At times like these, let beauty strengthen our resolve.

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A heavily edited version of this piece was published in the Australian today, 25.11.15. Unfortunately, the edit required for the newspaper left out a paragraph explaining the title. So here is the unabridged version.

pg masao adachi

After events such as those we have just witnessed in Paris, it is tempting to say that the world will never be the same again and to a certain extent this of course is absolutely true. Certain dates or names are recoded by events such as these, resonating differently after such tipping points whenever another such point is reached: 9/11, Madrid, Mumbai, London… As we are seeing in Paris at the moment, however, events like these can bring about a determination to carry on as normal in spite of the apparent impossibility of doing so, and in Paris people are once again filling the terraces of cafés which were but a short time ago the site of horror. Far from being a refusal to face up to what has happened or merely symbolic, in doing this Parisians are sending a forceful message to the world, and in particular to the terrorists, that they will not be changed, that they will therefore not bow to the wishes of those who reject their values and culture. As a friend of mine in Paris wrote when letting me know she was safe: “PARIS sera toujours PARIS”.

A few hours before the attacks commenced in Paris, at 3am (AEST) on the morning of Saturday 14th, I finally stopped work on a chapter of a book I am finishing on French filmmaker Philippe Grandrieux. Grandrieux is, in my opinion, one of France’s most important and radical living artists with an uncompromising vision of the role of the cinema. His films are, in many different ways, very confronting both in terms of their aesthetic and formal construction and the subject matter they explore. For this reason, whilst they have enjoyed a great deal of critical acclaim on the festival circuit his films are not widely distributed and as a result not particularly well known. When I awoke to the news of the Paris attacks and heard commentators attempting explanations as to why this had taken place and comparing France’s integrationist model unfavourably in relation to Australia’s successful multicultural model, there came upon me a dreadful moment of absurdity and self-doubt. As a French studies scholar living in Australia, I thought, surely that was the kind of issue I should be working on to try and help, to do something useful.

And then, as I continued to watch the news, I saw the people return to the cafés and realised how wrongheaded that thought had been.

Perhaps I should have known better, after all, the film I had been working on that night was in fact deeply politically engaged, already part of the fight for freedom. The film in question was Grandrieux’s film essay on Japanese filmmaker and political activist Masao Adachi, the first in a series conceived by Grandrieux and French film scholar Nicole Brenez that takes its title from a line in Adachi’s 2007 film Prisoner / Terrorist, “It may be that beauty has strengthened our resolve”. For Brenez, the guiding light of this series comes from Schiller who considers that considers the work of art to enable in the observing individual a form of moral emancipation, since it provides proof that “beauty is delivered from all constraints and is nurtured solely by freedom”.[1]

There are a number of different ways that one could think about this in the context of the Paris attacks. For my own part, what this idea made me realise as I watched the crowds return to the terraces of the cafés in Paris is that it is not only politically engaged art that is part of this fight for freedom but all art, all culture. Paris’ terrasses de café are a deeply-ingrained aspect of French culture, as is music, as is football, and there was then absolutely nothing innocent or random in the choice of sites for these attacks. This was an attack on a culture that holds freedom as the principle to be valued above all other, an attempt to limit that freedom by suppressing these cultural forms through which freedom is necessarily expressed. As His Excellency Christope Lecourtier, Ambassador of France to Australia said in his speech after the one minute silence observed on 16th November in Canberra, this is a question of choice, “the choice of life, the choice of liberty, the choice of arts against the choice of death”. A similar point has been made forcefully in regards to music by Marie-Nathalie Jauffret in her recent piece for the Conversation France “La musique ne doit pas céder à la menace” in which she argues that the hostility towards certain forms of cultural expression in some factions of radical Islam should serve as a reminder of the fundamental link between the freedom of artistic expression and peace and thus as a clarion call.[2]

My knee-jerk response to the attacks that made me doubt for a short time the value of my work may simply have been symptomatic of a more general sense of the absurdity of life in the face of such senseless violence (something about which Camus, Céline, Ionesco and Picasso have much to teach us, in different ways). It may be the case, however, that I have started to internalise the discourse of the research environment in Australia (a phenomenon Foucault can help us understand) which has seen an increasing emphasis on key terms such as “impact”, “national research priorities” and “tangible outcomes” at the same time as a noticeable drift towards the funding of applied research producing pragmatic deliverables. If we look at the funding code in which cinema studies finds itself, for instance, the last round of ARC Discovery projects funded only four projects that set out to investigate digital lifelog photographs as effective memory cues, to improve the social skills and acceptability of future robots, to analyse utilitarian filmmaking in Australia and to improve creative software for learning and professional artistic practice.

