|ARTHUR & MARILOUISE KROKER
Spasm is speeding down the throats of all the android processors.
In the age of virtual reality, the traditional sovereignty of sight over sound undergoes a big flip: the image-simulacrum begins to slow down, and to act as a technological drag on the speed of virtual reality. Requiring for its very existence an amplified memory structure, the image-reservoir of computer graphics begins to substitute its own imperatives for the violent speed of virtuality. The computer image-reservoir achieves its final destiny as a big capacity resistor, slowing down all the circulatory networks of digital reality. In virtual reality, sight always moves to inertia.
But not the world of sound. Needing little in the way of computer memory, digital sound can finally come into its own as the expanding envelope of virtual reality. Here is where all the experimental breakthroughs are being made in understanding the unfolding cultural logic of technological society: looping, partitioning, layering, panning, aliasing, filtering, mutating. Listen to the sounds of virtual reality, therefore, to discover the speeds and slownesses, the break-throughs and breakdowns of the world of digital technology. The demand for an enhanced sound cranium finally fulfills itself in a sampling technology that swiftly flips music composers into android processors, allowing MIDI computers to break their vows of silence, to tell us personally what music machines have been thinking about all this time but have never had the opportunity to say. Until now, sound has ususally been in the background. Digital music is different. It foregrounds sound by making problematic the energy field of noise, reenchanting the ear and projecting complex sound objects outwards into imaginary shapes, volumes, and liquid flows.
The ear finally comes into its own. But not the old ear attached to a living head. That has already disappeared and no one cares. We are now living in the evolutionary era of improved eardrums, of cyber ears for spastic sounds. If digital music is to be appreciated, there is an urgent necessity for the development of algorithmic ears: for eardrums that can hear sounds that do not yet exist, and that can never be replicated by the human voice. Consequently, what is necessary is not the recovery of the ear as a privileged orifice for the nostalgic return of oral culture, but the growth of new ears - digital ears - as a sign of nostalgia for the future. The biotechnical ear, that is, operating at the level of the subhuman, splaying outwards across the mediascape, afloat in the digital world of virtual sound.
Anyway, sampler technology is the forward mechanism of late capitalist culture. Working parasitically by appropriation, it mimics perfectly the acquisitive tendencies of technological society under the sign of the private commodity form. Operating at the level of digital sound, not sight, it envelops us in a massive soundscan that vocalizes the codings and recodings of the body telematic. Here, all of the hidden strategies employed by technological society in sampling human beings - of their memories, desires, fantasies, and needs - are worked out in brilliant detail. When we listen to sampler music (and what music is not digitalized today?), we can actually hear our approaching fate as we are sampled for our history, dreams, and destiny. Consequently, think of the computer commands for the digital manipulation of sound as an exact ideological code concerning how our subjectivity is processed by virtual reality. Looping? That is, the ceaseless inscription of semiological tracks of personality, facial redesign, body sculpting, memory massaging. Filtering? That is, the movement of the previously aesthetic strategy of the trompe l'oeil beyond painting into the mediascape, that point where every action is only understandable by mirror references to its cultural code. And panning? A war strategy designed by the mediascape that submits the brain to multi-directional tracking: of its preferences, likes and dislikes, points of nausea and ecstasy. An encryption machine for understanding the ideology of advanced capitalist society, sampler music technology both deciphers the inner semiurgical rules of the mediascape and provides a method of transgressing a culture where simulation is nature. Digital sound, then, as an advanced outrider of the ideology of the mass: an eight-second waveform with ninety-one minutes of sampler memory. Having no real presence, the digitalized mass exists only as an optically charted wave function. Capable of infinite manipulation, the volatile waveform can be massaged in the same way that android processors (computer music composers) look for the best spikes at the XY axis. Just like virtual sound-objects in sampler music technology, subjectivity today is a gaseous element, expanding and contracting, time-stretched, cross-faded, and sound accelerated.Aesthetic Strategies for Digital Manipulation in the age of Android Processors and Recombinant Culture
Why not music in ruins too? Crash music. A cynical sound so intense, so much a spectral commodity, that like a dying red star it implodes with all of the dark intensity of a force field of pure inertia and pure speed, passing through all of those drifting cyber-bodies. Crash music? That is music as a universal force field of sound that can be so seductive because of its fascinating logic of an always promised imminent reversibility: pure ecstasy/pure catastrophe. Music, then, with no past, no (determinate) meaning, but perfectly defining, perfectly energizing, perfectly post-modern.
for the body without organs,
for sex without secretions
for flared eyes of the body telematic
for smells without a rotting skin
for neon ears without skulls
Like advertising, fashion, and cinema before it, music rules today as a dominant ideogram of power. Not a reflection of a serious materialist power which emanates elsewhere and that precedes it, music is a real ruling laboratory of the age of sacrificial power. We are living today in the triumphant but desperate era of aestheticized recommodification. The simulational age of designer subjectivities where the commodityform most of all needs to be aestheticized to ensure its endless circulation through the debris of all the seductive objects of consumer culture. Here, music as an empty force field through which all the fibrillated subjects pass, lends a momentary coherency to a system of objects that always threaten to collapse in the direction of entropy and burnout.
