Tagtheory

The Aesthetics of Noise

Torben Sangild writes:

Apollo represents appearance, form, individuality, beauty and dream; the Apollonian aesthetics is an embellishment of suffering, a self-conscious lie, a veiling of cruelty by use of form and elegance, a semblance of beauty. Dionysus, on the other hand, represents ecstasy, being, will, intoxication and unity; the Dionysian aesthetics is a direct confrontation with the terrible foundation of being, an absurd will driving us all in our meaningless lives. In the Dionysian ecstasy individuality is transgressed6 in favor of identification with the universal will – a frightening yet blissful experience. Frightening, that is, because it is a death-like giving up of the Ego, if only for a few seconds; blissful in letting go of the responsibilities of being a subject. The Dionysian experience is a “metaphysical comfort”, knowing that suffering is a necessary part of the effects of the eternal will – the destruction of things in order to create anew. In the Dionysian ecstasy one is no longer concerned with one’s individual suffering, seeing instead things from the universal point of view.

In music, the ecstasy of noise is undoubtedly a Dionysian effect, as opposed to the Apollonian melody and form.7 As mentioned above, the German words Rausch (ecstasy) and Geräusch (noise) are related, pointing towards this fact. The Dionysian is that which is not totally controlled or formed, e.g. screams and noises. The Apollonian elements are seductive, inciting the listener to enter the ecstatic bliss of the Dionysian, enabling the listener to dare the confrontation with the dreadfulness of existence. Therefore, Nietzsche says, the Dionysian needs the Apollonian.

Merzbow is so demanding exactly because he refuses this; he does not soften the harshness of noise with any Apollonian elements. Listening to Merzbow is thus a very different experience from the Sonic Youth maelstrom.

One of the reasons for the ecstatic effect of noise is its sublime character. The sublime is that which exceeds the limits of the senses, perceived as chaos or vastness. Despite our ability to put these words to it, the sublime goes beyond making sense – we never really understand it. The complexity of noise (in the acoustic sense) overloads the ears and the nervous system and is perceived as an amorphous mass, incomprehensible yet stirring. The delight of the sublime is the satisfaction of confronting the unfathomable.

Full Story: Ubu Web: The Aesthetics of Noise

(Thanks Adam and Ryan!)

A Theory Of Darkness. Also: Archives

Want an idea of what may or may not be discussed at Weird Shift Con?

Adam Rothstein wrote:

Dark Theory is both new and old. But to elucidate, if not to illuminate the ongoing practices of Dark Theory, it would be useful to review a number of the areas where Dark Theory finds itself reestablishing the darkness, coloring in the faded black paint, and erecting new shades to produce more shadow. There is nothing that can be properly said to either “be” Dark Theory or “not be”. It is impossible to tell whether the dark is due to neglect, or to attention; there is no distinction between negative value established by the mainstream, and positive value repaired by the undercurrent. The only thing that can be said is that Dark Theory has an interest. There are places where Dark Theory focuses its attention, like a pack of wolves turning their heads in recognition of an unfamiliar scent, whether prey or predator. Like rainwater, black and silent, nestling into the depressions of rock and soil, Dark Theory invests itself, collecting liquid potential across the pores and gullies of terrain, seeping down to pool in saturated dirt within the basin of rock, below. It is here that we will look for it, taking an interest in where it interests itself. Let us sink these wells, and drink of what rises to the surface.

He goes on to list several examples: black magic, black metal, crust, black bloc, black ops, black power, black flag, darknet, dark euphoria.

And Tim Maly wrote for Contents Magazine about “dark archives”:

First, let me show you three things that dark archives are not. On the left is an artist’s conception of the burned Library of Alexandria. That great library was once an archive, but when it was destroyed, it was destroyed utterly. It is no dark archive, it is simply gone. Proceeding clockwards, we have an artist’s rendering of the universal theory that connects gravity to quantum mechanics. This theory and countless other pieces of missing scientific knowledge are contained in no dark archive (so far as we know). They are simply unknown. They remain to be discovered. Finally, we have a screenshot of Amazon.com’s homepage. Its database of goods is vast, but Amazon invests considerable resources in ensuring that whatever is there is findable, and, through its network of affiliate links and public relations, ensuring that we know to look. Its archives are bright. […]

Known knowns. Known unknowns. Unknown unknowns.

If you think about that formulation, you’ll see that there is an unspoken fourth quadrant. These are the unknown knowns: the things we don’t know that we know. It is appropriate to our field of study that Mr. Rumsfeld left it off.

He cites the August 6th 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” as an example. He also writes about ships’ log books, which for many years were thought of as just antiques, but are now valuable to climate scientists. Once recognized for their value, the log books left the realm of “dark archive” and entered the ranks of “normal” archives.