I have absolutely no doubt that all of these projects will produce brilliant work and in mentioning them here I am by no means criticising them nor the decision to fund them – and for the record, I did not lodge an application in the last round so this is not simply a bad case of sour grapes. Likewise, I have no doubt that in many of the core humanities research codes we will continue to see in the coming years an increase in the number of funded projects turning their attention directly to issues of border protection and terrorism and I believe this is only natural and right given the times we live in. My concern, though, is that if this is the only kind of research that we conduct (or fund, as there is to a certain extent a correlation between these things), the terrorists will have won in any case, will have fundamentally changed our culture through fear, will have forced us to stay behind closed doors rather than return to the terrasses de café where we might reflect, learn, share, reaffirm and question what it means to us to be human.

It is in helping us to think through questions such as this that art and the humanities have a key role to play. The arts and humanities have the capacity to help us engage with the unthinkable, to open up alternative views that furnish us the means to respond to or think through the irreducible complexity of situations like this without imagining that there needs to be an answer, that there could be a panacea. At times like this when it is so difficult to understand what has happened, to know what to do, we thus need the arts more than ever. For this reason, I will not reinvent myself as a political theorist with intercultural expertise and I will finish my book on Grandrieux. In doing so, like the Parisians filling the terrasses de café, I do this in order to affirm that life carries on yet in the knowledge that life has also changed, but changed only insofar as my resolve to carry on is now only stronger, that beauty has strengthened my resolve.

Culture 1. Terrorists 0.

[1] Nicole Brenez, « Cultural Guerrillas », available online:  http://www.movingimagesource.us/articles/cultural-guerrillas-20120301

[2] https://theconversation.com/la-musique-ne-doit-pas-ceder-a-la-menace-50712

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MEUTRIÈRE. Text by Manuela Morgaine. Translation by Greg Hainge.

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To follow an amazing text by Manuela Morgaine on Philippe Grandrieux’s latest performance, MEUTRIÈRE. I was lucky enough to see this same performance at Le Phare in Le Havre earlier this year. A truly transformational experience, as you will understand from the text below. With thanks to Manuela for allowing me to reproduce this here. For the original French, see here.

MEUTRIÈRE[1]

A Philippe Grandrieux performance.

“The thing is

senseless,

mad,

untenable,

hysterical,

grotesque,

phobic,

dangerous,

brutal,

devouring,

savage,

sexual,

unpredictable,

stupefying,

frenetic,

atrocious,

concerned,

frightening,

ecstatic,

desirable,

vulgar,

perverse,

embarrassing,

immodest,

nervous,

obscene,

sacred,

sacrificed,

furious,

murderous.

But above all,

the thing is

without intention.”

You have missed something. Before it’s even started. You know, you feel that you have missed something. You are missing something. That’s what you feel. From the outset. In the antechamber of MEURTRIÈRE. It’s what came before. You feel that something has begun without you. And yet you’re not late. You wait. You wait for it to start. Yet you feel that it’s all started without you, that it has already been born, that it’s been moving through the eternal night, well before the première in New York the year before, well before. You can sense that it’s in train, but it’s inexpressible in words, you can say nothing about this sensation. Everyone around you is talking and yet you can tell from their faces, you can feel that you’re not the only one to feel it, that something is happening on these waiting faces. This “impatience”, this burning impatience feels so much like desire, you could already feel it in the train, you saw it in the looks of those who, like you, were making the trip from Paris to le Havre. And there, in le Phare in le Havre, just before entering into the absolute blackness of the stage, you understand that all of those who are there all know that they want the same thing, that they are not going to the theatre or to the cinema, but that they have been driven there by the imperious desire to live something that has no name, a vision with no name, a turbulence, a purgatory. Bit by bit you understand that this intense, sacred space that you are waiting for is what you cannot experience, generally, when you enter into the theatre or the cinema, or a gallery for that matter, that everything here is somehow changed, intensified by the protocol required for entry.

