November 30, 2004

Even in 1989, Mark was a karrier of k-virus

kafka kollage.jpg

The kollage I made as a cover sheet for my third-year undergraduate dissertation on Kafka, Kierkegaard and Kant.

Note the samples from Simon R....

(btw you can tell I've got a functional scanner now, can't you? One of many things I have to thank Sphaleotas for....)

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November 28, 2004



osiris 1.jpg

osiris 2.jpg

Poem written for me by Amira of the Clairaudient collective at Noise Theory Noise in response to my presentation.

It's not every day you get a poem written for you by a female member of an Amerikan kommunist kollektive.

Posted by mark at 11:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


fauxflower.jpg dido.jpg

Comparing Sex and the City with Dido provides a telling insight into the current pathologies of postmodern culture.

Both SATC and Dido are predominantly consumed by women, but whereas women proudly display their Sex and the City boxsets, they tend to conceal their Dido CDs in much the same way that men are embarrassed about pornography.

Because SATC is liberating and positive for women, whereas Dido is coffee-table bland neurosis that women should be ashamed of, right?

This is the wrong way round. It is SATC that should be the guilty secret, not Dido.

The standard critique of SATC is that it saw women descending to the level of men: voracious, amoral and casual in their sexual appetites.

The real problem with SATC is that it was exactly the inverse of this. Despite their carefully-cultivated street smart modern urban ironic appearance, the women in SATC were, in reality, as cliched and conventional as the heroines of romantic fiction: a certain steely veneer did little to belie the fact that ultimately they ('even' Samantha) were sentimental and men-obsessed.

SATC was just Barbara Cartland with fisting. The alleged daring of the sexual practices acted as a smokescreen for the pathetic simpering mooning of the four leads, allowing the consumers of the show to have their indulgent sentimentalism whilst pretending to be sophisticated and modern.

So the show's supposed 'feminism' was of course anything but. SATC's relentless message was appallingly man-centred: it left us in no doubt that no woman is complete without a man. Its relentless phallicism ('Big', for uttunul's sake!) was nowhere better demonstrated than when Samantha had a lesbian affair. Did she enjoy the Irigarayan alterity of a diffuse eroticism beyond the pleasures of the body with Organ? Of course not. 'It's like TEN dicks' is how she described the encounter.

The only novelty of the show was to equate heterosexual female equivocation over men with banal consumer choice. Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism indeed. SATC's Postmodern romantic fiction is pitilessly consumerized. 'Is HE the ONE?' (what a question for the sex which is not one to be reduced to posing btw) = 'should I buy THIS pair of shoes or THAT one... they're both nice....' The overwhelming message of the show (in no way diluted by the false note of the final episode) perfectly fitted the anti-existentialism of our times: it is better to be in the anxiety of choice than to actually choose.

SATC relentlessly peddled the postmodern core belief that commitment is a fate, if not worse than, then at least equivalent to, death. To be committed, PoMo assures us, is to have our options closed down, restricted. Hence the grotesquerie of forty or fifty year-olds who still think and behave like teenagers.

Of course, the reality is precisely the contrary of this. You can always reverse a commitment, make a different choice. You can't reverse equivocation. The time is wasted, gone.

Dido, by contrast, speaks for female disquiet with heterosexuality, not from the point of view of the insatiable consumer (no choice would be a good one, because it would mean that I had left SO MANY other things on the shelf... AND I would have to leave the shop) but from the point of view of disappointed total commitment. A song like 'Stoned' stands comparison with something like Annie Anxiety's 'As I Lay in Your Arms' ('As I lie in your arms, I watch the paint peel from the ceiling... I was waiting to feel the pain/ it never came') in its anatomy of a relationship reduced to numbed disappointment. 'When you're stoned, baby/ and I am drunk/ when we make love/It seems a little desolate /it's hard sometimes not to look away/and think what's the point.'

