Living in dead time // Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. | Capital is a process and not a thing. It is a process of reproduction of social life through commodity production, in which all of us in the advanced capitalist world are heavily implicated. Its internalised rules of operation are such as to ensure that it is a dynamic and revolutionary mode of social organization, restlessly and ceaselessly transforming the society within which it is embedded. The process masks and fetishizes, achieves growth through creative destruction, creates new wants and needs, exploits the capacity for human labour and desire, transforms spaces, and speeds up the pace of life. | Labor, subjectivity, and social life are no longer “outside” capital and antagonistic to it. Rather, they are immediately produced as parts of it. They cannot resist the depredations of capital, because they are themselves already functions of capital. This is what leads us to speak of such things as “social capital,” “cultural capital,” and “human capital”: as if our knowledge, our abilities, our beliefs, and our desires had only instrumental value, and needed to be invested. Everything we live and do, everything we experience, is quickly reduced to the status of “dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” | A person who has no free time to dispose of, whose whole lifetime, apart from the mere physical interruptions by sleep, meals, and so forth, is absorbed by their labour for the capitalist, is less than a beast of burden. They are a mere machine for producing Foreign Wealth, broken in body and brutalized in mind. | As the corporate market economy has grown in influence and power, permeating so many aspects of social life in this country and elsewhere, culture itself becomes commodified, something to be marketed for sale and profit. People say as much when they complain that “the only thing that matters these days is money.” So we are creating less of our culture and buying more of it, until it really is no longer our culture. | Cultural policy becomes an extension of economic policy, and culture is no longer seen as something distinct from the effects of economic life. The citizen becomes a consumer, competing with other individual consumers, rather than sharing common values expressed through a common culture. Social relations are experienced solely through the market, and culture exists only in commodity form. | Cultural capital is a form of wealth that is determined by its value in use, not its value in exchange. Its value increases in proportion to its abundance, not its scarcity. It is enjoyed by individuals, but it is a mutual creation that uses the resources of shared traditions and the collective imagination to generate a public, not a private, good. Cultural capitalism seeks to privatize this shared wealth, absorbing it into the circulation of commodities, and putting it to instrumental use. | The acclaimed freedom of individuals to behave unrestrainedly in the market enslaved them to the market, because it is only through the market that individuals can realize their creativity and measure their success. The very identity of individuals becomes a commodity, where the culture of consumption defines them by what they consume. The consumer is self-regarding, makes choices without reference to others, and seeks to maximize personal benefit over and against the common interest. ‘Creative workers’, especially, are persuaded that they are free because the transformative nature of their work – making the ‘new’ – appears to give them personal autonomy. | Global capitalism is nearly there. At the end of the world there will only be liquid advertisement and gaseous desire. Sublimated from our bodies, our untethered senses will endlessly ride escalators through pristine artificial environments, more and less than human, drugged-up and drugged down, catalysed, consuming and consumed by a relentlessly rich economy of sensory information, valued by the pixel. | We don’t live long. This is a simple fact—we don’t live long. And “they” love us for this pathetic temporary-ness, squirted out into the violence and control of language and exchange value, and dying shortly afterwards: a few summer holidays, a few children, 3,000 hours on the toilet and 20,000 hours watching TV. Political transformation requires organization and time but we keep dying. A miserable counter-revolutionary brevity, written precisely into the mechanisms of capitalism as the finite expenditure of labor power, chopped up into small circuits of work and pay, repeated again and again (and our dependence upon this repetition) until death. Replayed to us as the aesthetics of the capitalist sublime and/or Speculative Wowism where the brutal cycles of labor and wage are contrasted with the “infinity” of M-C-M and the myth of its serpent-like omnipresence linked up to Romanticism: “wow it’s amaaaaaazing how vast the universe is and how many stars … and the relentless flow of markets in relation to the finite shitness of our lives.” | To be a socialist with any real clarity and honesty is to realize we are a defeated people. If commodification doesn’t get us, then climate disruption will. But one can’t linger in a melancholy embrace of defeat. One can’t hold on to what’s lost. Nor can one study past defeats simply to win the next time. There is no next time. / Modern capitalist society is an organisation of spectacles: a frozen moment of history in which it is impossible to experience real life or actively participate in the construction of the lived world. The alienation fundamental to class society and capitalist production has permeated all areas of social life, knowledge, and culture, with the consequence that people are removed and alienated not only from the goods they produce and consume, but also from their own experiences, emotions, creativity, and desires. People are spectators of their own lives, and even the most personal gestures are experienced at one remove. | The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. / Capitalism is what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level of ritual or symbolic elaborations, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics. | Our world collapses when we are unable to say anything effective about events and things that surround us. | If our only problem were that we were backward, we could always catch up. If the real challenge before us were a simple paucity of facts, we could always learn them. But the real horrors of the twenty-first century aren’t horrors of superstition and unreason, but the far more deadly horrors of a rationally administered world we are endlessly condemned to repeat. Our spherical earth is increasingly organized like one colossal factory, operating seamlessly and just in time, teeming with millions of tiny and unwilling workers, slurping up the expertise of ten thousand sharpened brains—and it’s not beautiful, it’s Hell. Everyone is wasting their lives. Everyone is unhappy. It’s not just you. The world is insane, insane in a way that doesn’t even require any of the announcements from its administrators to be factually untrue. / The collapse of communism after 1989 had led to talk in the West of the end of history and the end of ideology, but ideology had not disappeared. It was merely that a triumphant neoliberalism had become so all-pervasive and all-encompassing that other ideologies were silenced. | The twentieth century’s closing scenes having witnessed the apparent end of history rather begged the question of what on earth we were meant to do from now on. The same instability and uncertainty which has produced a loss of faith in political orthodoxies, and analytical paralysis in the face of a multiplicity alternatives, has also produced a splintered and disintegrated culture at a loss as to how to define itself and, given the apparent imminence of disaster, unconvinced that it’s worthwhile bothering to do so. | Its built-in obsolescence, its staleness and disposability, illustrates the acquiescence of pop culture to neoliberalism’s ‘end of history’ propaganda. Following the 90s triumph of irony, and intensification in signifiers stripped of meaning, the 00s acceleration and consolidation of retromania oversaw not merely the predictable co-option of previously subversive movements…but their co-option to the extent of preventing the emergence of anything new. | The last days of any civilization, when populations are averting their eyes from unpleasant realities before them, become carnivals of hedonism and folly. Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity assume political control. Today charlatans and hucksters hold forth on the airwaves, and intellectuals are ridiculed. Force and militarism, with their hypermasculine ethic, are celebrated. And the mania for hope requires the silencing of any truth that is not childishly optimistic. | We are already in barbarism; the catastrophe isn’t incoming, it’s already here. The world is going very badly. The world, the field for our powerlessness, the thing foreign to us into which we are thrown, the thing dead world, is always going very badly. The moment it starts to go well will be the moment we are no longer alienated from objective existence; at that point there will be no vast crushing indifferent entity to give that name to. Until then, the world and the end of the world will continue to be exactly the same thing. / History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake | As crises gather force and speed, politics withers and retreats. In this paralysis of the political imaginary, the future has been cancelled. | In these accelerationist times – when we have past the point of no return for climate change, where inequality is approaching Great Depression levels, where automation and AI threaten to turn today’s youth into a vast sea of precariat kept docile in an overly upbeat digital reality-show-cum-prison – what happened to the future we were supposed to inherit? Where did it go? | Our ability to move into a collectively imagined future has been trapped in an ever-present now, composed of continually transmitted images. | With unprecedented access to the Internet, the flattened desert where past, present, and future comingle, we find ourselves living in a state of atemporality, yearning for a time before the present. | Volatility and ephemerality similarly make it hard to maintain any firm sense of continuity. Past experience gets compressed into some overwhelming present. | There is nothing new over the horizon, it is impossible, unimaginable, and so looking back and fictionalizing a fantastic history to fetishize is the only other option. Under late capitalism desire is routed back into vague simulacra of nonexistent pasts. The consumer is governed by warped and fractured memories, ficciones/fissions. Kaleidoscopic images of rose tinted retro-fetishism are dizzying, enticing and reassuring, easy to fall for. | One need not be a victim of rose-tinted personal nostalgia to argue that popular culture seems currently consumed by pastiche, recycling, solipsistic navel-gazing and pantomimes of authenticity, preoccupied with kitsch fripperies and politically disengaged, with previous traditions of protest and consciousness weakened, compromised, commodified, confused or forgotten. Pop-cultural representations of the working class, in particular, have become so thin, so shallow, repetitive and unimaginative, that they do us all a disservice. // With the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?” | The idea that music can change the world now seems hopelessly naive | Pop music is now pure product in a way that even the most hopeful capitalist ideologues wouldn’t have dared dream forty, thirty, even twenty years ago | The economic and political dynamics of the industrialized societies living under parliamentary democracy also lead power to invest art, and to invest in art, without necessarily theorizing its control, as is done under dictatorship. Everywhere we look, the monopolization of the broadcast of messages, the control of noise, and the institutionalization of the silence of others assure the durability of power. Here, this channelization take on a new, less violent, and more subtle form: laws of the political economy take the place of censorship laws. Music and the musician essentially become either objects of consumption like everything else, recuperators of subversion, or meaningless noise. | Fetishized as a commodity, music is illustrative of the evolution of our entire society: deritualize a social form, repress an activity of the body, specialize its practice, sell it as a spectacle, generalize its consumption, then see to it that it is stockpiled until it loses its meaning. | Today, music heralds the establishment of a society of repetition in which nothing will happen anymore. | It’s asking too much of art or culture to expect it to provide resources for overcoming the decomposition of solidarity that you so acutely describe. Art and culture are themselves the victims of this decomposition. Under post-Fordist working practises, neo-liberal ideology and communicative capitalism, social imagination struggles to find the time to grow. | Art is as complicit with capital as any other realm of society, perhaps more so given that an artwork’s only strictly utilitarian – as opposed to aesthetic – value is its resale value, whereas most other manmade objects have some useful property aside from their investment potential. | In the past, in the pre-historic and pre-modern past, music served to foster social cohesion. From the Javanese gamelan of 9th-Century Indonesia to the Klezmer of the Ashkenazi Jews or the jingoistic anthems of 20th-Century nation states, structured sounds have accompanied social gatherings for millennia, creating the shared emotional focus around which groups unified themselves. Today, however, rather than cultivating warm feelings of unity and togetherness, music’s primary function is to sell consumer goods and create the demographics who will buy them. | Fuelled by the technological revolutions of the past few decades and the continuing decline in record sales, it has transformed music into a glorified manufacturer and identifier of target markets. In this new role, music is still tasked with ‘communicating’ vital information, but only between producers and consumers. | Of course, music does continue to make people happy (or sad, or whatever the fashion might be), yet it now appears as though history is nearing a stage where music will have more value for corporations than for listeners, inasmuch they will increasingly be the ones paying for it. Because music will be attuned to their needs and interests at least as much as to ours, they will come to ‘own’ it in an important symbolic sense. They will put their money behind the acts, playlists and festivals which best reinforce the image they want to present to the world, and the bands or scenes that don’t quite conform to Burberry’s ethics or BMW’s principles will be left more and more by the wayside. What’s more, as this sea-change only becomes more pronounced, as big business infiltrates the music industry to a greater extent and becomes its primary driver, music itself will assume a new role as the official cheerleader of consumerism and capitalism. | With the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?” // I was actually sick and tired of music for many years before this. Even though I had loved music since I was a kid, I was entirely sick of it for a long time, and I actually went months at a time without even listening to any at all. I become really bitter about music in general which was fuelled by the general depression I had. This really rekindled my love for music, to the point where I enjoy it as much as I did when I was a teenager. | To live without dead time means to embody a great refusal, to find pleasure in struggle, to transform every moment of existence into a repudiation of the consumerist nightmare and an affirmation of revolutionary possibility. Imagine if a huge number of us start living in this way, turning daily life itself into a form of resistance that re-enchants the city and reawakens the promise of a people’s insurrection. The way forward is through this kind of radical play.