You are told to go in one by one in the dark, you are told to enter one by one, holding hands. Finally the possibility of reaching the other, taking someone else’s hand, touching the hand of a stranger in the dark. Everything here is turned on its head from the start, the security signs and exit lights are hidden, you must turn off anything which might, apart from yourself, light up (mobile phones, cameras…). Everything but yourself must be switched off. You enter into the dark like them, Pieter Bruegel’s blind, and in an instant you plunge in, you lose your sight and lose sight of life with its dross and sheen of civility. You advance through the dark, groping, letting yourself be guided by the bodies of those in front of you who, in turn, are guided by a pathfinder. You let go and enter into the circle.

blind

Once there, to lose yourself, like the souls in Dante’s Purgatory, you go where you can go, where you can walk, along the edge of the large stage. Yet you’re not obliged to stick by the wall, to go there. No violence is done to you here. Here it can only be this way. It is you who wanted it to be like this, who wants it to be like this, so you let it be, you put your trust in this “Thing” which is happening to you, that you wanted and felt in advance. I felt it, I knew it, I came for it, to go there, to go straight to “the Thing” so that I could finally go where I no longer know where I am, in the shadows of the world, in the interstices of the unknowable. I came here with all of you to lose myself, without a hint of blind beatitude, I came here to cast myself into the abyss, with no other intention, into limbo. Such liminal spaces characterise the brilliance of Philippe Grandrieux’s work, from his films Sombre, Un Lac, La Vie Nouvelle and, most recently, White Epilepsy. All of these constitute visions of pure and simultaneous attraction and repulsion, of the darkest night of images and bodies into which the poet, the artist, plunges us as if into a developing bath to reveal to us the convulsive forms of his interior world which is also ours, if we are willing to stare it in the face.

The technical rider indicates that “a black box is required, no light or sounds from the outside must penetrate into the space set aside for the performance. The minimum dimensions of the space must be 10mx10m with black walls at least 4m high and the floor covered with a black dance mat. The spectators enter into the performance space accompanied by a guide who helps them to find a spot by the wall in the half light, standing or sitting on the ground. A single LED panel lights the centre of the space. The dancers are already present, the performance has started in the silence. Music is played during the performance.

We had read this before and thus knew it all in advance. There is here then no trap. No trickery. The conceit is simple, sober, entirely determined in advance, as is our presence, our postures, sitting or standing. Nobody stays standing. It is impossible to stay standing in a space as intimate as this, because four naked female bodies are already there before us, lying on the ground, breathing, face down on the earth. It would seem somehow obscene to remain standing when the spectacle of life itself is at your feet. So you wish to get down off your feet, to eclipse yourself, like the light, you seek the half-light of yourself, to diminish your own shadow. You want to make yourself disappear, all but your eyes. If only you could bury yourself under the dance mat, or behind the black curtain you are leaning against. It’s not that you’re ashamed or want to hide yourself, it’s that you want to abstract yourself. Your winter garments are heavy, if only you also could lie down naked in the darkness, you know no one would fall for it. You feel as though you have been stripped naked as soon as you enter into this radiographic space which unavoidably imposes itself on you. And so you fade into the darkness, you disappear from yourself as much as you can and, crouching like a beast, you watch, crouching at the same time like the hunter gone to ground, your eyes wide open to see through the loophole of your innermost intimacy these naked female forms that seem to emerge from the earth, or into life, or to come back from the dead. When you hit the ground you left Peter Bruegel’s march of the blind but still you are traversed by painting. You see there in front of you “The Last Judgement” by Luca Signorelli, right here right now, you see “The Resurrection of the Body”.

earth

 

earth 2

These naked female forms which, for now, in the silence, breathe more or less heavily, come to life all around the stage in almost total darkness, close to you, to us. These naked female forms are no longer naked women, just naked female forms that breathe hard, groan and pull themselves out of the ground, slowly and convulsively all at the same time, over a long period. You think that this resurrection, this scene of naked female forms pulling themselves out of the ground convulsively lasts half an hour. Even if you quickly lost all sense of time, for anyone reading what you write and who hasn’t seen this, you say that it must have lasted about thirty minutes. You soon understand that the choreography, this articulation of forms, is improvised, yet that there is a protocol here, codes and movements that are deliberate and prescribed, pulsations, rhythms, but that time belongs only to the dance. That there is no single master directing the movements. But neither are there simply dancers doing as they want guided only by inspiration. Here the body is the sole sorcerer’s apprentice of its own dance and soon of its trance.

Like these four naked female forms which gradually rise up under the savage sway of the purest possible impulse, you too are under the sway of your own gaze. Not hypnotised, you are fully conscious, you belong to yourself more than ever, but simply and finally delivered unto yourself, it is you that you see in front of you, your primordial being articulating its first movements, like a fawn freshly fallen from the womb faltering on its part-formed limbs.

A cave dance, a parietal body language. Before these tectonic women you are dumbstruck.

You see convulsions, whirlwinds of hair, flashes of teeth, contortions, arcs, a tornado, skin, instability, combats, nothing, seismic quakes, canvases of the Grand Masters, reflections, gushes, waves, percussions, eruptions, sometimes all at once, orgasm and ocean.