Similarly, the justly celebrated 'White Flag' is a song of total commitment, of a refusal to give up no matter what. If it is clear that 'White Flag' is about a pyschotically self-destructive passion, then at least Dido is prepared to own her desire, to be consumed by it, rather than retaining forever her consumer rights, i.e. the dubious right to consume, forever.

But it is 'Life for Rent' that is the ultimate riposte to SATC. It is like Carrie Bradshaw after a dose of Sartre. Here is a thirtysomething wealthy white woman who comes to the realization that the gap in her life, the lack, the ache she cannot satisfy, arises precisely from her own indecision. It is not that she has been disappointed or let down by external forces (also equated in SATC with MEN, of course), it is that she has never wanted anything enough to really pursue it.

Is there a more acute account of the desolation of the existential void of postmodernity anywhere in pop than in 'Life for Rent's' first verse? 'I haven't really ever found a place that I call home/ I never stick around quite long enough to make it/ I apologize that once again I'm not in love /But it's not as if I mind/ that your heart ain't exactly breaking...'

It is precisely 'buying' - making a definitive choice, and then leaving the emporium to live the commitment - that Dido's postmodern everywoman finds so difficult. Better to rent, to borrow, to wander round the store forever, than to actually face the anguish attendant upon real commitment. 'But if my life is for rent and I don't learn to buy/ well I deserve nothing more than I get...'

The mobile phone is the paradigm case of the indefinite postmonement of postmodern consumption. Even though we are always paying for the phone, we never really own it, because there is always the prospect of the upgrade, the improvement. 'Life for Rent' understands that this possibility of paying without owing - we pay AS IF we own, but we never do, we are always prey to the 'constant craving' of the consumer itch to get something 'better' - is the existential reality of the lives of those condemned to wander in a somnambulent haze through the always restocking aisles of Kapital's overlit shopping malls.

But 'Life for Rent' is the moment of Sartrean crisis and realization that Carrie Bradshaw, endlessly at the counter, endlessly prevaricating about choices she will never fully make in the future and choices she has already failed to fully make in the past, could never come to.

Posted by mark at 08:07 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

November 27, 2004

I'm I-Robot

I'm not joking.

This is what I came out as in the book quiz.

You're I, Robot!

by Isaac Asimov

While you have established a code of conduct for many generations to
follow, your demeanor is rather cold and calculating. Brought up to serve humans, you
have promised never to harm them, to follow orders, and to protect yourself. Living up
to this code has proved challenging and sometimes even drives you mad. If you were a
type of paper, you would be pulp.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Posted by mark at 07:48 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 25, 2004


Everyone should check out what She whose super-egoic injunction 'Enjoy!' must be obeyed has to say about the NTN conference....

(btw, I think she should be called, not gluebot or gleebok, but GLEEBOT... because glee is what Siobhan radiates, a palpable sense of effervescence and exuberance as flamingly bright and as unEnglish as her Wanda-like hair...)

Yes... ear worms... I begged Steve to tell me how I could Skinnerian treatment to get that bloody Joss Stone song out of my head... Incidentally, sfunny that the songs which are most liable to induce stuck tune syndrome are those which reflexively comment on that very process, e.g. 'Can't Get you Out of My Head' and 'Messing with Mah Mahnd....'

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November 24, 2004


I've lost my mobile phone (yet again)....

Apologies if you've tried to contact me by that method in the last day....

I'll try and sort out another one at the weekend...

Also: have abandoned my ntl email so if anyone has sent me anything to that address could you please re-send to the hotmail (k_punk99[AT]

Posted by mark at 08:14 AM | TrackBack

November 22, 2004

A cheap holiday in someone else's sensuality

There are few sources of greater jouissance than going clothes shopping with a woman.

So it was that I spent the afternoon in Camden with the one that Steve Hyperdub insists on referring to as 'Gluebot', an all but helpless bystander bearing witness to a blizzard of consumption.

