[programming + art ] - [LI] í‚›SI

What Henry Warwick calls the "cycle of consumption" struck rave culture in a rather predictable although unevenly distributed fashion throughout the '90s. It struck in the manner of appropriation and reappropriation, although it seemed to require an amount of incorporation for corporate entertainment to stomach "faceless" music. A general bemoaning of "selling out" sparked the usual battle-cries against swooping corporate vultures.

This was easy enough to see from either vantage point, from the air or from the ground, even from the pits some dug in the hopes of recreating the mythical "underground." Unfortunately, no sustainable tunnels were dug, in part because the terrain had suddenly changed: fiberoptic piping was discovered running through the Earth, and it connected all ground units, allowed them to speak to each other and thus avoid going out into the open, where the vultures prey.

The vultures, however, already had wireless.
All of this was easy enough to see, or hear.
It was blowing in the wind.

Invisible at the time and still invisible now was an encircling, a mounting conservatism that was scoffed in the heyday of dot-com speculation. And not only from the conservatives, who have shown their feathers (currently roosting). Conservatism from the ground--from those still on the ground--and a new sense of order in the pipes. The fiberoptic pipes. Even the invisible pipes, or even more so, the wireless pipes.

When "radical artists" celebrated the death of the artist, and the eruption or the slow penetration of the programmer, the event producer, this ephemeral moment of collective integrity which supposedly once and finally, for once and for all, surmounted the corpse of the "artist," there was a software reboot that should have rendered a familiar feeling, were it not for all vestiges of the uncanny removed in the hard drive cleaning of the new art discourse, a discourse that reinstalled the dual role of the committee, of the disciples, the institutions that simply weighed down art before impressionism, DADA, Surrealism, and all the rest that was to follow.

Art today is a matter of programming the right chunks in order to invisibly support technology fetishism and a discourse of supreme clarity, and nowhere is this more apparent than the split in the fascination over contemporary psychogeography, but a split that is only heir to that found in the Lettrists.

Take the two essays that appeared in Les Levres Nues #9 (1956): the infamous "Theory of the Dą©rive" by Guy Debord and the lesser-known text, "Two Accounts of the Dą©rive," also by Debord. The first text, which methodically establishes the parameters for the dą©rive, begins with the concise manner that will only grow with Debord's published work, in direct relation to the vitriol of his critique that makes infamous the purges of the SI:

"ONE OF THE BASIC situationist practices is the dą©rive [literally: 'drifting'], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dą©rives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll."

This essay is quoted constantly in references to the dą©rive. Contrast this to the beginning of "Two Accounts:"

"On the evening of 25 December 1953, the Lettrists G.I. [Gilles Ivain/Ivan Chtcheglov], G.D. [Guy Debord], and G.L. [Gaąītan M. Langlais] enter an Algerian bar in the rue Xavier-Privas that they have long referred to as 'Au Malais de Thomas' and in which they had spent the entire previous night. They fall into conversation with an approximately forty-year-old West Indian man, unusual in his elegance among the regulars of this dive, who is talking to K., the proprietor of the place, upon their arrival."

As "Two Accounts" continues, its accountability becomes more than two and the accounts multiply. It weaves a tale of suspicion, of uncanny and chance meetings that are, on the sly, hinted at construing much more, shady characters and personalities, and an underlying tension that, like the calm before the storm, prevails before violence. (And a violence that was to find itself unravelling throughout the SI purges). Moreover, the language begins to twist and turn to the point of losing its coherency. Race is entwined: a West Indian Man, a doubling of a wife, "uneasy" Yiddish men. These two texts form the last of the Lettrist International. They announce the beginning of the SI. "Two Accounts" announces something other: what the SI would call, in its constitution, a tendency--a theoretical drift toward a pole that fragments the core, the avant-garde agenda of a pure, unified, revolutionary cabal. (A "tendency" eventually destroyed the SI). The two tendencies between these two articles overlap each other, are exhibited in each article against each other, and in both cases, emerge through the writing of Guy Debord. What are these two tendencies?

1. That of speaking clearly about what is far from clear: the experiental of the dą©rive.
2. That of speaking madly about what is far from mad: the experiental of the dą©rive.

Yet, in saying such, I am far from clear (for the framework of the two is also debated and, debatable): and today, in "psychogeography," these two tendencies find themselves at odds (and in writing of them, and in writing them): between those seeking psychogeography as a utility, a way to simply emphasize (wireless) technology, ubiquitous/pervasive computing, and the urban topography, and those seeing--or hearing? feeling?--psychogeography as a tendency that, with its whispers, is murmuring very different things about today's wired (or wireless) city (or yesterday's? what times?).

The tendency that is neither wired nor wireless in Wilfried Hou Je Bek's bio (Socialfiction.org, dot-walk):

"Because of our distrust in the prophecies that go hand in hand with the commodification of techno-realist technology like GPS-devices, our hypothetical software is by definition impossible to built. As such it will serve as the steppingstone of an amplified psychogeographical experience of our surroundings by offering it a layer of imagination, projection & illusion that is otherwise lost in the fetish of location awareness. It's not important where you are: it's important where you want to be."

I leave you with cut-ups of Debord, from "Two Accounts:"

"The next day, J. comes to rendezvous with his wife,-- He makes an exceptional punch -- conversation reaches the level of -- phrase and smiles with complicity.-- " to our brothers who are dying on the field of battle"-- "G.I. and G.D.'s arrival in the bar renders íńÓ who they have never seen before íńÓ the Lettrists remain impassive -- not failed to evoke zombies and the identifying signals of secret sects, -- J.'s wife hears this-- "Voodoo has changed hands." -- a quite beautiful West Indian woman about his age.-- with his rum. -- instantly silent about ten Yiddish-speaking men -- The few passengers who are wearing hats seem suspicious. -- G.L. says rather quietly to G.I., -- J. restores calm instantaneously -- Remarking that a ring that J. was wearing -- alluding to their commentary from the previous evening -- J. and his wife exert a mysterious attraction on all the Algerians -- The din of all the guitars together with the shouts and dances -- seated at two or three tables and all wearing hats. -- The man grabs a chair, -- va the deserted Continent Contrescarpe where night falls amidst an atmosphere of increasing unease." -- J.'s wife. -- produces an agitation of a very unusual intensity. -- their backs turned toward the door, a man -- who are simultaneously enthusiastic and deferential. -- The delirium of the previous evening,-- While the Lettrists drink a few glasses of alcohol at the counter, -- convincing and at times menacing yet without deliberate aggressivity -- Ultimately, they leave." -- Then, taking advantage of this lead, -- "The Lettrists continue down the sidewalk of the Pont-Neuf towards the Right Bank."

posted. Tue - April 13, 2004 @ 01:46 AM           |