You hear pure breath then sighs, bellows, cries, a cough, a wail, hands hitting a body, like a rhythm that drives it, reanimates it, and then friction, flows, and, under it all, a swell.

m3

© Philippe Grandrieux

m2

© Philippe Grandrieux

m1

© Philippe Grandrieux

“Hands grasp nothing, arms do not embrace. They are simply appendices, sometimes cumbersome, whose usage has been lost, bits of bodies removed from all social or cultural constituencies, beyond all knowledge. What ‘Meurtrière’ requires is a body that does not know, entirely subjugated to the rhythm that drives it. It is this constant rhythm from which emerges every act. A fierce will that derives only from instinct. […] The world of “Meurtrière” gradually starts to infiltrate us, to occupy us.”

This is what you read in the notes that Philippe Grandrieux communicated day after day to four dancers during the rehearsals for MEURTRIÈRE that led, over five days, to this work’s creation.

In silence the world of MEURTRIÈRE has infiltrated you. More than an hour has gone by and it is as though you are in front of a sea that you could watch for hours and hours, mesmerised by the infinite variation of its waves. A sensual consecration, you are sitting on the ground, your back to the wall in the dark and in silence watching these four naked female forms reveal before your eyes a whole range of movements never seen before. These forms are naked every which way you look at them, the body’s forms shown as you’ve never seen them, shaded, in a half-grey-light, convex and concave, part erased or recomposed by the oblique irradiation of a single loophole of light. In the middle of the black carpet, the LED panel opens a luminous window, it can’t be called a light. It’s a slit, that allows us to understand the performance’s title, where this title finds its full meaning, MEURTRIÈRE, an empty slightly phosphorescent rectangle, a space in which to radiate, to expose oneself, to reveal oneself as though a photographic plate, a space of exposure for four dancers on whom each ray of light that they capture as they pass through centre stage develops, depending on the angle of incidence, a morphology, the semblance of a face, a hint of hair, the shadow of a muscle, a fragment of a sculpted body, never a whole woman. Nothing but incomplete contours, fragments of a statue.

PG

© Philippe Grandrieux

The whole time you see though that these naked forms are women. Yet there is never anything obscene in this. This astounds you still as you hear groans, a yapping that belongs to solitude as much as it does to the pack. Before this vision of intertwinings, tanglings of breasts, of thighs, of buttocks, of genitals. Even when they spread their legs right in front of you, whether near or far, you find yourself faced with an abstract gaping, a line of flight. An “extenuating” beauty. An absence of sexual provocation when the whole scene is furiously voluptuous, savage, moans in the night. This is something you have never seen. This way of moving, moaning, contorting oneself, touching oneself, convulsing with no hysteria, this manner of being present, all four magnificently whole and naked, open to gesture, to backwash, in silence and near darkness. Nor have you see this manner of stopping. Time suspended in which nothing happens. Nothing at all. Nothing but you and them, breathing.

This is now a unique time, unique for you, in which one of them, one of those naked female forms comes to wash up against you, on all fours, right up against you, its breath like a muzzle placed in your lap, breasts hanging like those of the Capitoline Wolf, against you, motionless, when this form comes close to you, rests there to inhale, breathe, with no odour after this convulsive and swelling flood, it must have been going on for two hours, you’re breathless with tears in your eyes, you’re submerged under a new emotion. Who knows why. This form, this “Thing” built like a woman, does not move, does not caress you. It doesn’t attract you. It doesn’t provoke you. It doesn’t seek you out. Doesn’t attack you. It abandons you. Abandoned to itself it abandons you. It stays there for at least a quarter of an hour against you without the slightest movement. You are there with it “without intention”. Finally “without intention”. Could you have imagined that before? That it might be possible to get to this point, to be purely and simply “without intention” and that this should be so transformational? You lack nothing. You have been made to act without manipulation. The other has enacted you by doing nothing, by doing nothing to you and without you doing anything. You desire to do nothing other than what you are doing here, what you are living here, except perhaps to prolong the duration of this body to body relation without intention. We have not moved one iota, one nor the other, our hair, our breath are combined. Your heart is beating out of your chest. Inside you on the Richter scale it’s the big bang, the initial instant.

And in this the most moving moment comes as you touch the initial instant of vision.