Now the official view of Camden is that it is the most embarrassing and naff of London locations: a tacky tourist trap testament to the commodification of the so-called Alternative.

Yet some of my most intense memories of London centre on Camden:

Coming down on a starstruck visit to the Capital from the midlands to see Nick Cave at the Electric Ballroom as a back-combed sixteen year old suburban hick, and spending the night wandering around central London because it was impossible to get a train home...

Maggie Roberts' former house in Agar Grove.... One of the HQs of the cyberpunk culture that enjoyed a sickly but doggedly persistent unlife in the intensive space between Camden and Warwick during the nineties. Nick Land's explosive schizotechnic-txts - 'Machinic Desire', 'Meat, or how to Kill Oedipus in Cyberspace', 'Cybergothic', 'No Future' (without these, people, it goes without saying, there would have been no k-punk) - fed into and hatched out of conversations that happened in this oddest of houses.... Collectives came together and fell out here (Maggie's own Orphan Drift and also Ccru, which, when it was exiled in Leamington, used it as a kind of occasional base in a London that loomed opaque and impenetrable....

Even then, the house seemed semi-mythic. Maggie was every bit --- and in every good way ---- the sim-aristocratic quasi-catatonic burnout and POW from the future Simon described when he interviewed O-D in 98, and the Agar Grove place was the perfect Brit cyberpunk habitat for such a female replicant --- half-deserted, demi-derelict, overgrown like the abandoned villas in Ballard's The Drowned World... there was a room lined with early eighties coin-op vidgames (including to my delight, my pubescent fave, Scramble) ... and a downstairs living space, if you can call it that, barely heated by flickering calor gas... at night, when you'd sleep there, it unseen rodents would twitch and sniff ike something out of the Freudian unconscious... and then the snakes arrived in the house....

The Abstract Culture launch for Digitial Hyperstition in Compendium bookshop ... all gone now... set up by the tireless Sphaleotas, Abcult's one-man promotion and distribution team (a thankless role for which he has never got anything like enough credit)... Me too depressive-sick and auto-medicated on alcohol to do anything but function on android default... Slipping towards the lowest circle of psychiatric hell in what was in retrospect a collapse synchronized with the disintegration of the bubble economy and the non-event of y2K...

Sometimes you need to let yrself die in order to allow something else to emerge through you...

Posted by mark at 01:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 21, 2004

some ppl dye their hair pink and pick sexy sulky indie as their topic

(Well, Mark, (1) I plead guilty to the hair dye (2) Mark Stewart is certainly tres sexy (3) but indie - indie? By the seeting void of uttunul, surely As the Veneer couldn't be classed as 'indie'?

A highly successful day at NTN 2 yesterday. Ray and Andy should be congratulated for making it happen.

Anyhow, here's my presentation:




Orwell is wrong about everything, but especially 1984.

Far from being the year of zombie-drone enforced consensus, GB 1984 was a class war zone in which multinational Kapital’s paramilitary-police crushed the remnants of organic workerism live on videodrome.

Such staged antagonism is a necessary phase in the pacification program that will culminate in apparently triumphant Kapital’s End of History.


The reassuring non-hum of the noise free polis at the end of time.

Tony’s smile.

Blair is a much more effective class warrior than it was possible for Thatcher and Macgregor to be.

Their efficacy was limited by Then Kapital’s need for them to be seen fighting the class war.

No need for Tony to fight.

To not fight is to have won.

It’s all administration now.

Systemic antagonism is just a bad memory.

Turn up the TV.

Bunker down in your burrow.

Retune the guitars.

Return to harmony.

Welcome to Liberty City.

The busier you are, the less you see.



Mark Stewart’s As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade was the political-libidinal intensive soundtrack to ‘battle for the hearts and minds’ fought between Kapital and its enemies GB circa 84-85.


Seven years since Stewart began his anti-career as teen-Nietzsche Artaud Debord communist shamanic-firebrand hysteric-screecher in the Pop Group.