No longer only a simulation, music is now the key code of the postmodern body as a war machine. Music, then, as a force field through which processed subjects pass, with its privileging of pure speed, of sound approaching the velocity of light; with its vectoring of random subjects across a keyboard of outered emotions; with its inscription of the codes of frenzy and desire onto the body without organs; and with its fatal promise of pure inertia when the sound switches off and all the dancing bodies collapse. It is how postmodern bodies speak to one another, how they collude, conspire, and seduce. Here, the internal rhythms and grammatical codes of the war machine are transcribed into auditory codes that can only be seen with the ears and heard with the eyes.
And so, an interesting question arises. What is the relationship between the inertial grammatical codes of post-modern society as a war machine and the acoustical sounds of music? Crash music is not as much a representation en abyme of particular phases of culture, but it is one of the real world of political economy. Crash music exists as a culture smasher, a cultural cyclotron, in the era of crash economy. Which is to say that culture is not a reflex of political economy, but that society is now a reflex of key shifts in music theory and practice. Music rules in the quantum age because sound moves faster than the speed of light, thus quickly eclipsing history. Study music theory, then, as a laboratory of big transformations in power and economy. They will all have their punk period, their sampler phase, their house music era, their heavy metal economy, their rap aesthetics for the commodified body.And how does music serve as a laboratory of sacrificial power? In three ways:
SCENES FROM THE RECOMBINANT BODY
THE FLOATING TONGUE
What is the fate of the tongue in virtual reality? No longer the old sentient tongue trapped in the mouth's cavity, but now an improved digital tongue. A nomadic tongue that suddenly exits the dark cavity of oral secretions, to finally make its appearance in the daylight. Like Spasm, the new computer programme for NEXT, where the digital tongue is exteriorized from its evolutionary location in the body's biology, actually severed from the mouth. Here, the tongue might begin by curling back in the mouth with all the accompanying nasal sounds, but then it migrates out of the mouth, travelling down the chest, out of the toes, and even taking libidinal root in the talking penis. Not a surrealistic penis where objects lose their originary sign-referent, and float in an endless sign-slide, but a tongue referent that has actually lost its sound object. Spasm is, then, surrealism that is inscribed in the flesh.
With this difference: the digital tongue has finally come alive, acquiring sounds from its different bodily referents. The tongue plops onto the chest with a gargled scream; it twins the hyperreal penis to the mutant sounds of sex without secretions; it becomes a toe sound, a knee sound, an anal sound. No longer a tongue mediating breath, lips and jaw movement, but a digital tongue in a universe of floating lips, chattering eyes, screaming hairs, gossipy genitals, whining feet.
The digital tongue samples the body. Working according to the logic of spatial association, it changes sound according to its location on the body's surfaces. Here, the text of the body is licked and consumed by the nomadic tongue: sometimes an arm, a vein, an intestine, a hip. No longer localized sound, but the speech rhythms of violent disassociation; not contextualized noise, but a floating tongue that can be endlessly reconfigured according to its geographical location in the simulacrum of the body. The digital tongue, then, for nomadic sound in the age of the floating body
Or maybe it is something very different. Perhaps Spasm does not refer at all to the digital tongue, but to the recombinant tongue. This algorithmic tongue comes alive as a gene-splicer - half-gene/half-code: displaying that point where the reconfigured tongue fuses with the cold flesh of the recombinant body, and begins to speak. Perhaps Spasm has a broader anthropological importance: an evolutionary breakthrough in the guise of a computer program that begins to materialize the sounds of the digital body. What we hear in Spasm, therefore, are the first tentative sounds of ourselves as androids. All of this results less in a vision of the future than an already nostalgic vision of a telematic history that has already been experienced.Spasm is nostalgia for distortion.
I have a recombinant brother, Tony Denise, working the drag queen bars of Tallahassee, Florida. She has taken her memory and put it aside for a moment
She is not just a guy who warp jumped into a woman's body by surgical cuts, but the first of all the virtual bodies, that point where Disney World becomes flesh: a double movement involving an endless remaking of sexual identity and an abandonment of the (gendered) past.
Toni Denise. The perfect transsexual woman. More perfect than a woman ought to be, or can be: slim hips, large breasts, shoulder length raven hair with legs as long as Barbie's.
Toni Denise. Too perfect to be a real woman? The picture perfect woman? The woman all women think a woman should be? Toni Denise is a man-made woman. A woman made from a man. A man with slim hips, long legs, and raven hair. A man who could say no to cellulite, and yes to silicon breasts.Toni Denise? A virtual woman or virtually a woman? She can turn gender signs inside out, and play the game of the doubled sex.