On the impulse of one of them the movement starts up again. And they all then rise up, recreate the vertical. Before your eyes the creatures emerge from the clay on the wheel of Pygmalion the potter. Not yet dry these female forms make and unmake themselves in their nudity, like four cardinal points, beautiful, authentic and raw with unrecognisable faces. They have lasted in this intensity, whether moving or immobile, they have lasted more than two hours in this orchestrated improvisation of their agile and free instincts. And it is at this point that the music comes to rend space into pieces. For you and all of those around you the resurrection of sound after so much silence accompanied only by the sound of bodies carries a phenomenal force. You hear the guitar chords in your head, you who have been plunged into silence for so long, you hear the bass notes of the guitar in your very body. Your blood pumps. The music is broadcast loud, precisely, womb-like, prodigious, insistent, this electric music reanimates everything, lights us up, excites us, liberates space and dance in a prodigious movement. The horizon, dark to its core, suddenly lights up.

And yet the intensity of the loophole of light in the centre does not change. It is only your perception that suddenly transforms everything. These slow minutes of music, to finish in beauty, in intensity, in saturated basslines that vibrate the ground, along the walls, that propagate in flashes, in radiance, in grace.

And then you do not know how it ends, if one were to ask you, you could not say how it ended. It is without an end, without applause, without anything that might resemble what takes place in the Society of the spectacle. You have passed over to the other side of the mirror, you have broached the walls of the world of appearance, the wall of sound. Are you in the fourth dimension? That’s what it feels like, like 3D or 4D, everything picked out in extreme relief, intense forms coming to you, penetrating you, landing on your retina. You leave and the light burns you. There has been no video projection, no special effects, no trickery, no holograms. Nothing but life in action in a half-light bisected by a loophole. Nothing but the vision of an eye stripped bare. What is on stage stops, but what is in you does not stop, this form, this fullness, this eruption of naked female forms, this bodily contact in the confines of the visible world. You can hardly believe it: this performance, two and a half hours, obscure and unnameable, now and forever, MEURTRIÈRE touches you with its look.

Manuela Morgaine

Film maker and writer.

www.foudre-lefilm.com

Translated by Greg Hainge.

MEURTRIÈRE by Philippe Grandrieux premièred in the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 18th October 2013 as part of the Festival Walls and Bridges exhibition curated by the Villa Gillet and as part of the Pharenheit Festival in Le Phare, National Centre for Choreography in Le Havre Upper Normandy on the 29th January 2014.

With Emilia Giudicelli, Vilma Pitrinaite, Hélène Rocheteau, Francesca Ziviani.

An Epileptic production with the support of Le Phare, CCN du Havre Haute-Normandie.

Music by Ferdinand Grandrieux.

http://www.epilepticfilmbookmusic.com

http://www.grandrieux.com/


[1] Translator’s note: “Meurtrière” is both an adjective meaning “murderous”, as well as a noun designating both a “murderess” and a “loophole” – in its architectural sense of a slit in a wall through which arrows can be shot.

Radio noise.

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IMG_1422Because today’s news is tomorrow’s oblivion, even if the content of this link would seem to prove the opposite and to reinforce, in spite of myself, the ineradicability of the past despite all efforts to the contrary, here, for posterity, is a sound card recording of the interview I did with Fenella Kernebone for JJJ’s Sound Lab on the topic of noise. It’s been streaming all week but the new will wipe out the old.  MP3 here.

Copie conforme.

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In a story that is almost too fitting, once upon a time I promised a piece to someone for an artist’s book on the theme of ‘the copy’. Since reading Houellebecq’s La Carte et le territoire at that time, and knowing of the wikipedia scandals surrounding certain passages in it, whilst being struck myself at the possibilities opened up by thinking through this text in conjunction with the famed Borges fable and Baudrillard’s use of the latter, I decided to do a remix of all of these and produce out of it some kind of a commentary on the idea of the copy. The tale though gets stranger, forIMG_1322 whilst the intention was to see if the juxtaposition could render difficult the possibility of tracing back any one of the original ideas or texts to the point at which it could indeed serve as an origin for any of the other texts folded into my own, the volume in which this was supposed to appear seemed to regress back in on itself, not so much simply never to be published but to appear as though the idea for the text had never even existed in the first place. To this day, I do not in fact know if the text appeared, or if there really ever was or was to be such a text. It could then be that what is to follow broaches copyright laws of some nation state, and if it is so let it be suggested simply that this is but one further mode of reflection on the very question that I was attempting to broach here.

The text to follow is mostly composed of fragments of the following texts:

Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Of Exactitude in Science’, in A Universal History of Infamy, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni, New York: E.P. Dutton & Co, Inc, 1972, p.141.

Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, translated by Sheila Faria Glaser, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994, p.1.

Michel Houellebecq, La Carte et le territoire, Paris: Gallimard, 2010, pp.62, 65, 81-2 (translations by Greg Hainge)

Copie conforme : Perec il y arrive quand même mieux que moi.