Stewart’s journey since the dissolution of the Bristol f-punk kollektive takes him through Adrian Sherwood mega mashed hyperdub and into an encounter with US hip hop.

He immediately appreciates that hip hop is not a street music but non-musique abstrakt: a site of pure sonic potential, in which inhuman constructivist sound cartoons can be produced without reference to musical protocols of any kind.

It’s all sound FX, a way of manipulating noise.

Hyper-modernism. The sonic equivalent of the Burroughs-Gysin cut-up.

A contact of Sherwood’s leads to the most improbable of meetings. UK non-singer and sound-deranger Stewart plugs into the super-slick behind-the-scenes NYC p-funk machine responsible for the grooves on the pioneering hip hop 45s released by Tommy Boy and Sugarhill.

Component parts:


Keith Leblanc. Beat machine producer of ‘Malcolm X: No Sell Out’. He can program drum machines to make them sound like packs of dogs.

doug wimbish.jpg

Doug Wimbish. Supertaut hypertechnicized Hendrix of bass.


Skip McDonald. Synthesizer manipulator and reaper-rider of Psychedelic-funk ax storms.

Sherwood and Stewart take their already inhuman grooves and subject them to further layers of dissonant anti-musical editing, interpolating Burroughs vocal samples from Nova Express and other deliberately ciphered media background noise, machining an anti-communicational libidinal signal that takes you behind the screens to access the Real news.

Apocalypse Now.


As the veneer of democracy starts to fade, some say the internment camps are already built.

When the mask of civility comes off and the visors go on, the contours of the New World Order become apparent.


The destruction of the Miners - and with them the wrought-iron ruins of the postwar consensus - was only the most media-visible of the pacification strategies Kapital was deploying, and in many ways the least significant.

The important thing was to prepare the way to Transnational cyberspace Kapital Now, when all dissent is pathologized if it is not made literally unthinkable.

‘Sterezene, thorazine and lagactyl’ administered under the Mental Health Bill subdue political prisoners re-assigned to psychiatric wards.

Narco- neuroticisation as the re-imposition of a simulated Reality Principle shoring up Kapital against its virtual limit in Planetary Schizoprenia.

You don’t have to be mad to work here.

Restrict your demands to the what is possible.

Find your way back to your dormitory.

Privatize your misery.

Struggling to pay the rent, the main worry’s job security.

Now and then, we can afford a little luxury.



If the aim is to disseminate information, why all this noise?

Why the distortion, the deliberately buried voices, why all the half-heard insinuations, the audio-hallucinatory fragmentation, the wired-up screams?

Why not communicate clearly?

Because clear communication - and all it presupposes - is the fantasm the system projects as its vindication and necessarily always-deferred goal.

‘The big Other … stands for the field of common sense at which one can arrive after free deliberation; philosophically, its last great version is Habermas’s communicative community with its regulative ideal of agreement.’ (Zizek)

The noise free polis.

We are told:

Only when the noise of antagonism recedes will we be able to hear each other.

Only when we take out the background static will human speech be possible.

Police yourself and there will be no need for the use of batons.

Intoxicate yourself and we will not sedate you.


Stewart’s disassembly of his self through noise is a refusal of the Foucault biocops and Burroughs control addicts that operate first of all at the level of the skin and the CNS, enticing-inciting you to constitute yourself as an internally coherent driving ego.

Stewart treats his own voice not as the authentic expression of a subjective interiority, but as a series of lab animal howls, enraged yelps and impersonal intensities to be cut up and redistributed across the noise-hyperdubscape, mixed indifferently with Duchamp-found-sounds and noises produced by viciously distorted formerly musical instruments.

Identity breakdown through the amplification of noise as an exploding flight from harmony at all levels: psychic, social, cosmic.




Always take O’Brien’s side against Winston Smith and Julia.