Information overload // Culture is no longer created by the people. Our stories, once passed from one generation to the next by parents, neighbors and teachers, are now told by distant corporations with “something to sell as well as to tell.” Brands, products, fashions, celebrities, entertainments – the spectacles that surround the production of culture – are our culture now. Our role is mostly to listen and watch – and then, based and what we have heard and seen, to buy. / We receive but we do not transmit. Identical images flow into our brains, homogenizing our perspectives, knowledge, tastes and desires. | Layer upon layer of mediated artifice come between us and the world until we are mummified. The commercial mass media are rearranging our neurons, manipulating our emotions, making powerful new connections between deep immaterial needs and material products. So virtual is the hypodermic needle that we don’t feel it. So gradually is the dosage increased that we’re not aware of its toxicity. / Thanks to our near-infinite access to the past via Youtube, we feel like a generation bathing in eternal moments. | Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts—the faster, the better.” / Too often I feel paralyzed and overwhelmed by history, by all that I don’t know. Everything happened so much. | We’ve become victims of our ever-increasing capacity to store, organise, instantly access, and share vast amounts of cultural data. Not only has there never before been a society so obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its immediate past, but there has never before been a society that is able to access the immediate past so easily and so copiously. | Information has become a form of garbage. It comes indiscriminately – directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness; we are swamped by information, have no control over it and do not know what to do with it. And the reason we don’t is that we no longer have a coherent conception of ourselves, our universe and our relationship to one another and our world. We do not know where we came from, where we are going or why we are going there. We have no coherent framework to direct our definition of our problems or our search for their solutions. Therefore, we have no criteria for judging what is meaningful, useful or relevant information. Our defenses against the information glut have broken down; our information immune system is inoperable. | The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. | The words are everywhere, inside me, outside of me … I hear them, no need to hear them, no need of a head, impossible to stop them, impossible to stop. I’m in words, made of words, others’ words, what others … the whole world is here with me. I’m in the air, the walls, the walled-in one, everything yields, opens, ebbs, flows, like flakes. I’m all these flakes, meeting, mingling, falling asunder, wherever I go I find me, leave me, go towards me, come from me, nothing ever but me, a particle of me, retrieved, lost, gone astray, I’m all these words, all these strangers, this dust of words, with no ground or their setting, no sky for their dispersing, coming together to say, fleeing one another to say, that I am they, all of them, those that merge, those that part, those that never meet. | The ever increasing acceleration of scientific, technological, and cultural innovation in a consumption and profit oriented society produces ever larger quantities of soon to be obsolete objects, lifestyles, and attitudes, thereby effectively shrinking the chronological expansion of what can be considered present in a material sense. The temporal aspect of such planned obsolescence is, of course, amnesia. But then amnesia simultaneously generates its own opposite: the new museal culture as a reaction formation. Whether it is a paradox or a dialectic, the spread of amnesia in our culture is matched by a relentless fascination with memory and the past. | We not only possess the capacity to pile images from the past or from other places eclectically and simultaneously upon the television screen, but even to transform those images into material simulacra in the form of built environments, events and spectacles, and the like, which become in many respects indistinguishable from the original. | Think of the sheer multiplication of works of art available to every one of us, superadded to the conflicting tastes and odors and sights of the urban environment that bombard our senses. Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life – its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness – conjoin to dull our sensory faculties. | The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. | Museums: cemeteries! … Identical, surely, in the sinister promiscuity of so many bodies unknown to one another. Museums: public dormitories where one lies forever beside hated or unknown beings. Museums: absurd abattoirs of painters and sculptors ferociously slaughtering each other with colour-blows and line-blows, the length of the fought-over walls! | The more memory we store on data banks, the more the past is sucked into the orbit of the present, ready to be called up on the screen. A sense of historical continuity or, for that matter, discontinuity, both of which depend on a before and an after, gives way to the simultaneity of all times and spaces readily accessible in the present. The perception of spatial and temporal distance is being erased. But this simultaneity and presentness, suggested by the immediacy of images, is of course largely imaginary and it creates its own fantasies of omnipotence: channel-flicking as the contemporary strategy of narcissistic derealization. As such simultaneity wipes out the alterity of past and present, here and there, it tends to lose its anchor in referentiality, in the real, and the present falls victim to its magical power of simulation and image projection. Real difference, real otherness in historical time or in geographic distance can no longer even be perceived. In the most extreme case, the boundaries between fact and fiction, reality and perception have been blurred to the extent that it leaves us with only simulation, and the postmodern subject vanishes in the imaginary world of the screen. The resulting dangers of relativism and cynicism have been much debated in recent years, but in order to overcome such dangers we must acknowledge that they are inherent in our ways of processing knowledge, rather than simply denouncing them as a game played by nihilistic intellectuals. The clarion call to objective truth will simply not do. | Aesthetic production today has become integrated into commodity production generally: the frantic economic urgency of producing fresh waves of ever more novel-seeming goods (from clothing to airplanes), at ever greater rates of turnover, now assigns an increasingly essential structural function and position to aesthetic innovation and experimentation | Just as art works become commodities and are enjoyed as such, the commodity itself in consumer society has become image, representation, spectacle. Use value has been replaced by packaging and advertising. The commodification of art ends up in the aestheticization of commodity. The siren song of the commodity has displaced the promesse de bonheur once held by bourgeois art, and consumer Odysseus blissfully plunges into the sea of commodities, hoping to find gratification but finding none. More than the museum or academy even, department store and supermarket have become the cemeteries of culture. Culture and commodities have been collapsed in this theory to the extent that the gravitational pull of the culture industry leaves no meaning, no signification unscathed. / For the subject, postmodernism presents a mighty, seemingly inescapable trap. Any attempt it makes to find itself through a search for meaning is bound to go awry, for every sign promising some sort of originary knowledge is embedded in further contexts whose explication requires the setting of even more signs. Attempting to find itself through meaning, the subject drowns in a flood of ever expanding cross-references. Yet even if the subject clings to form it fares no better. For postmodernism sees in form not an antidote to meaning, but rather a trace leading back to already existing, semantically loaded contexts. Every fixation of meaning is dispersed through cross-connected forms; every use of form links up with already existing meanings; every approach to an origin leads back to an alien sign. Searching for itself, the subject quickly ends where it began: in the endlessly expanding field of the postmodern | No person today could possibly feel deeply, profoundly, or authentically each time we are cued to do so in the cultural environment of late consumer societies. In these environments, the average person comes into contact with more than two thousand promotional messages a day alone–messages that rationalize fear, anxiety, peace, well-being, contentment, ecstasy, or joy as appropriate responses to the consumption of commodities as banal as batteries and shampoo. Affect is everywhere exploded and repressed at the same time. | The same inventions that promised to educate the world – radio, film, television, web – stupefied us all with a spectacle so wonderful that few cared about the real world so long as the channel was clear, the frequency sharp and the TV dinner hot. Even as popular culture reflects our mounting fears and anxieties over the blurred line between technology and truth, the reveal is lost upon us, drowned in a generalized numbness of science fiction. It’s finally clear that our inventiveness cannot answer that yearning question–”What is reality?“ Instead, our beautiful creations encourage us to sit back, put in our earbuds and enjoy the scenery: the question does not matter. | All around us – on advertisement hoardings, bookshelves, record covers, television screens – these miniature escape fantasies present themselves. This, it seems, is how we are destined to live, as split personalities in which the private life is disturbed by the promise of escape routes to another reality. // Recording has always been a means of social control, a stake in politics, regardless of the available technologies. Power is no longer content to enact its legitimacy; it records and reproduces the societies it rules. Stockpiling memory, retaining history or time, distributing speech, and manipulating information has always been an attribute of civil and priestly power, beginning with the Tables of the Law. | It seems self-evident that the wealth of music in a world where capitalist modes of production prevail appears as “an immense accumulation of commodities”. | Mass music is thus a powerful factor in consumer integration, interclass levelling, cultural homogenization. It becomes a factor in centralization, cultural normalisation, and the disappearance of distinctive cultures. | Hauntology is what we have when postmodernism has run its course, endlessly splintered and recombined into nothingness, leaving no repository for desires that both predate and outlive it. It is the haunt of those desires. It is music as the memory of music; it is music haunted by the information dimension and music that uncovers the haunt in the information dimension. An old waltz record worn down until it’s a memory of itself. A lone and vapid voice on a shortwave radio station repeatedly intoning a series of numbers—which may be an innocuous diagnostic or an order to carry out a hit. We are after history, but drowning in its artifacts: slabs of etched vinyl, wax, cassette tapes, film reels, the frequency spectrum, binary code. But the essence of information is always slipping, elsewhere. It is in the end without body, without territory, undead. The future belongs to ghosts. | Western culture teems with so many ghosts: digital doppelgängers, anonymous commenters, and of course the ghosts of our past – the remnants of history, national trauma, and our individual memories, which are more drawn to the sirens of the past in the Information Age than ever before. | We never hear any of the singles produced in these genres “for