and whose aim is victory. Although
"victory in the domain of the audio" is rather hard to grasp, it is
nevertheless central to the project and its atmosphere of the ridiculous.
It can be said, however, that with victory as the    goal, the aim is, in
general terms, to control the character of the audio event. This, of
course. cannot be accomplished in the broadcast by attempting to make the
most or loudest noise. That would result in nothing more than mutual
self-destruction, i.e. white noise. Strategies for victory must be subtle,
imaginative, cunning and, ultimately, commanding.

With respect to the restriction to cartoon sound effects: Slovenian
theorist Slavoj Zizek says that for the Modernist it is the loss of God
that creates the 'central absence' for man. Contemporary ennui though, he
continues, results from the recognition that the central absence is within
mankind itself. And within that 'incarnate absence' lurks Kafka's 'Supreme
Being of Evil'. One of the clearest delineations of this 'incarnate
absence' and the desire to act from it can be  found in even the earliest
animated cartoons, whose characters are rapt in endless choreographies of
beating, bludgeoning and domination that is done in 'good humor' and with a
sense of startling ordinariness. Cartoons (from Koko the Clown to Bugs
Bunny for example) are no doubt humorous, but beneath their surface and
especially in their repertoire of sounds, there is a remarkable level of
brutality. Because of this and because cartoons are agents of socialization
used to wean children from their parents, these sound effects are, Conley
believes, an appropriate vehicle for manifesting the perverse and socially
reinforced communal death-affirming propensity in man.

This project was conceived of with the war in Yugoslavia in mind, while the
organizer was there several years ago. The broadcast is a reflection upon
'civilized' man's capacity for collective acts of violence and aggression.
The project is in the form of a radio event so that active participants
create a symbolic spectacle, live and in public, which arrives in the
listener's livingroom relatively unnanounced. Within this framework the
participants adopt convincingly belligerent roles: they have to perform
acts of group directed, group sanctioned, aggression. In response to this
project an acquaintance said 'I do not see the creation of music, however
experimental and irreverent, as a struggle for domination. Musicians
playing together are not opposing factions.' And in an attempt to produce
an event without precedent, that is precisely why this performance is
organized around opposing factions. The structure of this project is not
meant to create new compositional modalities, advance musical culture, or
to claim untraveled artistic terrain. This project has nothing to do with
music or hip-tip entertainment. Instead, this event is set up so that the
sonic output is on the one hand structured, highly motivated and
intentionalized like music, but on the other hand, entirely unpredictable
and dependent on the contingencies and vicissitudes of the collision of
'ruthless intelligences'. Whether the broadcast manifests cruelty or humor
or both, where the psychological balance eventually rests, remains to be
seen. And this is part of the interest.