There is nothing natural, and human biosocial defaults are always to be distrusted.

If you want to get out, leave all that mammal couple shit behind.

Stewart is one of Burroughs’ most assiduous readers.

It is not a matter of emulation but of the deployment of abstract engineering diagrams in different media.

Position As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade as the terminus of the Burroughs-saturated UK Underground delineated by Nuttall in Bomb Culture.


‘Hypnotized’ plays like the ‘I Love You’ section from The Ticket that Exploded,
Burroughs’ most pitilessly hilarious dissection-analysis of the bio-psychic sex-love control virus as preprogrammed biological film, sentimental mooning croon-tunes spliced in with hardcore pornography and replayed like video-drome in your CNS, ensuring-exacerbating constant craving.

‘All the tunes and sound effects of “Love” spit from the recorder permutating sex whine of a sad picture planet: Do you love me? - But I exploded in cosmic laughter - Old acquaintances be forgot? O darling just a photograph?’ (Ticket that Exploded, 44)

Heaven must be missing an angel



She’s got me hypnotized.

Stewart’s cut-ups of onstructivist-brutalist funk with saccharine lovesongs already anticipate the way in which Kapital’s tungsten-carbide stomach will metabolize hip hop’s hyper-abstraction and use it as the dominant consumer seduction soundtrack from the 90s till now.


The data-content of Stewart’s rant-reports is nothing astonishing.

7% of the population own 84% of the wealth.

Parasites.. The great banking families of the world… Bastards…

Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth?

The point is not to tell you something new but to reprogram your nervous system.

Control works by reducing the reality of systemic antagonism to a mere belief.

A track like ‘Bastards’ is a very precise anti-Control weapon.

It is a rage-inducer designed to make beliefs affective, whereas Control PR conciliates and normalizes.

Control PR plugs the gaps, emolliates, quietens, makes confrontation and exploitation unthinkable without denying their reality as such.


Like John Heartfield collages, Stewart’s crude sonic splices amp up the distortion and the violence.

The situation is not under Control

They are not protecting you

It is war


And so are you


Don’t confuse the working class with the proletariat.

Thatcher inhibits the emergence of the proletariat by buying off the working class with payment capital and the promise of owning your own Oed-I-Pod. The comforts of slavery.

She gives the replicants screen memories and family photos.

So that they forget that they were only ever artificial, factory farmed to function as the Kapital-Thing’s self-replicating HR pool, and begin to believe that they are authentic human subjects.

The proletariat is not the confederation of such subjectivities but their dissolution in globalized k-space.

The virtual population of nu-earth

Total recall of all the noise

Lyotard describes the hysterization of a worker’s ear when it is subjected to the unprecedented noise of Industrial-Kapital’s reproduction: the incessant sonic violence of a 20,000 hz alternator.

The heroism of the proletariat consists not in its dignified resistance to the inorganic-inhumanity of the industrialization process - ‘there is no libidinal dignity, nor libidinal fraternity, there are libidinal contacts without communication’ (Libidinal Economy 113) - but in its mutative Duchamp-transformation of its body into an inhuman inorganic constructivist machine.


As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade is a sonic machine for accelerating the process. An anti-Oedipal, anti-neurotic, anti-quitest, pro-proletarianizing noise weapon. Anti-video-drome signal.

Jack it into yr CNS and play.

Posted by mark at 10:58 AM | TrackBack

November 18, 2004


DO NOT under any circumstances waste your money on the Destiny's Child album on the basis of the brilliant single.

Far from heralding a great comeback, it is a false dawn.

The rest of the lp is full of the kind of syrupy, mooning over six foot men soulful gloop that you always skipped on Survivor and The Writing's on the Wall. Lurv songs, 'maturity', proper instruments, this is not what I want from DC. Furthermore, I can't see anybody else getting much out of this depressingly 'classic soul'-sounding set.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am.