the first time”; instead, we live a constant exposure to them in all kinds of different situations, from the steady beat of the car radio through the sounds at lunch, or in the work place, or in shopping centers, all the way to those apparently full-dress performances of the “work” in a nightclub or stadium concert or on the records you buy and take home to hear. | In light of all these sponsorships and brand placements, it’s almost as if popular music has been subsumed into the formerly distinct category of ‘production’ or ‘library’ music. In the past, such “production music” encompassed any songs or albums recorded expressly for the purpose of being used in commercials, films or television, and in response to sagging CD receipts such music has in fact become more prized by labels as an alternative source of revenue. However, just as with production music itself, pop is increasingly being stocked in large ‘libraries’ (i.e. streaming and other digital music services) through which it’s then being enlisted to help other commercial ventures turn a profit. Thus, the distinction between the two kinds of music is no longer tenable. | The music industry has learned to stockpile intellectual property in vast quantities for decades and do nothing with it, no re-issues, no special download packages, nothing, until they decide we want whatever it is they are hoarding. They will allow their crops to rot under foot and sow their fields with salt if the market says so, just to keep us property-less peasants from getting our grubby hands on their stuff without recompense. | There is simply too much music out there as the industry tries to throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks. In 2010, Nielsen reported that 75,000 new albums were released that year, a number unlikely to have changed much this year. Spotify and iTunes boast of catalogues of more than 30m songs. We are drowning in music and most of it will go unheard. | Maybe music is just a commodity, and the vivid feelings of love and beauty and nostalgia and intensity and heartbreak we feel while listening to it are just capitalism playing surplus-value games with us. Even so, shouldn’t we be discussing an economy of affect in which even the commonest, basest commodity is worth more than the fleeting apathy of an Instagram double-tap? In which creating value requires more than the formulaic application of a filter, endlessly compressing the past into the same fixed signifiers? / We stand at an awkward intersection of the law, technology and aesthetics. What was once touted as a giant collaborative imagination machine, the internet, is morphing into a ubiquitous, commercial and political surveillance system with happy-clappy Web designs cartoon-flavoured apps concealing an unimaginably huge data-mining and monitoring operation. | Borrowing is theft. Appropriation is theft. Homage is theft. Allusion is theft. Derivation is theft. Quotation is theft. Even sharing is theft. Sharing. All of these forms of traditionally-recognized musical practice are illegal unless you pay the right people whatever they ask and they graciously grant you permission to make the art you want to make or play to the music you want to hear. Regardless of your perspective or ideology, the simple fact is this: it is the whims of property owners that determine when art is legal or not. Even authors don’t have the bucket full of rights that owners do. The rest of us, mere listeners that we are, don’t even rate. As far as our natural rights to music go, they don’t exist in any enforceable way. The music industry looks at us as a bunch of renters or squatters. // The relationship between attention and distraction remains intrinsically political despite the above, and, moreover, that the commitment of attention, including and even particularly aesthetic attention, needs to be regarded as a form of resistance or dissent. The argument against distraction needs to be salvaged from its own tendency towards clickbait banality, and requires caveats which take into account the fact that the capacity to commit attention in its various forms is hitched to particular social privileges, meaning that we can (or should) no longer attempt to advocate a homogeneous form of attention as though it were an uncomplicated moral choice. | Not only are we a generation that subconsciously just gets postmodernism, but what Saltz observes as artists ‘at once knowingly self-conscious about art’ can be understood too as a result of having the entire history of art, political, philosophical, and social movements and ideas available at our fingertips. Add to that the ubiquity of language, art, film, music etc. and it leads to conditions ripe for the critical distance, interrogation, self-reflection, and re-evaluation of how (or why) should I engage with the culture around me, how (or why) should I make art? | Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all.
Myth culture // It is not spiritual alienation that compels false ideas but affective estrangement in and from the conditions and relations of production in an exploitative system which generates imaginary conceptions about those relations. | It becomes possible, on the basis of this movement of capital, for companies to establish the identities of brands in increasingly elevated terms. ‘Out-sourcing’, the prevailing mode of production of contemporary capitalism, constructs a cordon sanitaire between marketing and manufacture, or between the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘material’ worlds, such that Western corporations are no longer responsible for producing the goods they sell. The business of the company becomes pure fetishism or reification: the systematic production of abstraction, and thus the further mystification of society itself. | We the audience are not subjected to a power that comes from outside; rather, we are integrated into a control circuit that has our desires and preferences as its only mandate – but those desires and preferences are returned to us, no longer as ours, but as the desires of the big Other. | Demoralized by their strangeness to themselves and by their lack of control over their relations with others, members of every class surrender themselves to artificially constructed mass egos that promise to restore their links with the past and future. | After long acquaintance with their role, a person grows into it so closely that they can no longer differentiate their true self from the self they simulate, so that even the most intimate of individuals speak to each other in Party slogans. To identify one’s self with the role one is obliged to play brings relief and permits a relaxation of one’s vigilance. | The alienation of the spectator to the profit of the contemplated object (which is the result of their own unconscious activity) is expressed in the following way: the more they contemplate the less they live; the more they accept recognizing themselves in the dominant images of need, the less they understand their own existence and their own desires. The externality of the spectacle in relation to the active individual appears in the fact that their own gestures are no longer theirs but those of another who represents them to themselves. This is why the spectator feels at home nowhere, because the spectacle is everywhere. | The extreme saturation of commodification in contemporary popular culture ‘becomes that of pure fetishism or reification: the systematic production of abstraction, and thus the further mystification of society itself. | The figure of ‘total reification’ is, despite its apparent idealism, an appropriate one for a world in which a new generation of spectres is proliferating before our eyes. ‘Advanced capitalism’ is a totally reified society which mystifies everything, including all manifestations of otherness, which it produces in forms which appear completely alien to itself. | We not only possess the capacity to pile images from the past or from other places eclectically and simultaneously upon the television screen, but even to transfom those images into the material simulacra in the form of built environments, events and spectacles, and the like, which become in many respects indistinguishable from the original. | We live in a visual world dominated by a false reality, a contemporary Potemkin village. We are distracted by the glittering generalities of capitalist aesthetics, confused by relativist postmodern aesthetic “experiences,” and overcome by the mind-numbing weight of economic oppression. | Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation / Words, as is well known, are the greatest foes of reality. | Truth has the structure of a fiction. | But does reality actually outstrip fiction? If it seems to do so, this is because it has absorbed fiction’s energy, and has itself become fiction. | We are all caught up in the truth of languages, that is, in their regionality, drawn into the formidable rivalry which controls their proximity. For each jargon (each fiction) fights for hegemony; if power is on its side, it spreads everywhere in the general and daily occurrences of social life, it becomes doxa, nature: this is the supposedly apolitical jargon of politicians, of agents of the State, of the media, of conversation; but even out of power, even when power is against it, the rivalry is reborn, the jargons split and struggle among themselves. A ruthless topic rules the life of language; language always comes from some place, it is a warrior topos. | In a world suffused with fictionality and virtual reality, the real is frequently denied representation or even existence. One becomes accustomed to viewing fictitious scenes of raw violence; therefore a real incident would probably make no real difference. | This is the age of contrivance. The artificial has become so commonplace that the natural begins to seem contrived. The natural is the ‘-un’ and the ‘non-‘. It is the age of the ‘unfiltered’ cigarette (the filter comes to seem more natural than the tobacco), of the ‘unabridged novel (abridgment is the norm), of the uncut version of a movie. We begin to look on wood as a ‘non-synthetic’ cellulose. All nature then is the world of the ‘non-artificial’. Fact itself has become ‘non-fiction’. | The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the culture industry. The old experience of the movie-goer, who sees the world outside as an extension of the film he has just left (because the latter is intent upon reproducing the world of everyday perceptions), is now the producer’s guideline. The more intensely and flawlessly his techniques duplicate empirical objects, the easier it is today for the illusion to prevail that the outside world is the straightforward continuation of that presented on the screen. This purpose has been furthered by mechanical reproduction since the lightning takeover by the sound film. Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies. The sound film, far surpassing the theatre of illusion, leaves no room for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is unable to respond within the structure of the film, yet deviate from its precise detail without losing the thread of the story; hence the film forces its victims to equate it directly with reality. The stunting of the mass-media consumer’s powers of imagination and spontaneity does not have to be traced back to any psychological mechanisms; he must ascribe the loss of those attributes to the objective nature of the products themselves, especially to the most characteristic of them, the sound film. They are so designed that quickness, powers of observation, and experience are undeniably needed to apprehend them at all; yet sustained thought is out of the question if the spectator is not to miss the relentless rush of facts. / Many customary standards operate to benefit particular people and disadvantage others. In other words, culture is often a cloak for privilege and inequity. | Much of what we call “our common culture” is really the selective transmission of elite-dominated values. | Common sense (le bon sens) is always wrong. It is the demagoguery of the bourgeois ideal. The function of common sense is to simplify, to reassure, to hide unpleasant truths and mysteries. I don’t just mean that this is what common sense does, or ends up doing; I mean this is what it’s designed to do. | For any way of thought to become dominant, a conceptual apparatus has to be advanced that appeals to our intuitions and instincts, to our values and our desires, as well as to the possibilities inherent in the social world we inhabit. If successful, this conceptual apparatus becomes so embedded in common sense as to be taken for granted and not open to question. | Common sense is constructed out of longstanding practices of cultural socialization often rooted deep in regional or national traditions. It is not the same as ‘good sense’ that can be constructed out of critical engagement with the issues of the day. Common sense can, therefore, be profoundly misleading, obfuscating or disguising real problems under cultural prejudices. Cultural and traditional values and fears can be mobilized to mask other realities. Political slogans can be invoked that mask specific strategies beneath vague rhetorical devices…Gramsci therefore concluded that political questions become ‘insoluble’ when ‘disguised as cultural ones’. | There is therefore a cause for the imaginary transposition of the real conditions of existence: that cause is the existence of a small number of cynical men who base their domination and exploitation of the ‘people’ on a falsified representation of the world which they have imagined in order to enslave other minds by dominating their imaginations. | Just as global capitalism stepped out from behind the cloak of its defeated opponent after 1989 and, in its rapid transformation, was revealed as the rapacious, inexorable system that it is, so it may be with the art world. The end of its use as a tool in the prosecution of the Cold War has made clear a new role already in development: its core function as a propagandist for neoliberal values. | We are in very dangerous times, of mobs and meaninglessness. People aren’t swayed by facts anymore; they’re indifferent