Once she became a woman on the outside, she could finally take on the seduction of the male psyche and become the male mind colonizing the female body. Or as Tony Denise likes to say "If I had a clit, I'd have a hard on."
GIVE ME YOUR CODE
For many years, doctors have been injecting silicone into women's faces. Now a New York City doctor has outdone the procedure by taking silicone from low grade transistor fluids and injecting it directly into the skin of women, disappearing facial wrinkles. This is the new digitalized, transistorized face that rewires memory: no more wrinkles, no more tears, no more history.
But the face does have a history, and a remembrance of that history. The transistorized face in New York rebels. It rejects the silicone, that tries desperately to justify its existence by sliding, seeping, weeping such that the transistorized face becomes a virtual face that floats beyond time, beyond wrinkles: it is also a face that operates under the sign of a fatal destiny. It will always oscillate between digital ecstasy and earthly decay. The scene of a greater mythological drama, the transistorized face remains condemned to an endless repetition of Nietzsche's prophecy of eternal recurrence: a physics of the weightlessness and pure energy of wrinkle-free seduction versus the earthly drag of transistor fluid as it seeps under the fatal pull of gravity to the lower regions.
We live today in the age of excremental TV. No longer TV under the old sociological sign of accumulation with its coherent division of TV aesthetics into strategy (official culture) and tactics (outlaw culture), but TV as already having come under the Bataillean (excremental) logic of disaccumulation, self-cancellation and self-exterminism. TV, therefore, as a waste management system: an indeterminate stockpiling of dead images and dead sounds that threaten to suffocate us with their inertness, and on behalf of which the mediascape functions now as a vast aesthetic machinery for managing the discharge of image effluents and for re-cycling all the waste products, televisual subjects most of all, produced by excremental TV.So then, four anal flows in the image-discharge of excremental TV: sacrifice, discipline, surveillance, and crash.
Sacrificial TV: That's TV functioning just as Nietzsche predicted in the prophetic theses of On the Genealogy of Morals. In the age of the virtualization of the flesh, TV functions as the key televisual site for the discharge of ressentiment onto the public situation. Sometimes the sacrificial scapegoating of the televisual self as viewers deliver themselves up as a joke (America's Funniest Videos) for consumption by the mediascape, made all the more delirious by the use of the camcorder for purposes of self-abnegation and self-humiliation. And at other times, the sacrificial scapegoating of vulnerable minorities (African-Americans, the poor, Queer Nation) as TV dissolves into a sacrificial tableau, naming the victim of the day and dictating the terms of the sacrifice. Consequently, TV shows like CBS' 48 Hours and Cops with their incessant scenes of African-Americans being hunted down and arrested for drug offenses as a source of a massive psychological discharge of all the anxieties and fears by the surrounding white suburban population as it relives nightly the traumas and fantasies of the TV security state. In sacrificial TV, the moral coherency of the ruling majority in liberal culture is assured by the tele-visual functioning of the scapegoating mechanism, with its nomination of a purely accidental range of victims, their instant demonization, and their televised sacrificial punishment. No longer TV as a discourse between elites and the silent majority, but a deeply libidinal machinery linking ascetic priests (TV anchors) and the majoritarian population of passive nihilists into a scene of sacrificial violence.
Disciplinary TV: In the age of liberal fascism with its globalization of the language of technical willing, TV functions now as a medium for intensifying the disciplinary state, that point where the state projects power outwards into the consciousness of its televisual subjects. Not so much TV operating according to the disciplinary codes theorised so eloquently by Paul Virilio where TV would act as a war machine with its threefold logic of strategy, tactics and logistics, but disciplinary TV in the age of excremental culture as all about disappearances: a negativeland of fractal subjects, recombinant bodies and memory splices where the aesthetic machinery functions most of all to assure consent to the dynamic language of technical willing. And not just to the vision of technology of freedom, but now to an improved vision of TV as a healing process with life-giving powers: a universal and homogenous therapeutic televisual process that operates according to the following medical model: scanning of the televisual body for viral infections (morning news with its catastrophe theorems and crisis-ridden language), social therapeutics for the alienated televisual subjects (the afternoon talk shows like Oprah Winfrey and Donahue), and the chloroforming of the recombinant body before it its discharged into its sleep state (the nightly talk shows, Jay Leno, David Letterman, etc). A disciplinary machinery where technology speaks in the name of life, not death; according to the model of social therapeutics, not blood, and where the key ideology is seduction, not coercion.