Posted by mark at 11:11 AM | TrackBack

November 17, 2004


Back at long last after US sojourn and no less brilliant... My man Philip on the Destiny's Child comeback effort... this single improves with every listen and it was great to begin with... in a very strong year for singles, it's in the top three I think... And yeh, fabulous dancing, fabulous clothes, wonderful swaggering from the galz... they look so much more confident, so much more powerful together than on their own...

Posted by mark at 07:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


And if you want to hear Mark Stewart's 'Passivecation Program', about which I will be talking on Saturday, the lovely Nick Gutterbreakz has provided the mp3 here.

Posted by mark at 07:01 AM | TrackBack


The NoiseTheoryNoise program and other details can be found here.

Don't know about you, I'm especially looking fwd to seeing William Bennett of Whitehouse.

Unfortunately, Sinker clashes with me... damn...

Any way, if nothing else, this will be a good opportunity for k-punk korrespondents in london area to meet up....

Posted by mark at 06:55 AM | TrackBack

From big brother to the big other

'The only true hell is there in the office, I no longer fear any other.'
- Kafka, letter to Felice, 7/4/1913

Like Infinite Thought, I often find myself being called 'inappropriate' these days. Now what does that mean, and what function does the concept serve - ideologically, I mean?

From the POV of the English Master Class (EMC), 'appropriateness' seems to cover (what they regard as) a multitude of sins: anything from sexual abuse ('inappropriate touching of a six year old') to the most trivial transgression of their random conventions ('inappropriate use of profanities'). This breadth of coverage is of course far from accidental, since the function of the prohibition ('You should never behave inappropriately') is precisely to obfuscate the difference between what is grossly unethical, what is illegal what are 'mere' questions of etiquette.

The temptation might be to regard the ethical and the legal as the really important zones of political contestation here. But who but a few nutters are going to question the idea that child abuse is wrong? And the legal does not have the power to function ideologically for two reasons. First, because it is self-evidently provisional. What is legal does not necessarily have normative force because the genesis of laws can be historicized (they emerged from particular historical circumstances, expressing the will of particular populations - and such circumstances and such wills may change in the future, or may already have changed, which means that there is a problem of legitimacy - if 'only' at the level of virtuality - for law.).

But given that most people do not behave grossly unethically or illegally (except in ways that the big Other seems to regard as acceptable: speeding, downloading mp3's, using soft drugs) what is it that controls their behaviour? Essentially, it is etiquette, 'appropriateness' - and the concept gains its normative power through its very confusing imprecision.

Forget Orwell

Deleuze is right to say in his essay on Societies of Control that Kafka is the prophet of postmodern cybernetic power. There may be something in Orwell's tedious liberal moralizing miserabilism that had some relevance to the grim austerity of totalitarian states (I have my doubts), but there is little in 1984 that has any purchase in UK 2004. The fact that people willingly submit themselves to 24 hour surveillance in Big Brother is only the most obvious Warholian/ Baudrillardian ironization of Orwell's failed analysis. As Foucault argued, it is the juridical subject, the modern soul, everyman, in other words, Winston Smith himself, who is the basic unit of power, of self-policing, in contemporary western societies. And what could be clearer than that now, when thinking collectively is so far off the agenda that it in itself is deemed to be a symptom of pathology?

Now, Kafka importantly distinguishes between two types of acquittal available to the accused. Naturally, definite acquittal is no longer possible ('we have only legendary accounts of ancient cases [which] provide instances of acquittal'). The two remaining options, then, are (1) 'Ostensible acquittal', in which the accused is to all and intents acquitted, but may later, at some unspecified time, face the charges in full, or (2) 'Indefinite Postponement', in which the accused engages in (what they hope is an infintely) protracted process of legal wrangling, so that the dreaded ultimate judgement is unlikely to be forthcoming.