to reality and openly scornful of experts. All they want is to feel good, even if it’s only for an instant, even if it’s at the cost of an entire future. Vast crowds of the pleasure-hungry are being pulled along into increasingly destructive politics by cheap sound bites and tawdry emotion. We’re teetering over the edge, and people hardly even notice—it’s all become theater; society rips itself apart in real time before our eyes, but we approach it like an entertainment product. The question is no longer one of which politician actually has the best judgment and the best plans for the future, but which character is the most relatable, which post we want to hitch our self-identity against. This is madness, but it’s also what’s come to rule our world. / The culture industry is geared to mimetic regression, to the manipulation of repressed impulses to copy. Its method is to anticipate the spectator’s imitation of itself, so making it appear as if the agreement already exists which it intends to create. | When we enter the era of simulation we see the way that media come to produce reality itself, rather than create a virtual that can be opposed to some sacrosanct reality. | All reality is constructed by knowledge and all knowledge is constructed by power | Thus, our experience of reality is shaped by our consumption of media images; again, the way we navigate the world is informed by the way media produce that reality. | Where there was once the ‘real’, there is now only electronic generation and circulation of almost supernatural simulations. Where there was once stable human consciousness, there are now only the ghosts of fragmented, decentered, and increasingly schizophrenic subjectivities. Where there once was ‘depth’ and ‘affect’, there is now only ‘surface’. Where there was once ‘meaning,’ ‘history,’ and a solid realm of ‘signifieds,’ there is now only a haunted landscape of vacant and shifting signifiers. | It is, perhaps, evidence of the overwhelming triumph of capitalism in 21st-century Britain that we’ve made a major cultural event out of being emotionally manipulated into buying things. At its most insidious, advertising allows corporations to exert considerable influence over our feelings and thoughts. | An ad that pretends to be be art is – at absolute best – like somebody who smiles at you warmly at you only because he wants something from you. This is dishonest, but what’s sinister is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect facsimile or simulacrum of goodwill without goodwills’s real spirit, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill. It makes us feel confused and lonely and impotent and angry and scared. It causes despair. / Even if supposedly apolitical in its intent, entertainment culture (which is really the entertainment industry) is political in its impact, propagating images and values that are often downright sexist, racist, authoritarian, materialistic, and militaristic. | When art is confused with life, it is not merely art that is lost. When art equals life there is no art, but when life equals art there are no people. | It was from a weekly visit to the cinema that you learned (or tried to learn) how to walk, to smoke, to kiss, to fight, to grieve. Movies gave you tips about how to be attractive. Example: It looks good to wear a raincoat even when it isn’t raining. But whatever you took home was only a part of the larger experience of submerging yourself in lives that were not yours. | When we analyse literature we are speaking of literature; when we evaluate it we are speaking of ourselves…literary works are made out of other literary works, not out of any material external to the literary system itself. | The imitative art, then, is, I conceive, far from the truth; and, apparently, it is enabled to bring about so much, because it only seizes upon an object in a small part of its extent, and that small part is itself only an image. For example, we say the painter will paint us a shoemaker, a carpenter, or any other craftsman, without knowing anything about their trades; and, notwithstanding this ignorance on his part, let him be but a good painter, and if he paints a carpenter and displays his picture at a distance, he will deceive children and silly people by making them think that it really is a carpenter. | Hence we must inquire, whether the poets, whom these people have encountered, are mere imitators, who have so far imposed upon the spectators, that, when they behold their performances, they fail to perceive that these productions are twice removed from reality, and easily made by a person unacquainted with the truth, because they are phantoms, and not realities – or whether our informants are to this extent right, that good poets really do know the subjects about which they seem to the multitude to speak well. | And just in the same way, I think, we shall assert the poet colours things, using names and phrases, to represent the several professions, of which he only understands enough to be able to imitate them; so that if he writes in meter, rhythm, and harmony, about shoemaking, or about generalship, or about any subject whatever, people who are as ignorant as himself, and who judge merely whether it appears to be well-said, look upon his poetry as very excellent. So powerful is the charm which these things naturally possess. For I suppose you know what a poor appearance the works of poets present, when they have been stripped of their musical coloring, and are rehearsed in their proper nakedness. | He will go on imitating, notwithstanding his being thoroughly ignorant as to the way in which a thing is good or bad. Apparently he will copy beauty as it appears to the many who do not know. | Life never does more than imitate art, and art itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred. // Music in our societies has become a substitute for myth. | Every code of music is rooted in the ideologies of its age, and at the same time produces them. | The entire history of tonal music, like that of classical political economy, amounts to an attempt to make people believe in a consensual representation of the world. | The monologue of standardized, stereotyped music accompanies and hems a daily life in which reality no one has any right to speak any more. Except those among the exploited who can still use their music to shout their suffering, their dreams of the absolute and freedom. What is called music today is all too often only a disguise for the monologue of power. However, and this is the extreme irony of it all, never before have musicians tried so hard to communicate with their audience, and never before has that communication been so deceiving. Music now seems hardly more than a somewhat clumsy excuse for the self-glorification of musicians and the growth of a new industrial sector. | Mass music is thus a powerful factor in consumer integration, interclass levelling, cultural homogenization. It becomes a factor in centralization, cultural normalisation, and the disappearance of distinctive cultures. | Commercial music is truly the snake oil of adolescence, and, given the absurdity of what the bottle dispenses – the music itself – its broad application would be comic were it not meant to salve the most legitimate and urgent needs a person may have. | it’s all showbiz, every vestige, every trace; even the bits of your rarefied and selective tradition that you choose to assume aren’t showbiz, they are. | …lyrics are, very deliberately, relateable. They’re a language through which we can express our own experiences, but a language can never describe the world without also reconstructing it in its own image. | Music is not ideology pure and simple; it is ideological only insofar as it is false consciousness.
Inevitable recuperation // The old struggle between detournement and recuperation, between subversion and incorporation, seems to have been played out. What we are dealing with now is not the incorporation of materials that previously seemed to possess subversive materials, but instead, their precorporation: the pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by capitalist culture. | Labor, subjectivity, and social life are no longer “outside” capital and antagonistic to it. Rather, they are immediately produced as parts of it. They cannot resist the depredations of capital, because they themselves are already functions of capital. | In neoliberalism, transgression is no longer an oppositional practice, because it has been co-opted and put in service of maintaining and augmenting hegemonic relations of power. | The possibility of a real alternative culture, of a real popular opposition to neoliberal hegemony, has been stifled by a casual, consumerist appropriation of the subversive acts of previous epochs. | Neoliberalism does co-opt everything. There is no outside. So it’s not a question of resisting or opposing from an irreducibly external position. Instead, we have to find ways of working with composition and repetition—their tools, their methods, etc | Collusion is not only futile but detrimental within a late capitalist system that thrives on co-opting and depoliticising its opposition. | One of the contradictions of the bourgeoisie is that while it respects the abstract principle of intellectual creation, it at first resists actual creations, then eventually exploits them. | Cultural entities typical of the culture industry are no longer also commodities, they are commodities through and through. This quantitative shift is so great that it calls forth entirely new phenomena. Ultimately, the culture industry no longer even needs to directly pursue everywhere the profit interests from which it originated. These interests have become objectified in its ideology and have even made themselves independent of the compulsion to sell the cultural commodities which must be swallowed anyway. Brought to bear is a general uncritical consensus, advertisements produced for the world, so that each product of the culture industry becomes its own advertisement. | Through our own consumption of commodities, spectacles and protests, we contribute to the infamous reign of commodity equivalence. The old left-wing denunciation of the empire of commodities and images has become a form of ironic or melancholic acquiescence to this ineluctable empire. | it’s all showbiz, every vestige, every trace; even the bits of your rarefied and selective tradition that you choose to assume aren’t showbiz, they are. | Aesthetic sensations and feelings are no longer disinterested, because they have been recast as markers of personal identity: revealed preferences, brands, lifestyle markers, objects of adoration by fans. Aesthetic sensations and feelings are also ruthlessly cognized: for it is only insofar as they are known and objectively described, or transformed into data, that they can be exploited as forms of labor, and marketed as fresh experiences and exciting lifestyle choices. | Our art has been stolen from us; its creative energy destroyed and commodified; its artistic qualities compromised. Aesthetics are sacrificed daily to the standardization of the machine to the profit motive, and to the need for mindless consumption of objects. | If capitalism is the world and everything in it, then the brick through the window of the chief superintendent’s car, however potent a symbol, is merely another gesture played out within that selfsame whole | Now this essential gap between the arts and the order of the day, kept open in the artistic alienation, is progressively closed by the advancing technological society. And with its closing, the Great Refusal is in turn refused; the “other dimension” is absorbed into the prevailing state of affairs. The works of alienation are themselves incorporated into this society and circulate as part and parcel of the equipment which adorns and psychoanalyzes the prevailing state of affairs. Thus they become commercials – they sell, comfort, or excite. | Insofar as it asks viewers to discover the signs of Capital behind everyday objects and behaviours, critical art risks being inscribed in the perpetuity of a world in which the transformation of things into signs is redoubled by the very excess of interpretive signs which brings things to lose their capacity of resistance. | [In art today] There is no recognition that all of that capitalist trash contains within it the relentless destruction of all that each of us holds closest to us and loves most dearly. There is no understanding that the violence of the abstractions that capitalism imposes on humanity are materially particular, intervening in the particularities of our lives. To refuse to engage with that particularity is, it seems to me, to stand in solidarity with the forces of capital. The question of what it would mean for the artwork to attempt such an expression of the destruction of things and people loved, the historical weight of that process, is never asked; the self-satisfaction of being dissatisfied with commodities is instead transformed itself into the internal harmony of the artwork. Without accounting for these antagonisms there is no tension, no dissonance. to the thinness of life today shifts into the mere declamation that this is how the world is. | I do think artists should be held responsible for their silence, especially in the avant-garde community, a world of people who know better but whose ties to the outdated narrative of Western art trap them into old models of subversion that, handily, are ripe for sponsorship (can anything actually be subversive if it doesn’t subvert? I think the only way to actually be subversive is to find a way out of the supermarket completely, not to be a more “gourmet” product within it). There is no escaping history, true, but a better assessment of what has actually happened is in order. As long as we keep telling ourselves the same myths about the past, we’ll never have the ability to change the future. | To the extent that art corresponds to manifest social need it is primarily a profit-driven industry that carries on for as long as it pays, and by its smooth functioning it obscures the fact that it is already dead. | All efforts to restore art by giving it a social function – of which art itself is uncertain and by which it expresses its own uncertainty – are doomed. | rock ‘n’ roll—as a cultural force rather than as a catchphrase—no longer seems to mean anything. It no longer seems to speak in unknown tongues that turn into new and common languages, to say anything that is not instantly translated back into the dominant discourse of our day’ | Whereas art opposes society, it is nevertheless unable to take up a position beyond it; it achieves opposition only through identification with that against which it remonstrates.
