Sunday, September 25, 2005

Seven Days: An Archipelago

This page is a bricolage of quotes, sounds, and texts inspired in part by the ideas and performances of Steve Valk, Michael Klien, and Jeffrey Gormly as presented in Seven Days of Everything, a performance for the Dublin Fringe Festival 2005. Their "social choreography" stands in relationship to this article, but exactly what that relationship is had better remain in flux. I thank them for inspiration.

An archipelago is a sea containing scattered islands. I use this term to mean a scattering of texts embedded in a particular context; a cluster without overt pattern but with some as-yet not fully determined connectivity.

ISLAND: Seven Days
Between 19-21 September 2005 I was an invited guest of the Daghdha Dance Company for Seven Days of Everything. The stage at the Project Arts Centre was inhabited by people found in the vicinity, furnished with chairs, lamps, art, and other items borrowed from the local community of Temple Bar. A new community was created from the collision of local inhabitants and passengers crashed in from Limerick and beyond. These were choreographed based on principles mostly subtle and patterns largely hidden.
For this special "Theatre Congress" we are gathering actions and act-ers, dreams dreamers and dreaming objects, food furniture and friends, art music clothes and other things of beauty, things to be said and reasons to say them, passions memories and difficult questions, toys and other distractions. We will gratefully accept whatever it is that you feel compelled to give.
-- Seven Days of Everything flyer
This event was part of the ongoing Framemakers project.

ISLAND: Temple Bar Sounds
Acting as escalation 746, I made numerous location recordings throughout Temple Bar, in an attempt to scavenge the sounds of the streets in a manner similar to how physical objects and people were being collected for the show. Three of those recordings are presented here. [FILES NOW REMOVED.]

This recording was made after pubs closed at 11:30pm Monday 19 September. In it you can hear people searching for their next drink, investigating nightclub possibilities, listening to street performers, and talking on their mobiles. This is a representation of the complex societal audio structure that goes largely unheard in today's visually-dominated culture. It displays a richness that becomes most obvious when presented free of the visual field.

Urban Outfitters
A theme that evolved through these recordings was the over-determined use of music that defines urban environments. Canned music from CD as an imposition on the listener. Recordings designed to cultivate a particular shopping environment. Sound as commerce designed to instill further commerce into the closed system of money that demarcates capitalism. These two field recordings, being named for their respective retail outlets, illustrate this.

In relationship to Seven Days of Everything I would like to say: Even if stranded on a desert island we will reconstruct, as did Robinson Crusoe, a simulacrum of the society we only externally abandoned.

Some of these sounds were used in the performance, particularly on Friday.

ISLAND: Globalisation | Space
"The crash from globalisation into the world." -- Alan Shapiro

But even a plane crash cannot save us, or the participants in "Lost", the television series purportedly about this phenomenon. Instead we need a quantum singularity to estrange ourselves from ourselves, to challenge the replication of replication itself. A cripple walking. A strange beast in the jungle.

It is this difference that keeps us alive.
The analogy between the terms "global" and "universal" is misleading. Universalization has to do with human rights, liberty, culture, and democracy. By contrast, globalization is about technology, the market, tourism, and information. Globalization appears to be irreversible whereas universalization is likely to be on its way out. At least, it appears to be retreating as a value system which developed in the context of Western modernity and was unmatched by any other culture. Any culture that becomes universal loses its singularity and dies. That's what happened to all those cultures we destroyed by forcefully assimilating them. But it is also true of our own culture, despite its claim of being universally valid. The only difference is that other cultures died because of their singularity, which is a beautiful death. We are dying because we are losing our own singularity and exterminating all our values. And this is a much more ugly death.
-- Jean Baudrillard, "The Violence of the Global" in Ctheory, 2003