Surveillance TV: That's the world of the camcorder where Marx's "priest" finally comes inside the televisual subject like a cancerous tumor, and everybody becomes their own surveillance camera. Sometimes, surveillance of the "Other" as the camcorder lights up the previously invisible region of the actual operations of power. Witness, for example, the global witnessing of the Rodney King beating with its twofold message of (explicit) police brutality and of an (implicit) repeated televisual warning to African-Americans that they have good reason to fear encounters with the security state. And sometimes, surveillance of the previously undocumented regions of the "self" as the camcorder zooms in on the catastrophe zone of the excremental family: see Johnny's first birthday, see Johnny's first masturbation, see Johnny's first toilet training. Here, the camcorder is the privileged televisual medium of excremental culture. Not so much about documentalism (although that too), but really a viral weapon in the oedipal struggle, that point where the unhappy union of Daddy-Mommy-Me is turned into a surveillance zone for future punishment: Mommy's camcorder invasion of the privacy of her children, and Daddy's storing up of televisual images for future ridicule.
In surveillance TV, the optical power of the camera finally leaves the static, centralized region of the TV studio, becoming something fluid, polymorphous, and immensely popular. The camcorder, then, as the newest member of the televisual family. Every Mommy an archivist of the moving image of family history. Every Daddy a potential film director editing and reediting the script of the family story, with its jump cuts, montage techniques, and Godardian reversals. And every little Me, an unlicensed actor in the unfolding logistics of perception into which the excremental family has happily disapperared.
Panic families, therefore, where the will to visually record family life is in direct relation to the breakdown of unitary family relations. When the family dissolves into a lap frame of TV life, the cinematic screen finally goes liquid and actually enters the body. Life becomes an eternal TV game show, an optical trompe l'oeil, a perfect scene of cinematic derealization with 1,000 hour camcorder childhood memories, with its endless stockpiling of dead images which no one will ever look at because they are really about the erasure of experience, the exterminism of memory.
And what about the future of the children of the camcorder generation, that televisual generation of whom it might be said: "This is Your Life? Or is it? " Perhaps for them, a new technological advance in the age of digital TV. The appearance on the market of the video interceptor: a new technology for digitally resequencing all the debris of family memories. Here, Daddy can be made to play on the floor in the role of the baby, Mommy can be cloned, brothers and sisters can be added at will, and all the visual materials of the family album can be digitally reordered. When all the children are like the aliens in BladeRunner, with their useless stockpiling of virtual memories, then every child will be free to play the game of staged communications to its final point of disappearance: that cinematic moment when the camcorder finally becomes a way of doing philosophy, of visually recoding all the nostalgic memories of the oedipal family. And why not? The generation of "cam-children" has been robbed of its memories by its forced enclosure in the family script, actually given the wrong televised memories by the cinematic realization of its parents. These never were their memories, but the false images of their parents. A kind of televisual prison for the future of the virtual child, where even the ability at maturity to reflect on the past of family life has already been scripted in advance. So then, for the future camcorder generation, the direction of political rebellion is clear: discover the inner camcorder, the camcorder that has been suppressed by the disappearance of subjectivity into the distended eye of the Oedipal Family. Fight surveillance TV by going vague: by using the video interceptor in the age of digital TV to cross the stock footage of the old camcorder family, to digitally resequence memories of family life until the desired digital family finally emerges.
Crash TV: The inertial tendencies at the disappearing centre of exremental TV are overcome by the principle of re-energization through violence. On American college campuses, the most popular underground video these days is Death Video: actual death scenes, ranging from penal executions to corpses pulled from car wrecks. It's the very same on television where the newest hit shows have to do with America's Biggest Crashes (Eye Witness Video) or, for that matter, on the network news where the screen is energized again and again by all the passing scenes from splatter culture: starvation victims, body fragments from plane crashes, human debris from all the big catastrophes. In Crash TV, the metaphor of the screen can be energized by the metonymy of the catastrophic event because the ruling rhetoric of excremental culture is cynical seduction: the crossing of the syntagm between metaphor and metonymy, between rhetoric and Catastrophe, as the quick reversal that assures the fading attention of televisual subjects. Like a stellar blast from the darkest regions of outer space, Crash TV radiates the dark mass of the population with the ferocity of its explosion, just as much as it fascinates with the primitivism of its imagery. In Crash TV, we suddenly exit modernist culture, and enter the unknown terrain of the postmodern primitive, that territority where all the postmodern technologies involved in the virtualization of the flesh merge with the most primitive of human emotions: fascination with the smoking wreckage of the crash, chilled paralysis at the sight of the Catastrophe, one last joke as the plane falls through the air in its death spiral. In the world of the postmodern primitive, what fascinates is not coherency or the accumulative logic of the stabilized image, but the ripping sound made when the walls of virtual reality implode inwards under the fantastic pressure of surrounding events, and we are suddenly swept away in a catastrophic free-fall through all the surrounding space. Splatter culture is the final destiny, and fatal dream, inspiring the viral growth of Crash TV.