NOISE AS ANTI-CAPITAL: MARK STEWART’S AS THE VENEER OF DEMOCRACY STARTS TO FADE
Institute of Abstract Engineering
NOISETHEORYNOISE 2, Middlesex University,
White Hart Lane, Saturday 20th November 2004.
As the veneer of democracy starts to fade, some say the internment camps are already built…..
Seen from the point of view of 90s Kapital’s apparent ‘end of history’ (Fukuyama), Mark Stewart’s As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade (1985) looked like a quaint throwback.
In an era of cultural political quietism, in which the most intense sonic material was coded as a cultural, as opposed to political, production, the fusion of senses-deranging hyper-modernism and politics which Stewart embodied played like a relic of a superceded phase of avant garde agit-prop overreaching. If the LP was celebrated at all a decade ago, it was as a precursor of the depoliticised, commodified white angst of the 90s Industrial genre; a significant shift, since As the Veneer had already enumerated the (psychiatric, chemical and mediatized) techniques that Kapital would use to pathologize dissent, a process exemplified by the media-propagation of Stewart’s own reputation as ’paranoid’ or ’mad’.
Soldiers march through your eyes
In the last four years, with the irruption of the ‘desert of the real’ (Baudrillard, Zizek) into late capitalism’s simulated interiority (as evidenced through the near-synchronous attack on the WTC and the collapse of the 90s bubble economy), things have begun to look different. However incoherent its agenda and strategies, the disparate constellation of anti-war and anti-CrUSader groups have followed the even less cogent anti-capitalist movement in re-introducing systemic antagonism into a global order presenting itself as post-political ‘administration‘, returning the images of vizored cops and soldiers familiar from Stewart’s record sleeves into the videodrome media-scape.
I ain’t gonna be a slave of love
Either everything is political or nothing is. The management, incorporation and violent subjugation of dissent (‘Resistance of the Cell’, ‘As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade’) was only one level of the ‘battle for the hearts and minds’ Stewart’s LP detailed. The channelling of desire into oedipal coupledom (‘Hypnotized’, ‘Slave of Love’) and the narco-neuroticizing production of abject sub-subjectivities (‘Passivecation Program’) were equally significant in preparing the way for the normalization of 90s innocent-cynical (Blairite) kapital . The concept of ‘Control Data’ - ‘do you control data or does data control you?’ - Stewart developed on the LP and in rhizomatically-inter-related print publications explicitly rejected the ideological fantasy of a ’noisefree’ global community united through telecommercialized cyberspace, situating Stewart’s sonic experimentalism as a weapon against (Burroughs-Deleuze-Foucault) ‘societies of control’.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, who had by 1985 long since begun practising entryist strategies, Stewart kept faith with post-punk’s modernist conviction that no vision of social renewal could be effective unless it was rendered in a new 'aesthetic' ‘form‘. As the Veneer thus operates not as a representation of political processes, still less as a moralizing cri de coeur, but as a direct intervention in the listener’s nervous system , bypassing the perceptual-conscious system in an effort to activate the political unconscious of bodies docilized by bio-power’s multi-levelled pacification programs.
'There is no dignity' (Lyotard)
Where 80’s ‘soul-cialism‘ had protested against the inhumanity of Kapital using completely familiar musical and emotional registers, Stewart’s cut-up f-punk hip hop avant dub (produced with the assistance of English uber-dub producer Adrian Sherwood and the Sugarhill/Tommy Boy house band of Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Keith Leblanc) made no concession, either thematically or sonically, to any alleged pre-existing human ’dignity’ that is supposedly subsequently alienated. Instead, Stewart’s techniques of deliberate derangement, distortion of ’clear communication’ and amplification of noise suggest a provocative parallel with Lyotard’s thesis in Libidinal Economy and Duchamp’s Transformers that noise is a mutative element crucial in producing the inorganic body of the replicant-proletariat, whose arrival heralds the emergence of a hyper-connected, super-synthetic nu-earth.
Posted by mark at November 14, 2004 03:53 PM