The very word "globalization" is a fake. There is no such thing as globalization, there is only virtualization. What is being effectively globalized by instantaneity is time. Everything now happens within the perspective of real time: henceforth we are deemed to live in a "one-time-system".... Up to now, history has taken place within local times, local frames, regions and nations. But now, in a certain way, globalization and virtualization are inaugurating a global time that prefigures a new form of tyranny. If history is so rich, it is because it was local, it was thanks to the existence of spatially bounded times which overrode something that up to now occurred only in astronomy: universal time. But in the very near future, our history will happen in universal time, itself the outcome of instantaneity -- and there only.
-- Paul Virilio, "Speed and Information: Cyberspace Alarm!" in Ctheory, 1995
On Tuesday I was one of three guests on stage. Steve and I discussed a clip from the film Network, globalisation, the TV show Lost, why iPods suck, and how to virally market your songs by leaving them in thrift stores for others to randomly find. We were interrupted by Charisma, a twelve-year-old rapper who did a great song about kids on the street.

ISLAND: Speed | Accident
The accident, the crash, the confrontation with a god-like being, with the alien... all are dislocating influences which, rather than challenge who we are, define who we are. The Day The Earth Stood Still could have been an ordinary story of geopolitical power, albeit one in which the dominant force fearing the savages is from another planet. It could have been a simple retelling of the Christ story: an alien of great power comes to save us, is betrayed, dies, but rises again to redeem.

But what takes it outside of these prosaic readings is the accident at the heart of the narrative, the singularity that gives the film its title, the negative force which shuts down all electricity on Earth. It cannot be fought, cannot be explained, cannot be avoided. This absence strips speed from society, halts the circulation of capital, and returns us to a pre-post-modern existence. The alien does the one thing we could never do: stop the accelerating catastrophe of contemporary life.
The Accident portrayed here is no longer the haphazard bricolage that it still is in most highway accidents -— the bricolage of the new leisure class's death drive. The car is not the appendix of an immobile domestic universe: there are no more private and domestic universes, only figures of incessant circulation, and the Accident is everywhere as irreversible and fundamental trope, the banalizing of the anomaly of death. It is no longer on the margins; it is at the heart. It is no longer the exception to a triumphant rationality; it has become the Rule, it has devoured the Rule. It's not even any longer the "accursed part," the part conceded to fate by the system itself and calculated into its general reckoning. All is inverted. Here it is the Accident which gives life its very form; it is the Accident, the irrational, which is the sex of life.
-- Jean Baudrillard, "Ballard's Crash" in Science Fiction Studies 18.3, November 1991

"Contemporary civilization differs in one particularly distinctive feature from those which preceded it: speed. The change has come about within a generation," noted the historian Marc Bloch, writing in the nineteen-thirties. This situation brings in its wake a second feature: the accident.... Daily life is becoming a kaleidoscope of incidents and accidents, catastrophes and cataclysms, in which we are endlessly running up against the unexpected, which occurs out of the blue, so to speak. In a shattered mirror, we must then learn to discern what is impending more and more often—but above all more and more quickly, those events coming upon us inopportunely, if not indeed simultaneously.
-- Paul Virilio, Foreword to Accidents, exhibit at Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain

ISLAND: Time | Ecology
There is no ecology. Post- and trans-humans have no need for a supposed balance with "nature" since we reconstruct ourselves and redefine nature with every ingestion. Once the Earth is consumed there will be further resources. But once the sun is gone humans as residents of this solar system will lose the last word in their definition. Long before then they will be something else, but at that moment humans qua humans die.
Development simply wants to continue expanding indefinitely, and whatever restricts that internal dynamic merely registers as a problem to be overcome by the achievement of even greater levels of operational efficiency. Having transcended the human, with all its operational inadequacies, the only limit remaining to development's continued expansion would be the death of the sun; so by implication that limit is what techno-science is working towards circumventing. Thought is of interest to development only in so far as it is necessary to guarantee survival: no humanist ideals lie behind this exercise in preservation.
-- Stuart Sim, Lyotard and the Inhuman, 33-34

[I]f one wants to control a process, the best way of so doing is to subordinate the present to what is (still) called the "future", since in these conditions the "future" will be completely predetermined and the present itself will cease opening onto an uncertain and contingent "afterwards".
-- Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman, 65


1 comment:

robin said...

Some photos are now available in a related article.

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