Medieval Cyborgs – Artificial Memory as Mindware Upgrade

Fuckin' RIFTS

Abstract:

The philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark has argued that humans have always been ‘natural-born cyborgs,’ that is, they have always collaborated and merged with non-biological props and aids in order to find better environments for thinking. These ‘mindware’ upgrades (I borrow the term ‘mindware’ from Clark, 2001) extend beyond the fusions of the organic and technological that posthumanist theory imagines as our future. Moreover, these external aids do not remain external to our minds; they interact with them to effect profound changes in their internal architecture. Medieval artificial memory systems provide evidence for just this kind of cognitive interaction. But because medieval people conceived of their relationship to technology in fundamentally different ways, we need also to attend to larger epistemic frameworks when we analyze historically contingent forms of mindware upgrade. What cultural history adds to our understanding of embedded cognition is not only a recognition of our cyborg past but a historicized understanding of human reality.

Our cyborg past: Medieval artificial memory as mindware upgrade

(via Adam Greenfield)

See also: My interview with cyborg anthropologist Amber Case

Illustrations for A Thousand Plateaus

1000platos-intro-06b

1000platos-intro-06

More here

(Thanks Abe)

New York Times article on black metal

A mainstream newspaper writing about an academic conference on the subject of black metal:

You can imagine several orders of hostility toward “Hideous Gnosis,” a six-hour theory symposium on black-metal music that commenced on Saturday afternoon at Public Assembly, a bar and nightclub in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Not just because plenty of people like to make fun of academics discoursing on youth culture but because the subject was something like the music that dare not speak its name. […]

One commenter on the online-forum page of the metal magazine Decibel summed up a certain kind of black-metal fan’s attitude toward the symposium. This music, the contributor wrote, “has nothing to do with being intellectual and everything to do with not wanting to try and break every little thing apart” for analysis. […]

Was the afternoon humorous, ridiculous or at least ludic? Not really. (It could have used a few more dozen spectators and a temperature boost of about 15 degrees.) To the contrary, it felt necessary. Despite what black-metal musicians might proclaim — Ovskum, an Italian singer and guitarist, was quoted in one of the symposium’s lectures as saying, “my music does not come from a philosophy but from a precritical compulsion” — their work is basically philosophy. It is theoretical, a grid for looking at life, with ancient roots. It could use a critical apparatus, and though the afternoon’s many citings of Continental philosophers like Lacan, Derrida and Bataille might have seemed ludicrously distant to the practice of black metal, such writings relate to the subgenre’s big subjects: death and time.

New York Times: Thank You, Professor, That Was Putrid

Michael Jackson: Man of Tomorrow

When we look at Michael Jackson, I believe we’re looking at the future of our species. Michael is a creature from a future in which we’ve all become more feminine, more consumerist, more postmodern, more artificial, more self-constructed and self-mediating, more playful, caring and talented than we are today. But it’s hard to use those adjectives, because they’re Either-Or adjectives and he’s from the world of Yet-Also, a world I believe we will all come to live in if we’re lucky, a world where there is no more authenticity-by-default-through-brute-necessity and no more “human nature”. A world of pure synthesis, pure self-creation.

Jackson is what all humans will become if we develop further in the direction of postmodernism and self-mediation. He is what we’ll become if we get both more Wildean and more Nietzschean. He’s what we’ll become only if we’re lucky and avoid a new brutality based on overpopulation and competition for dwindling resources. By attacking Jackson and what he stands for — the effete, the artificial, the ambiguous — we make a certain kind of relatively benign future mapped out for ourselves into a Neverland, something forbidden, discredited, derided. When we should be deriding what passes for our normalcy — war, waste, and the things we do en masse are the things that threaten us — we end up deriding dandyism and deviance. And Jackson is the ultimate dandy and the ultimate deviant. He can fly across our Either-Or binaries, and never land. It’s debateable whether he’s the king of pop, but he’s undoubtedly the king of Yet-Also.

Consider all the extraordinary ways in which Michael Jackson is Yet-Also. He’s black yet also white. He’s adult yet also a child. He’s male yet also female. He’s gay yet also straight. He has children, yet he’s also never fucked their mothers. He’s wearing a mask, yet he’s also showing his real self. He’s walking yet also sliding. He’s guilty yet also innocent. He’s American yet also global. He’s sexual yet also sexless. He’s immensely rich yet also bankrupt. He’s Judy Garland yet also Andy Warhol. He’s real yet also synthetic. He’s crazy yet also sane, human yet also robot, from the present yet also from the future. He declares his songs heavensent, and yet he also constructs them himself. He’s the luckiest man in the world yet the unluckiest. His work is play. He’s bad, yet also good. He’s blessed yet also cursed. He’s alive, but only in theory.

Momus: Never land

(via Metaphorge)

Alexander R. Galloway interviewed on Protocol

“Protocol” emerges from a problem. The problem is an historical one: What is the system of organization and control that is endemic to the distributed networks that currently encompass the globe? And further: How do the specific transformations within material life bring into being a set of participatory techniques and behaviors? The concept of protocol is an attempt to “give a face” to this hitherto faceless form. But in giving a face to the formerly defaced a new cycle begins, one in which–I hope–the very asymmetry of historical transformation can be met and understood within one’s own discourse without glamorizing one component or the other (the tree or the rhizome).

Culture and Communication: We Are the Gold Farmers

See also: Essay on Galloway’s book Protocol (PDF)

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