Collage // The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture. | The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. | All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . . | In a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum. | I use the words you taught me. If they don’t mean anything any more, teach me others. Or let me be silent. | …the artist is at once the archivist of collective life and the collector/witness of a shared capacity.…In the space reserved for art, the artist strives to render visible the arts of doing which exist scattered throughout society. | In a society which functions within the accelerated consumption of signs, playing on this undecidability is the only remaining form by which to subvert the meaning of protocols for meaning signs. | Thus, if all these objects have become equivalent as commodities, if money has leveled their intrinsic differences as individual things, one may now purchase as it were their various, henceforth semi-autonomous, qualities or perceptual features; and both colour and shape free themselves from their former vehicles and come to live independent existences as fields of perception and as artistic raw materials. | In times of revolution nothing is more powerful than the fall of symbols / No commercial work is outside of the reach of artistic reclamation | Neoliberalism does co-opt everything. There is no outside. So it’s not a question of resisting or opposing from an irreducibly external position—as, say, art does for Adorno. Instead, we have to find ways of working with composition and repetition—their tools, their methods, etc | In 1969 the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler wrote, ‘The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.’ I’ve come to embrace Huebler’s idea, though it might be retooled as ‘The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.’ It seems an appropriate response to a new condition in writing: faced with an unprecedented amount of available text, the problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists. How I make my way through this thicket of information—how I manage it, parse it, organize and distribute it—is what distinguishes my writing from yours. | politics takes place when those who formerly had been given “no part” within the “common” as it has been constructed through the distribution of the sensible now “take part” through the disruptive speaking of disagreement or dissensus. | it is precisely art’s capacity to intervene on, interrupt, and redetermine the established “distribution of the sensible” that constitutes the ground of the political. | The “politics of aesthetics” for Rancière is the production and insertion by artists and writers of a sensorium that had been outside and elsewhere in relation to the common, and given its disruptive appearance, makes for an interruption and reconfiguration of the network of the distribution of the sensible. We might say that “political aesthetics” is not a matter of changing minds, but of changing sensible perception itself and thereby changing the very network of what constitutes political experience and possibility. | ‘…if art’s products unceasingly cross over into the domain of commodities, conversely commodities and useable objects do not cease to cross the border in the opposite direction, to leave the sphere of usefulness and value behind; they then become either hieroglyphs bearing their history on their bodies or disused, silent objects bearing the splendour of that which no longer supports any project, any will.’ | ‘For by becoming obsolete, unfit for consumption, any old commodity, any object of use whatsoever, becomes available for art, and in diverse ways that can be separated or conjoined: as a disinterested object of satisfaction, as a body ciphering a story, or as a witness to an inassimilable strangeness.’ | Collage makes use of devalued means as devalued means, and wins its form from the “scandal” produced when the dead suddenly spring up among the living, a montage of the debris of that which once was. | ‘Artworks are plenipotentiaries of things that are no longer distorted by exchange, profit, and the false needs of a degraded humanity.’ | If these artists look back […] it is neither because they simply want to laugh at it (parody) nor because they wish to cry for it (nostalgia). They look back instead in order to perceive anew a future that was lost from sight. | The desire to destroy, to change, to create something new, can be an expression of an abundant force, pregnant with Future. | the text of bliss [jouissance] is historical development of the text of pleasure; the avant garde is never anything but the progressive, emancipated form of past culture: today emerges from yesterday | I’m noticing a new approach to artmaking in recent museum and gallery shows. […] It’s an attitude that says, I know that the art I’m creating may seem silly, even stupid, or that it might have been done before, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t serious. At once knowingly self-conscious about art, unafraid, and unashamed, these young artists not only see the distinction between earnestness and detachment as artificial; they grasp that they can be ironic and sincere at the same time, and they are making art from this compound-complex state of mind | Art wants to admit its powerless vis-à-vis late-capitalist totality and to initiate its abrogation. Montage is the inner-aesthetic capitulation of art to what stands heterogeneously opposed to it. The negation of synthesis becomes a principle of form. | The uses of ‘commodified’ forms are always more varied, and work to open up more spaces within the realm of capital, than analyses which proffer a single view of industrial totality or suggest the notional superiority of resistant ‘avant-garde’ forms would have us believe. | Everything is alive with potential significations, the world exists to be knocked down and rebuilt // Recording stabilised the musical work and organized its commercial stockpiling. But now the field of the commodity has been shattered and a direct relation between man and his milieu is being reestablished. | …the very act of sampling strips the original source material of its existing meanings and radically detaches that music from its own history. Sampling allows a space of “play and rupture” to emerge. | Today’s new breed of mash-ups are seemingly a byproduct of the information sorting we’ve learned how to do everyday as digital citizens. Or as NYC producer and Lit City Trax affiliate False Witness put it: “What I try to bring out when I DJ or create songs is a chaotic nature of doing things,” he explained. “I want to go out and feel really happy one second and then sort of depressed and sad and moody, and very psychotic at one point.” While that might not make sense in logical terms, anyone who uses the internet will recognize the experience of feeling a mish-mash of emotions all at once, in the space of a single screen. This music could even be taken as an example to follow: instead of being run down by the noise, one can break down and reassemble the barrage of information to shout back at the feed. | Few scholars writing today believe that the music ‘of’ a particular group is necessarily produced by and for that group. One the contrary, musical works (or ‘texts’) created by one particular social group are liable to appropriation or ‘poaching’ by unintended addressees. Meaning is not immanent in a text. Instead, all texts—to use an old post-structuralist coinage— are polysemic, which is to say they are open to multiple meanings and interpretations. | The good news is: this civilization is over. And everybody knows it. And the good news is: we can all start building another one, here in the ruins, and out of pieces of the old one.
Asemicism // If language lends itself too easily to misuse and deception, then we must assemble a language that cannot be co-opted for such abuses. | Aesthetic sensation is the one realm of existence that is not reducible to political economy. | The creation of a new perceptible reality out of our existing one is where art’s political potential lies. | True art treads on forbidden ground where it mingles with reality without being reality’s mirror image, that is, a sheer representation of reality any longer | Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes. | This tension between artworks and reality – that they are condemned to be part of the reality which they want to reject – is central to the emancipatory potential of art. This is the sense in which artworks are destined to fail, a failure that consists in the failure of empirical reality to admit the richness of experience. They contain an ambition that berates the world for their own impotence. | We must renounce being understood. It is not necessary to be understood. | Art is magic, emancipated from the lie of being the truth / In subordinating art to the service of the political, however widely understood, such attempts lose sight of what it is that constitutes art’s specific political potential. This potential consists not in the capacity of art to reach an audience that might otherwise not be exposed to particular political arguments, nor in its ability strongly to move and thereby to arouse profound emotions about political issues. It consists rather in the aestheticist ideal of art for its own sake. By proclaiming that it exists purely for its own sake, art rejects the logic of commodity society according goods are produced for the sake of what they can be exchanged for. The artwork that exists purely for itself rejects this logic of being-for-another and in so doing points to the possibility of a world that is not mediated by commodity-production. This is by no means celebration of an apolitical aestheticism but rather an insistence that it is inappropriate to consider even what appears to be the most aloof withdrawal from the political sphere as apolitical. | The instrumentalisation of art for overtly political ends accepts not only the reality of the political situation it aims to change, but also the restricted field of politics in which it operates. In contrast, the aestheticist ideal of art for its own sake points to the possibility of life beyond this restriction. | Artworks, that is, carry within themselves the trace of the historical and prehistorical mystical praxis in which they have their origins. It is by renouncing this praxis – by renouncing the claim to influence through ritual the reality in which they exist – that artworks take on their peculiar character within capitalist social relations, that they come to stand outside the means-ends rationality that characterises bourgeois (if not only bourgeois) society. Artworks, that is, take on a status that resists the permeation of life by the social of commodity society precisely by renouncing their claim to have a direct influence on life, a renunciation that becomes inevitable only through the development of the very instrumental reason whose influence artworks come to resist. | Being a spectator is not some passive condition that we should transform into activity. It is our normal situation. We also learn and teach, act and know as spectators who all the time link what we see to what we have seen and said, done and dreamed. We do not have to transform spectators into actors, and ignoramuses into scholars. We have to recognize the knowledge at work in the ignoramus and the activity peculiar to the spectator. Every spectator is already an actor in her story, every actor, every man of action, is the spectator of the same story. | Thus, it would be assumed that the incapable are capable; that there is no hidden secret of the machine that keeps them trapped in their place. It would be assumed that there is no fatal mechanism transforming reality into image; no monstrous beast absorbing all desires and energies into its belly; no lost community to be restored. What there is are simply scenes of dissensus, capable of surfacing at any time. What ‘dissensus’ means is an organization of the sensible where there is neither a reality concealed behind appearances nor a single regime of presentation and interpretation of the given imposing its obviousness on all. It means that every situation can be cracked open from the inside, reconfigured in a different regime of perception and signification. | Emancipated, active, spectatorship is the mode of engagement with the artwork which most fully realizes the egalitarian promise inherent in the aesthetic regime of art. | Art can allow people to see the world and their place in it differently, which may in turn lead them to intervene in it and change it by becoming political subjects, yet it can only do so as art by respecting their autonomy as spectators. | Understanding does not, in and of itself, help to transform intellectual attitudes and situations. The exploited rarely require an explanation of the laws of exploitation. The dominated do not remain in subordination because they misunderstand the existing state of affairs but because they lack confidence in their capacity to transform it. | Being a spectator is not some passive condition that we should transform into activity. It is our normal situation. We also learn and teach, act and know as spectators who all the time link what we see to what we have seen and said, done and dreamed…Every spectator is already an actor in her story, every actor, every man of action, is the spectator of the same story. | When a piece of music is converted into a vehicle for conveying a specific political message with substantive content, the peril arises of a composer converting the artistic experience into a sort