If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts—the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging)—as the most beautiful allegory of simulation, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra. In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Let us take some actual territory in which cities appear in the following order: Paris, Dresden, Warsaw, when taken from the West to the East. If we were to build a map of this territory and place Paris between Dresden and Warsaw thus:

Actual territory    *__________*__________*

.                  Paris               Dresden            Warsaw

Map                    *__________*__________*

.                  Paris               Dresden            Warsaw

we should say that the map was wrong, or that it was an incorrect map, or that the map has a different structure from the territory. Turning his back on photography based on the gelatin silver process, which he had used for all of his work up until this point, he bought a Betterlight 6000-HS which allowed him to capture 48 bit RGB files with a 6000 x 8000 pixel resolution. For the exhibition he had chosen part of the Michelin map of Creuse, the region where his grandmother’s village could be found. He had used a very steep 30° angle to shoot the image and employed as much tilt as possible to create great depth of field. Afterwards he had softened the distant regions of the image and overlaid a bluish effect on the horizon in Photoshop. In the foreground were the lake in Breuil and Châtelus-le-Marcheix. Further back, the roads that wind through the forest between Saint-Goussaud, Laurière and Jabreilles-les-Bordes rose up as though in a dreamscape, magical and inviolable. Towards the top left of the image, seeming to emerge from a bed of mist, one could clearly make out the red and white ribbon of the A20 motorway.

Actual territory   *____­­­­­___________*_______________*

.        Châtelus-le-Marcheix      Jabreilles-les-Bordes    Saint-Goussaud

Map                   *_______________*_______________*

.       Châtelus-le-Marcheix     Jabreilles-les-Bordes     Saint-Goussaud

If, speaking roughly, we should try, in our travels, to orient ourselves by such a map, we should find it misleading. It would lead us astray, and we might waste a great deal of unnecessary effort. In some cases, even, a map of wrong structure would bring actual suffering and disaster, as, for instance, in a war, or in the case of an urgent call for a physician. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irrreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigors of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering and occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography. Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Jed Martin’s work was generally thought of as the result of a somewhat cold and detached reflection on the state of the world, an analysis which made of him a kind of descendent of the great conceptual artists of the previous century. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory—precession of simulacra—that engenders the territory, and if one must return to the fable, today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. The entrance to the gallery was blocked by a large hoarding with a two-metre gap on each side and on which Jed had hung two photos: a satellite image of the area surrounding the Ballon de Guebwiller and an enlargement of the departmental Michelin map of the same region. The contrast was striking: whilst on the satellite image one could only make out a morass of more or less identical greens dotted with vague blue stains, the map traced a fascinating network of local roads, scenic routes, reference points, forests, lakes and passes. Above these two blown-up images was the title of the exhibition in black capital letters: THE MAP IS MORE INTERESTING THAN THE TERRITORY. Two important characteristics of maps should be noticed. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness. If the map could be ideally correct, it would include, in a reduced scale, the map of the map; the map of the map, of the map; and so on, endlessly…

.                              Greg Hainge with J.A. Suárez Miranda

Mise-en-blog. Part III.

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IMG_1223The final instalment of this series brings us face to face with the insane brilliance and verbal and neural pyrotechnics of Kane X Faucher. I can’t pretend to understand parts of what Kane’s on about much of the time, and  here he’s outdone himself. It’s certainly fun trying to keep up though. Massive thanks to everyone who has been a part of this.

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Mise-en-blog. I of III.

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IMG_1398Mise-en-blog. I of III.

In what is undoubtedly a somewhat perverse move, here is a link to another blog that I was asked to do by Bloomsbury for the release of THE BOOK. Slightly odd to read your own words filtered through a PR specialist / marketing department.

My opening gambit really only a means to get to the good stuff from good friends and colleagues who were generous enough to offer musings. Thanks to them all. Parts II and III to come.

Machine art.

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drawing machingBenjamin Forster “Drawing Machine (output = plotter).

Currently exhibited in the QUT art museum, here is what the wall blurb tells us. “In Drawing Machine, Forster has programmed a computer to draw. The program simulates the human characteristics of drawing, and the result is an endless trail of marks or doodles – but are they drawings, and can a computer draw?”

A similar question has travailed me recently. I’ve been working on the idea of non-human agency in music. Can a suikinkutsu (Japanese sounding water fountain) or an Aeolian harp, for instance, be said to produce music? It’s a question that takes us deep into the heart of new materialist philosophy, but ultimately, I would suggest, into the heart of aesthetics, more than anything else.