of lecture or sermon, to which the audience has no polite recourse but to listen patiently until it has ended, however overbearing, obtuse, or offensive the presentation might appear. This potentially could serve the purposes of political motivation well, if the audience consists only of the like-minded. However, most public concerts consist of a varied audience who very likely do not share the same political opinions. | A second problem that arises concerns the adequate conveyance of an intended affirmative/ motivational message. If this is realized in a highly artistic form, the skill of the realization might distract from the message (a constant topic of concern in the leftist tradition); yet a reduction in artistry is no guarantee that the message will be conveyed more effectively than via the traditional political methods of speeches and rallies. The more substantive and sophisticated the message to be imparted is, the less effectively concert music can convey it accurately, even when one resorts to crude textural effects. Most of these problems can be attributed to the fundamental ambiguity of musical meaning when words are lacking and a standardized link between musical gesture and emotional effect is no longer widely viewed as credible. A descending series of notes might represent the despair of a deposed tyrant, the blood of his victims, the seeping-away of the authority of faith, the suffering of faith’s victims, the tears of the poor, the Lord’s blessings raining on the wealthy, the cycle of nature, the disappearance of potable water, or a thousand other intended meanings. When such gestures develop in an integral manner to form a rich and coherent musical discourse, the meanings might become more determinate, but they will also be more tightly bound to the immanent dramatic unfolding of the piece, and less easily pinned down to a detachable paraphrase. All of these factors concern only the conveyance of ‘information’; when reception is taken into account, the efficiency and accuracy of the artwork’s conveyance is even more questionable, as a striking dramatic effect can easily distract listeners from the intended message (even Bertolt Brecht’s work met this fate), an earnest and ideologically correct presentation may lack the fire to instigate political action, or the intended message may be simply misinterpreted. | The dystopian future that the world has been dreaming of for decades is on the horizon, is already here; the thunderstorm is very loud and very close. The question is: is it exciting? Or is it too close and dangerous? Another way to put this: is it for art and music to play with? Underground music has been sarcastically adopting the warped subjectivity of the dystopian, anti-human citizen for a while now, in lots of different ways. And it’s nothing new: UK punk rock did this archetypically when its awful patriotism exploded into the summer of 1976. But the excitement of sarcasm is a consequence of the privilege of safety, the way that experiencing a thunderstorm indoors generates a thrill as long as you’re safe from harm. But more and more people are in harm’s way. Some — minorities of many kinds — have always been in harm’s way, have never lived through anything but the storm. Is sarcastically reproducing the dystopian thrill of the storm just too close to — or ultimately just as good as — voting for it (by ‘mistake’ or otherwise)? | If man is ever to solve the problem of politics in practice, he will have to approach it through the problem of the aesthetic. / All efforts to restore art by giving it a social function – of which art is itself uncertain and by which it expresses its own uncertainty – are doomed | autonomous art has no overt message and serves itself. This does not preclude autonomous art from being political, but creates the possibility for artworks that serve longer term political goals. | The emancipation of artworks from their meaning becomes aesthetically meaningful once this emancipation is realized in the aesthetic material | The autonomous artwork creates its own inner logic, without referring to anything external to its form. In its consistency and total integration, form and content are identical; the work is the idea. | An aesthetic judgment is therefore singular and ungrounded. Aesthetic experience has nothing to do with “information” or “facts.” It cannot be generalized, or transformed into any sort of positive knowledge. How could it, when it doesn’t serve any function or purpose beyond itself? And this, again, is why aesthetic sensation seems spectral to us, and even epiphenomenal. It cannot be extracted, appropriated, or put to work. | Art’s self-authenticating mechanism of entering reality erases art’s fictional character by giving it the opportunity to assume the role and significance of some natural presence acting in the world rather than an artificial representation that simply articulates what is already there. | Culture is deeply locked into the structure of commodity production; but one effect of this is to release it into a certain ideological autonomy, hence allowing it to speak against the very social order with which it is guiltily complicit. It is this complicity which spurs art into protest, but which also strikes that protest agonized and ineffectual, formal gesture rather than irate polemic. Art can only hope to be valid if it provides an implicit critique of the conditions which produce it – a validation which, in evoking art’s privileged remoteness from such conditions, instantly invalidates itself. Conversely, art can only be authentic if it silently acknowledges how deeply it is compromised by what it opposes; but to press this logic too far is precisely to undermine its authenticity. | whereas art opposes society, it is nevertheless unable to take up a position beyond it; it achieves opposition only through identification with that against which it remonstrates. | The idea that a work of art can even have a “content” – that it can be “about” something or have a “meaning” – not only misses the point, but is destructive to art itself. Instead, one should simply appreciated the “sensuous surface” of an artwork, without translating it into a symbol or allegory or milking from it some sort of deeper meaning. | Art should oppose capitalist coercion indirectly through form, nor directly through content. It is not the office of art to spotlight alternatives, but to resist by its form alone the course of the world, which permanently puts a pistol to men’s heads. | the artwork wants to make the facts eloquent by letting them speak for themselves. Art thereby begins the process of destroying the artwork as a nexus of meaning. | It thus appears that art does not become critical or political by ‘moving beyond itself’, or ‘departing from itself’, and intervening in the ‘real world’. There is no ‘real world’ that functions as the outside of art | Art wants to admit its powerlessness vis-à-vis late-capitalist totality and to initiate its abrogation…The artwork wants to make the facts eloquent by letting them speak for themselves. Art thereby begins the process of destroying the artwork as a nexus of meaning. | A variation of this notion also seems to be what Adorno is hinting at when he talks of ‘the emancipation of the artwork from the artist’, which he says ‘is no l’art pour l’art delusion of grandeur but the simplest expression of the work’s constitution as the expression of a social relation that bears in itself the laws of its own reification. | The types of aesthetic experience which are most likely to effect a displacement of the terms of the dominant discourses without leaving those terms fundamentally intact are those which somehow deconstruct the terms altogether. | Indeed, there is something in the abstraction of poetry, or of art in general, that can arguably resist the dry rationalist auspices of finance capital. This is not because art stands outside society, or because it has some intrinsic properties that might prove exemplary of a better way of life. | precisely by distance from it art adopts its stance towards the empirical world in which conflicts appear immediate and as absolute cleavages; their mediation, implicitly contained in the empirical, become the for-itself of consciousness only by the act of stepping back from it, which is what art does. | That artworks, in accord with Kant’s magnificently paradoxical formula, are “purposeless”, that they are separated from empirical reality and serve no aim that is useful for self-preservation and life, precludes calling art’s meaning its purpose, despite meaning’s affinity to immanent teleology. The more the emancipation of the subject demolished every idea of a preestablished order conferring meaning, the more dubious the concept of meaning became as the refuge of a fading theology. | Nevertheless the emancipation of artworks from their meaning becomes aesthetically meaningful once this emancipation is realized in the aesthetic material precisely because the aesthetic meaning is not immediately one with theological meaning. Artworks that divest themselves of any semblance of meaning do not thereby forfeit their similitude to language. They enunciate their meaninglessness with the same determinacy as traditional artworks enunciate their positive meaning. | The dividing line between authentic art that takes on itself the crisis of meaning and a resigned art consisting literally and figuratively of protocol sentences is that in significant works the negation of meaning is stubbornly and positively replicated. Everything depends on this: whether meaning inheres in the negation of meaning in the artwork or if the negation conforms to the status quo; whether the crisis of meaning is reflected in the works or whether it remains immediate and therefore alien to the subject. | Functionless art, which acquires functions in virtue of its functionlessness, is a deeply paradoxical or dialectical notion. It is precisely through their refusal of social function that autonomous music and art acquire a critical function. It is by standing apart from society that autonomous art becomes most powerfully critical – more genuinely critical than so-called political or propaganda art. It is a model of emancipation, of life lived under non-oppressive conditions – the most one can hope for from art in the present age. | Yet it is precisely in this uselessness that art’s political calling resides. In a senseless world led by a runaway financial machine in which political and intellectual opposition is so far embedded as to make critique impossible, the uselessness of art offers a refuge. | Art is not, in the first instance, political because of the messages and sentiments it conveys concerning the state of the world. Neither is it political because of the manner in which it might choose to represent society’s structures, or social groups, their conflicts or identities. It is political because of the very distance it takes with respect to these functions, because of the type of space and time that it institutes, and the manner in which it frames this time and peoples this space. | ‘The social function of Art’, as Adorno will echo, ‘is to not have one.’ Egalitarian promise is enclosed in the work’s self-sufficiency, in its indifference to every particular political project and in its refusal to get involved in decorating the mundane world. It is subversive, as subsequent generations would discover, by dint of its radical separation of the sensorium of art from that of everyday aestheticized life. A contrast is thereby formed between a type of art that makes politics by eliminating itself as art and a type of art that is political on the proviso that it retains its purity, avoiding all forms of political intervention. | As already implied, art is really art when, paradoxically, it stops being art and connects itself more and more with actual life. Art’s self-authenticating mechanism of entering reality erases art’s fictional character by giving it the opportunity to assume the role and significance of some natural presence acting in the world rather than an artificial representation that simply articulates what is already there. To put it differently, far from articulating the need of personal expression on the artistic level, art becomes fully politicized as an agency that acts on its own in the social sphere, thus enabling it to interact with and affect the world directly. | We have a tendency to think that, when everything is bad, the best thing art and criticism can do is present to us exactly how bad it is, to really capture the full extent of that badness for everyone to see. But this is, I think, more of an affirmative stance than many people realise. Real change can only be brought about by strategically rejecting reality in the right way, at the right time. Yes this requires knowledge that things are bad, but that’s only half the story. Just as optimism without pessimism is insipid, for pessimism to be really critical, it must also require the courage to be optimistic. | In a notable historical irony, the birth of aesthetics as an intellectual discourse coincides with the period when cultural production is beginning to suffer the miseries and indignities of commodification. The peculiarity of the aesthetic is in part spiritual compensation for this degradation; it is just when the artist is becoming debased to a petty commodity producer that her or she will lay claim to transcendent genius. But there is another reason for the foregrounding of the artefact which aesthetics achieves. What art is now able to offer, in that ideological reading of it known as the aesthetic, is a paradigm of more general social significance – an image of self-referentiality which in an audacious move seizes upon the very functionlessness of artistic practice and transforms it to a vision of the highest good. As a form of value grounded entirely in itself, without practical rhyme or reason, the aesthetic is at once eloquent testimony to the obscure origins and enigmatic nature of value in a society which would seem everywhere to deny it, and a utopian glimpse of an alternative to this sorry condition. For what the work of art imitates in its very pointlessness, in the constant movement by which it conjures itself up from its own inscrutable depths, is nothing less than human existence itself, which requires no rationale beyond its own self-delight. For this Romantic doctrine, the art work is most rich in political implications where it is most gloriously futile. | Works of the highest level of form that are meaningless or alien to meaning are therefore more than simply meaningless because they gain their content through the negation of meaning. | When artworks have nothing external to themselves to which they can cling without ideology, what they have lost cannot be restored by any subjective act…At the same time the totality of the work presents meaning and produces it aesthetically, it reproduces it. Meaning is only legitimate in the artwork insofar as it objectively more than the work’s own meaning. | The political, that is, does not take place by way of what we might call a “semantic” commitment of the poem nor through a personal commitment of the poet, but rather by way of irruptive forms of writing that foreground the material aspects of meaning making, disrupt conventional modes of sense making, and provoke a participatory readerly agency. | Art’s purposiveness, free of any practical purpose, is to its similarity to language; its being “without a purpose” is its nonconceptuality, that which distinguishes art from significative language. Artworks move toward the idea of language of things only by way of their own language through the organization of their disparate elements; the more they are syntactically articulated in themselves, the more eloquent they become in all their elements. | We are reasserting man’s natural desire for the exalted, for a concern with our relationship to the absolute emotions. We do not need the obsolete props of an outmoded and antiquated legend. We are creating images whose reality is self-evident and which are devoid of the props and crutches that evoke associations with outmoded images, both sublime and beautiful. We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of Western European painting. Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or “life,” we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings. The image we produce is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history. | Man’s first expression, like his first dream, was an aesthetic one. Speech was a poetic outcry rather than a demand for communication. Original man, shouting his consonants, did so in yells of awe and anger at his tragic state, at his own self-awareness and at his own helplessness before the void. | The human in language is literature, not communication. Man’s first cry was a song. // Only music awakens in man the sense of music. | Music affects first and foremost | Music itself, in its absolute sovereignty, has no need at all of images and concepts but merely tolerates them as an accompaniment. | The value of music as an art, or the value of any piece of music as music, is independent of its relation to anything extra-musical. | Music is like a language in having a syntactic structure but not actually a language because it has no semantics – no cognitive content can be pinned down. | Music resembles language in the sense that it is a temporal sequence of articulated sounds which are more than just sounds. They say something, often something human. The better the music, the more forcefully they say it. The succession of sounds is like logic: it can be right or wrong. But what has been said cannot be detached from the music. Music creates no semiotic system. | The beautiful [in music] is not contingent upon nor in need of any subject introduced from without, but that it consists wholly of sounds artistically combined…In music there is both meaning and logical sequence, but in a musical sense; it is a language we speak and understand, but which we are unable to translate. | a musical idea brought into complete manifestation in appearance is already self-subsistent beauty | music, at least in its “pure” instrumental form, does not seem to represent anything outside itself – certainly no concrete and straightforward political message. | Those who peruse art solely with comprehension make it into something straightforward, which is furthest from what it is…Of all the arts, music is the prototypical example of this: It is at once completely enigmatic and totally evident. It cannot be solved, only its form can be deciphered | ‘By no means is it possible for language adequately to render the cosmic symbolism of music,’ as it ‘symbolises a sphere which is above all appearance and before all phenomena…Language, as the organ and symbol of phenomena, cannot at all disclose the innermost essence of music.’ | The beautiful [in music] is not contingent upon nor in need of any subject introduced from without, but that it consists wholly of sounds artistically combined…In music there is both meaning and logical sequence, but in a musical sense; it is a language we speak and understand, but which we are unable to translate. | With music it is essential to appreciate the sounds as sounds, in the sense that one does not attend to them for the information that they yield about the world, whether through their natural or non-natural meaning. | Instrumental music has no subject-matter extraneous to its combinations of musical sounds, and its artistic value is determined only by the intrinsic beauty of the audible forms that compose it. | The value of music as an art, or the value of any piece of music as music, is independent of its relation to anything extra-musical. | A musical idea brought into complete manifestation in appearance is already self-subsistent beauty; it is an end in itself, and it is no way primarily a medium or material for the representation of feelings or conceptions. | In its fully absolute power, music does not need image and idea, but only tolerates them as something additional to itself. The poetry of the lyricist can express nothing which was not already latent in the most immense universality and validity of the music, which forces him to speak in images. The world symbolism of music for this very reason cannot in any way be exhausted by or reduced to language, because music addresses itself symbolically to the primordial contradiction and pain in the heart of the original oneness, and thus presents in symbolic form a sphere which is above all appearances and prior to them. In comparison with music, each appearance is far more a mere metaphor: hence, language, as voice and symbol of appearances, can never ever convert the deepest core of music to something external, but always remains, as long as it involves itself with the imitation of music, only in superficial contact with the music. The full eloquence of lyric poetry cannot bring us one step closer to the deepest meaning of music. | All music can be defined as noise given form according to a code (in other words, according to rules of arrangement and laws of succession, in a limited space, a space of sounds) that is theoretically knowable by the listener. Listening to music is to receive a message. Nevertheless, music cannot be equated with a language–which refer to a signified–music, though it has a precise operationality, never has a stable reference to a code of the linguistic type. It is not “a myth coded in sounds instead of words,” but rather a “language without meaning.” It has neither meaning nor finality. | Traditional or stable genres of popular music are like languages that, while in flux, are basically pre-given and complete, and have their specific ways to use certain musical structures to communicate within certain limits. Experimental music doesn’t base itself on an established language like this, but is more like a creativity concerned with vocal sounds, phonetics, typography and calligraphy, irrespective of more complex meaning. It’s involved with the building blocks that musical languages are made of. When you put it like this, it’s odd to think that people find experimental music “difficult”—it’s a radically simpler experience, assuming much less semiotically. And that’s where experimental music’s appeal lies. It reconnects you with the fundamental life of sound and music, and entices you to search for meaning in a language you cannot yet speak. You ask yourself, “What sort of subjectivity would make art like this? What does it perceive that I don’t (or don’t yet)?” | what more extreme refusal of all of metaphysics’ priorities can we imagine than a rave? A crowd of people immersing themselves in a collective experience of the materiality of music, each individual losing themselves in a shared ecstasy whose medium is bass and rhythm; an experience of music not at all as an object of rational contemplation but as affect itself, whose chief mode of expression is a wordless cheer; there could hardly be any more direct refusal of logocentric imperatives. | Techno, trance, jungle and garage are all musics about creating a pleasurable moment rather than telling a story. They are not, like rock songs, about creating a space for fantasy, for identification or catharsis. They are not to make us feel that we are like (or different from) the performer, or to give us hope, or to make us angry. They are to be used rather than to be understood. They are about collapsing the future into the present. | wordless music can neither mean nor give an account, being an object of pleasure, an object of sensation, nothing more and nothing less. / Most of all, I love the human voice for its own sake | These days, to be experimental is to begin to speak a language that not everyone speaks yet. | Singing, speaking or writing in nonsense, rather than simply being a cute schtick, is actually an intensely provocative act which many artists throughout history have employed to a wide variety of ends. The rejection of common language is an inescapably disruptive act. | as well as having meanings, music can be thought of as producing affects, which cannot be explained in terms of meaning. In other words, music can affect us in ways that are not dependent on us understanding something, or manipulating verbal concepts, or being able to represent accurately those experiences through language. | What is it that makes house, techno and their variants so specific and unique? Perhaps the most obvious answer is that these forms stand out in the history of recorded ‘popular’ music in that they eschew verbal meaning. Most house and techno tracks have no lyrics. Vocal samples are used as pieces of sound rather than as meaningful phrases. The fact that dance music is a new form of popular instrumental music is what makes it so striking: it is a music which is not based on songs. | Musics whose primary purpose is to move our bodies via the materiality of the bass, which often do not offer linguistic meanings, would seem to epitomize everything that philosophical tradition dislikes and distrusts about music. | The voice, in relation to silence, is like writing (in the graphic sense) on blank paper. Listening to the voice inaugurates the relation to the Other: the voice by which we recognize others (like writing on an envelope) indicates to us their way of being, their joy or their pain, their condition; it bears an image of their body and, beyond, a whole psychology (as when we speak of a worm voice, a white voice, etc). Sometimes an interlocutor’s voice strikes us more than the content of his discourse, and we catch ourselves listening to the modulations and harmonics of that voice without hearing what it is saying to us. This dissociation is no doubt partly responsible for the feeling of strangeness (sometimes of antipathy) which each of us feels on hearing his own voice: reaching us after traversing the masses and cavities of our own anatomy, it affords us a distorted image of ourselves, as if we were to glimpse our profile in a three-way mirror. The singing voice, that very specific space in which a tongue encounters a voice and permits those who know how to listen to it to hear what we can call its “grain” – the singing voice is not the breath but indeed the materiality of the body emerging from the throat, a site where the phonic metal hardens and takes shape. Corporality of speech, the voice is located at the articulation of body and discourse, and it is in this interspace that listening’s back-and-forth movement might be made. “To listen to someone, to hear his voice, requires on the listener’s part an attention open to the interspace of body and discourse and which contracts neither at the impression of the voice nor at the expression of the discourse. What such listening offers is precisely what the speaking subject does not say: the unconscious texture which associates his body-as-site with his discourse: an active texture which reactualises in the subject’s speech, the totality of his history. | The phono-erotic is that which attempts to bypass understanding, and return the voice as play, the voice as empty, unsignifying sound. | Very often, the voice is treated simply as a melodic medium, bypassing the linguistic or the semantic entirely. | Nonsense is a specifically vocal utterance that performs a subtractive operation: it removes meaning from voice, foregrounding the residue, turning excess into entirety. As a result, nonsense can be said to be looking backward, trying to bring the voice back to a time before meaning and signification. | [The signing voice] brings the voice energetically to the forefront, on purpose, at the expense of meaning. […It] turns the tables on the signifier; it reverses the hierarchy – let the voice take the upper hand. | Instead of the voice disappearing behind meaning, meaning is subordinated to the fetishization of the voice. While nonsense looks to a time before language, signing leaps over meaning, reaching for a point beyond language. | It refuses to signify, and thus is itself impervious to signification. It will remain forever at a distance from reality, and any attempt to bring it closer merely emphasizes its distance. / Even though it can be seen in language,” writes Kristeva, “the genotext is not linguistic…it is, rather, a process, which tends to articulate structures that are ephemeral…and nonsignifying. | it is often the physical, material aspects of language (certain combinations of letters, certain sounds-regardless of the meaning of words in which they occur) that signals the presence of a genotext | The geno-song is the volume of the singing and speaking voice, the space where significations germinate ‘from within language and in its very materiality’; it forms a signifying play having nothing to do with communication, representation (of feelings), expression; it is that apex (or that depth) of production where the melody really works at the language – not at what it says, but the voluptuousness of its sounds-signifiers, of its letters – where melody explores how the language works and identifies with that work. / Today, a new music is on the rise, one that can neither be expressed nor understood using old tools, a music produced elsewhere and otherwise. It is not that music or the world have become incomprehensible: the concept of comprehension itself has changed; there has been a shift in the locus of the perception of things. | Truly revolutionary music is not music which expresses the revolution in words, but which speaks of it as a lack. | I have nothing to say, and I am saying it. | In the trajectory toward vocal jouissance, language and meaning are gradually undone by the singing, whereby the words become harder to understand, leaving the phonic materiality of the vocal embellishments to be enjoyed for their own sake in excess of meaning. | pleasure can be expressed in words, bliss [jouissance] cannot. bliss [jouissance] is unspeakable, interdicted