It’s in thinking through this, however, that I’ve come to actually question a claim that I’ve made in Noise Matters. Not a good sign I know because we’re not even at the UK and Australian release date of that volume yet…. But still…. These things are perhaps unavoidable. No idea, I think, ever reaches the point at which it is fixed for ever more. If it does it’s perhaps not worth much in the first place. Not an idea at all in a sense. If thought indeed always produces the new at every turn.

So here’s the thing. I had previously claimed that if one wishes to consider the ontology of music, then one should only in fact turn one’s attention to the point at which that music comes into being at the point of expression / the point of composition / performance. Which is to say that whilst the reception of music in the ear of the listener was indeed an important part of the whole picture when it came to thinking about music, this was part of a secondary ontology that did not impact upon the ontology of music per seBut now I’m not so sure.

Let me try and run the argument quickly. If one imagines that music can only actually be produced by a human agent, such that the sounds produced by a suikinkutsu cannot actually be termed “music” because no human agent is responsible for making any kind of choice in relation to the deployment of the sound, only the deployment of the system which autonomously produces sound following the construction of the assemblage, then one needs necessarily to say that, for instance, a piece like Yasunao Tone’s Solo for wounded CD is not music, since similarly the process consists simply of setting up a system which will produce certain kinds of sounds, not making any choices in relation to the sounds that are made, but letting the system run so that the hardware of the assemblage created creates all sounds that are heard, independently of all human agency, even if of course human agency has been responsible for putting the assemblage there in the first place.

The problem with this hypothesis is that it requires the listener to know something about how the system operates, about how sound is produced in order to be able to say that the piece is music or not music. And this is problematic. For it is entirely feasible that one might come across a similar sounding piece that had in fact been created through an intentional act on the part of a human actant. See for instance Inigo Wilkin’s excellent piece “Enemy of Music” on his blog “Irreversible Noise” where he writes:

contemporary musicians working in the non-standard phase space between periodic sine tones and non-periodic complex modulation (such as Haswell and Hecker, Mark Fell and many others) are capable of producing a radically inhuman and non-aesthetic music that mobilizes unpredictable complexity across many orders of magnitude.

Given this, given the possibility of a human-produced  aesthetic expression that would be “radically inhuman” (even if this is an assertion I’d want to push at a little further), I cannot now help but think that in fact the ontology of music has to do with a certain disposition towards sound, either in production or reception, and that in thinking about the ontology of music, one cannot in fact separate out these two different phases for both are implied, arguably, in the term ‘music’. This could of course lead to a whole different philosophical speculation that would pick up on other arguments concerning trees falling in forests with no listener present to hear the sound. To which of course one can only answer “of course it makes a sound”.

Dead Silence.

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Dead Silence (Limited Edition Art Book)I recently wrote a catalogue essay for Lawrence English’s event “Dead Silence”, the gorgeous edition of which you can get here, although whilst you’re at it you should do your ears a favour and get yourself some sounds too.

For those of you not fortunate enough to have this yet who might have interest in the essay, here it is. Although again. Buy it, it’s super pretty.

So glad I managed to use this quotation from my Dad in something (he had an eardrum blown out in the war, which might explain the inscription a little).

Unlocking the Cage with/in the Key of Silence.

When I can’t hear anything, I try to be a good listener.

–James Hainge, my Father.

 Silence. Or almost silence. We are talking of course of the latter, can only talk of the latter if the many following the one are to be believed. Silence is of course impossible for John Cage. Because of his blood and his nervous system. In a story that is now well-known and does not need to be heard again here for already it will never fade into silence. And yet perhaps we cannot merely let it become the sonorous background upon which all expressions approaching silence are left to resonate. Because what if, like the Œdipal system in Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of the latter (1984), Cage’s nervous system is in fact our névrose, which is to say precisely that which stops us understanding what we think we know we are talking about and absolutely not, then, the key to understanding this system which for some reason requires only four minutes and thirty-three seconds of our time. If this is to be the sonic background upon which all silence must be founded, then silence can produce only lines of abolition, for it can only ever be deployed into a space in which it cannot exist. Unable to operate within the sphere into which it must be projected, able only to work against itself, counteracting its own processes at every turn until it grinds to a halt and becomes capable of nothing, this is silence as pathology, silence locked up in a cage, prevented from going anywhere, from following its own lines of flight.