Jouissance // “The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it.” | ‘Man is only completely human when he plays’ | We know that we’re doomed, and we fight anyway, against it all. | Give them an apocalypse, and they would dance. | Dance for dancing’s sake can be thought of as almost the opposite of work, a form of labour which is literally unalienable in its non-productivity | carnival has often been the occasion for the initiation of more serious political agitation; the playful irreverence of carnival can easily shade into a more serious challenge to authority | To live without dead time means to embody a great refusal, to find pleasure in struggle, to transform every moment of existence into a repudiation of the consumerist nightmare and an affirmation of revolutionary possibility. Imagine if a huge number of us start living in this way, turning daily life itself into a form of resistance that re-enchants the city and reawakens the promise of a people’s insurrection. The way forward is through this kind of radical play. | An injection of new imagination, borne of diverse and unacknowledged experiences, is necessary if we are to slip the coils of political regression and artistic monotony. This experience will be informed by knowledge that the game is rigged, that what attempts at meritocracy and amelioration once existed are now being systematically rolled back, that application and talent do not automatically enable one to rise, and that the current likely alternative to dissolute idleness is not industrious and productive respectable labour but immiserating and precarious toil for inadequate remuneration. From this perspective, immersions in the alternatives…excess, hedonism, short-term enjoyment, glamour and the radical possibilities of pleasure – looks less like a moral panic and more like a moral imperative. | Only the rich like modesty; the poor prefer luxury. | It had to sound passé, it had to be overdone; if you’re trying to bulldoze the shiny edifice of western pop culture, you can’t do it tastefully or with subtlety, can you? | Pleasure means not having to think about anything, to forget suffering even when it is shown. Basically it is helplessness. It is flight; not as it is asserted, flight from a wretched reality, but from the last remaining thought of resistance. The liberation of which amusement promises is freedom from thought and from negation. | There is no communication possible between men any longer, now that the codes have been destroyed, including even the code of exchange in repetition. We are all condemned to silence – unless we create our own relation with the world and try to tie other people into the meaning we thus create. That is what composing is. Doing solely for the sake of doing, without trying artificially to recreate the old codes in order to reinsert communication into them. Inventing new codes, inventing the message at the same time as the language. Playing for one’s own pleasure, which alone can create the conditions for new communication. A concept such as this seems natural in the context of music. But it reaches far beyond that; it relates to the emergence of the free act, self-transcendence, pleasure in being instead of having. | What [I call] NOW!-ism is a version of the attitude that’s been plastered all across popular culture in the 2010s and recently crystallized in the slogan YOLO: ‘you only live once’…It’s pure rave, this spirit of living for the apocalyptic now, and the fact that it’s been mainstreamed at a time of financial crash and chronic unemployment makes sense in so many ways. Because the other side of the YOLO coin is NO FUTURE. Maybe young people are partying like there’s no tomorrow because it feels like there is no tomorrow. When there’s not even shitty jobs around or when (if you managed to get to college) you leave university saddled with student debt and unable to get on the first rung of the career ladder leading to even a basic conventional life of marriage, house, kids… it’s really hard to construct a positive mental image of the future.’ | …there will be new form…and this new form will be of such a type that it admits the chaos and does not try to say that the chaos is really something else…That is why the form itself becomes a preoccupation, because it exists as a problem separate from the material it accommodates. To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now. | We see emerging, piecemeal and with the greatest ambiguity, the seeds of a new noise, one exterior to the institutions and customary sites of political conflict. A noise of Festival and Freedom, it may create the conditions for a major discontinuity extending far beyond its field. It may be the essential element in a strategy for the emergence of a truly new society. | The world’s suffering makes the urgency of the disaster apparent, and we have a duty to alleviate it. … our solutions do not have to be sweeping, perfect or eternal: they can just approximate to an image of a better world, slow the catastrophe down a little. That is what real hope consists in. The work must always go on. | The world is deep, and deeper than the day could read. Deep is its woe, – Joy – deeper still than grief can be: woe says: Hence! Go! But joys all want eternity, want deep, profound eternity! | ‘’I’ am in the place from which a voice is heard clamouring ‘the universe is a defect in the purity of Non-Being’. | And not without reason, for by protecting itself this place makes Being itself languish. This place is called Jouissance, and it is the absence of this that makes the universe vain.’ // Jouissance has no ‘use-value’. | ‘While words have a signifying value, they also have a jouissance value: a real materiality that is enjoyed beyond sense.’ | Text of bliss: the text that imposes a state of loss, the text that discomforts (perhaps to the point of a certain boredom), unsettles the reader’s historical, cultural, psychological assumptions, the consistency of his tastes, values, memories, brings to a crisis his relation with language. | The ecstasy of jouissance, we are suggesting here, is precisely such a ‘standing outside’ of the discourses | Not that those discourse can be fully escaped; rather they are interrupted at those points where their overdetermination by other discourses creates a space of underdetermination, where the energy of jouissance is generated at the very points of agency. | Pleasure can be expressed in words, jouissance cannot. Jouissance is unspeakable, interdicted // Jouissance is ‘the idea of examining an art form from within, critiquing its methods, whilst utilising the central tenets of the genre to produce a more rarefied, purer, more ‘absolute’ form’ | Jouissance is ‘accessed at the moment when the materiality of the means of signification interrupts meaning.’ | Jouissance is often thought of as a pleasure which operates particularly at the level of the body’s materiality, being associated with that moment which is characterized at once by pre-linguistic experience | Jouissance is therefore conceived here not as an effect of simple regression, but of the interruption and displacement of particular discursive terms. | We might say that jouissance is what is experienced at the moment when the discourses shaping our identity are interrupted and displaced such that that identity is challenged, opened up to the possibility of change, to the noise at the borders of its articulation. | Jouissance [is] an excess of life | Jouissance [is] an enjoyment beyond the pleasure principle.| Jouissance is a fracture in the structure of signification | ‘jouissance’ is the surplus pleasure that remains after art has been stripped of its semantic content and its ideological function. | Jouissance is the beautiful death-cry of modern culture | ‘le propre de la jouissance, c’est de ne pouvoir être dite’ // Aesthetic art promises a political accomplishment that it cannot satisfy, and thrives on that ambiguity. | Art in the aesthetic regime finds its only content precisely in [the] process of undoing, in opening up a gap between /poeisis/ and /aisthesis/, between a way of doing and a horizon of affect. | ‘It thus appears that art does not become critical or political by ‘moving beyond itself’, or ‘departing from itself’, and intervening in the ‘real world’. There is no ‘real world’ that functions as the outside of art. Instead, there is a multiplicity of folds in the sensory fabric of the common, folds in which outside and inside take on a multiplicity of shifting forms, in which the topography of what is ‘in’ and what it ‘out’ are continually criss-crossed and displaced by the aesthetics of politics and the politics of aesthetics…The practice of [this art] undoes, and then re-articulates, connections between signs and images, images and times, and signs and spaces, framing a sense of reality a given ‘commonsense’. It is a practice that invents new trajectories between what can be seen, what can be said and what can be done. // Musics which foreground their own materiality through the deployment of timbre and rhythm, musics which seek to articulate a specifically feminine aesthetic, can all give access to jouissance. | Dance cultures are almost all—one way or another—about the pursuit of jouissance | it is purely the physical, corporeal, timbral qualities of music which, via their signifiance, offer us access to jouissance. Such musics seem inevitably to subvert the symbolic order. | Dance music as it is perceived now—soul, disco, funk, techno and the many mansions of house—is, I believe, the one form of music which, even in its most degraded form, is bound up in something that closely resembles Roland Barthes’ notion of jouissance, that is, rapture, bliss or transcendence. | Rage is a really fun place to dance from—expressions of anger sublimated into something beautiful are invigorating, especially if you feel like you’re telling the truth. It’s a great way to get energy and catch the momentum of a movement. | We might say, in fact that this is precisely how the central experience of ‘rave’ works; it offers us ecstasy by liberating us from the demands of the symbolic order, the demand to be male or female, the demand to speak and understand, the demand to be anything at all. | Most of all, I love the human voice for its own sake | In the trajectory toward vocal jouissance, language and meaning are gradually undone by the singing, whereby the words become harder to understand, leaving the phonic materiality of the vocal embellishments to be enjoyed for their own sake in excess of meaning. | Exteriority can only disappear in composition, in which the musician plays primarily for himself, outside any operationality, spectacle or accumulation of value; when music, extricating itself from the codes of sacrifice, representation and repetition, emerges as an activity that is an end in itself, that creates its own code at these same time as the work. | Beyond the rupture of the economic conditions of music, composition is revealed as the demand for a truly different system of organization, a network within which a different kind of music and different relations can arise. A music produced by each individual for himself, for pleasure outside of meaning, usage and exchange. | Music is no longer made to be represented or stockpiled, but for participation in collective play, in an ongoing quest for new, immediate communication, without ritual and always unstable. It becomes non reproducible, irreversible. | Music – I mean the classical music I studied – taught me above all: no act of imagination is futile. Music is the imagination running wild, through a landscape that is only colour and emotion. Its mere existence refutes the demand of the neoliberals for us to be acquisitive, selfish individuals. | ‘If something simply exists, without a raison d’etre, and that is enough to console for the fact that everything exists for something else, the comfort, function, the anonymous solace to the congregation of the lonely, ranks surely not lowest among the functions of music today. Its sound suggests a voice of the collective that will not quite forsake its compulsory members…music is a purveyor of joy pure and simple’ // The articulation of joy is an interruption, a distortion, a turbulence in the supposedly irresistibly executed flow of everyday activities in capitalist societies. Joy as noise therefore implies noise as presence. Noise as articulation. Noise as representation. Noise as existence. Any form of existence an anthropoid alien like you or me could imagine is actually noise. Being noisy is how one is performing, how one is being alive and in tension, being in resistance. In joy. Make some noise. Now? Will you?