And yet, surely, silence is not this, cannot be this, cannot be nothing for it is the very ground of possibility of all sonic expression. This is to say that silence is really no different from white noise, or rather white noise — in which all possible sonic frequencies are present cosimultaneously and which contains within it all possible sonic expressions, expressions which come into being through the contraction of various zones of its plane — is merely silence at a different level of intensity. White noise is an absolute point of plenitude, and silence is this plenitude reduced to a point at which its intensity = 0. But it is no less full for this, it is not sucked dry and left an empty hollow shell destined for petrification or consecration as a new paradigmatic point in time, cryogenically fixed as proof of a supposed truth. No. Silence is full, it is a singularity outside of time, or rather, it is the event from which the difference of time flows as it enters into perception or expression.

Claire Colebrook in her book on Deleuze asks her reader to

imagine walking into a room you know to be an art-gallery, but the lights are off. Your eye anticipates the vision of colour that is not yet possible; without any colour, you already have a sense of colour to be seen or the potential for colour’(2002: 127).

And so with sound. Imagine putting on a pair of headphones and pressing play on your CD player. Your ear anticipates sound for this is always what you have known. But you hear only silence, which is to say that you hear a sound which cannot yet be heard, the potential for sound. Silence as singularity. As Colebrook explains with regards to her own example,

certain works of art can present this potential […] through singularity. Singularities are not images within time — not perceptions organised into a coherent and ordered world — they are the events from which the difference of time flows. Time, or the flow of life, is just this pulsation of sensible events or singularities, which we then experience and perceive as an actual world (2002: 127).

To present a singularity, then, is to deploy a becoming-imperceptible for it is to deploy an event pre-perception, pre-contraction into a fixed and perceptible form. It is with this idea that works approaching silence play, for works that teeter on the liminal threshold between silence and almost silence know that you, dear listener, are hearing even when you are not. Such works then truly deploy a singularity, for a singularity is a singular event waiting to be contracted into an actualised form that is never pre-determined but arrived at only through conjugation with the immanent terms of the system it enters: here, you. You who hears, who hears what cannot be heard. You here who hears hearing then? Precisely. Then…?

For silence is intensity = 0 which is to say that it is always going somewhere. Silence itself unlocks the cage that had imprisoned it and takes off on lines of flight. It is always already full and is not then filled and hence destroyed by sound, compositional or incidental, for it will always return. How could we destroy it? We cannot even say what it is for every artist hears it differently, deploys it differently. And even when we listen to one singular deployment of silence, you do not hear the same as me. You object, of course, that this is the nature of all sound and not just silence. But we both know that this is not really so for we both, as sensory biological forms infolded according to roughly the same blueprint, hear in most perceptible sounds the sounds’ own form: trumpet, timpani, cough.

But silence? Never. For you, like me, can only hear what you sense is coming, and when it comes but remains almost silence you will still hear it but never know if it is really there in actuality or just in virtuality, in time or as an event. This can never be so for as long as we remain in a cage, for even though we hear it said that to equate silence with sound is to allow the fixed form of the work to be dismantled by an unprecedented incidence of chance within the creation of the form, in calling these chance forms silence we forget that silence is always without form. If silence is not impossible nor truly imperceptible, then, it is a becoming-imperceptible, which is to say that it is something that it is always undoing, it is the very undoing of itself and everything else, undoing not in order to abolish, however, but always to take us somewhere new. Silence, like thought, can only be limited if framed, imprisoned, caged, contained within time, 4’33”. Silence does not have a limit, it is the potential that is always there, the potential for you to hear only what you hear. And hear this as you will too, for if from within silence (as we always are) we wish to unlock silence’s cage with its own key, we must sing in the key of silence, and the words on this page before you must then tend always towards their own becoming-imperceptible, must fall silent and allow you to listen… … …

References:

Colebrook, Clare (2002). Gilles Deleuze. London: Routledge.

 Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1984). Anti-Œdipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia 1. London: The Athlone Press.

David Lynch, Idem Paris and the genesis of the (screened) image.

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Beautiful new work by Lynch. Not that you can really take too much notice of comments underneath youtube videos, but a mini debate seems to be going on there about whether or not it is “trademark” Lynch. What seems fairly undeniable to me is that there’s a lot of stuff in here that resonates strongly with what he’s done in the past. Take his Industrial Soundscape, for instance, it’s almost as though this old-school printing press is the mechanical analogue exemplification of his digital imagination.

In both of course there’s a fascination with a machinic universe, with some mysterious genetic process that surely takes us back to his own origins.

What’s really got me excited about Idem Paris, though, is the possibility of thinking about screen printing. If the cinema is capable of producing a specific kind of thought that is generated out of the specifics of its technological configuration, what kind of thought would be produced by screen printing, what kind of models for a new mode of seeing the world could be produced by thinking through this kind of printing. This is I think a separate question from those posed by Kittler et al. and the new media archaeologists. Who knows. Maybe one day……