Deleuze rightly observes that the Control societies delineated by Kafka himself, but also by Foucault and Burroughs, operate using indefinite postponement... Education as a lifelong process... Training that persists for as long as your working life continues... Work you take home with you.. Working from home, homing from work (I didn't make that up, honest...)

A consequence of this 'indefinite' mode of power is that external surveillance is succeeded by internal policing. Control only works if you are complicit with it. Hence the Burroughs figure of the 'Control Addict': the one who is addicted to control, but also, inevitably, the one who has been taken over, possessed by Control...

The implicit question posed by The Trial is the same one posed by the microcosmic parable embedded within it, the story 'Before the Law': what if K simply ignored the Escherized baroque labyrinth of the Law, what if the one before the law simply left instead of waiting in vain for permission from the authorities to enter a door he will never enter? Kafka implies that this is the one option absolutely unavailable to us. Because life itself, of course, is indefinite postponement.

(Which always reminds me of Bill's unanswered question in Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's most Kafkaesque film: 'What kind of fucking charade ends up with someone turning up dead?')

The conception of life as indefinite postponement, and further, of all aspects of life as potentially belonging to the Court, produces a generalized, unlocalizable anxiety without any identifiable object, and K's infractions tend precisely to be mistakes of propriety, sexual indiscretions or other apparently trivial embarrassments he falls into at the very time he believes he is outside the jurisdiction of the Law.

This unlocalizable anxiety is inevitable, given the nature of decorum and propriety, of which Infinite Thought kindly provides a definition:

"So, decorum then. 'Propriety of manner or conduct; grace arising from suitableness of speech and behavior to one's own character, or to the place and occasion; decency of conduct; seemliness; that which is seemly or suitable'. Well it doesn't sound too hard, does it? (Gah!) But it's impossible to work out what is suitable, I think, if it consists of imagining what it is that other people think is appropriate (or what they think they should think, etc.). And who the hell then is the big Other?....."

Yes, appropriateness is always a question of what the big Other deems to be appropriate. Which is difficult. Since, as we all know, the big Other does not exist...

Posted by mark at 12:55 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 14, 2004

My Noisetheorynoise 2 abstract


Mark de'Rozario
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.

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November 10, 2004

The obscenity of affection

One of the finest and most wrenchingly acute posts yet from Infinite Thought.

Which put me in mind of these sections from Zizek's 'Passion In The Era of Decaffeinated Belief'.

'Jacques Lacan's definition of love is "giving something one doesn't have" - what one often forgets is to add the other half which completes the sentence: "... to someone who doesn't want it." This is confirmed by our most elementary experience when somebody unexpectedly declared passionate love to us — is not the first reaction, preceding the possible positive reply, that something obscene, intrusive, is being forced upon us? This is why, ultimately, passion as such is "politically incorrect": although everything seems permitted, prohibitions are merely displaced.

.... There are two topics which determine today's liberal tolerant attitude towards Others: the respect of Otherness, openness towards it, AND the obsessive fear of harassment — in short, the Other is OK insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as the Other is not really Other... This is what is more and more emerging as the central "human right" in late-capitalist society: the right not to be harassed, i.e., to be kept at a safe distance from the others. A similar structure is clearly present in how we relate to capitalist profiteering: it is OK IF it is counteracted with charitable activities — first you amass billions, then you return (part of) them to the needy... And the same goes for war, for the emerging logic of humanitarian or pacifist militarism: war is OK insofar as it really serves to bring about peace, democracy, or to create conditions for distributing humanitarian help. And does the same not hold more and more even for democracy and human rights: it is OK if human rights are "rethought" to include torture and a permanent emergency state, if democracy is cleansed of its populist "excesses"...

In our era of over-sensitivity for "harassment" by the Other, every ethical pressure is experienced as a false front of the violence of power.'

If Zizek were a little less suspicious of Spinoza, he would realise that the problem, the obscenity, is not passion - which is mandatory, ubiquitous - but that great unmentionable, affection.

Spinoza understood that passions, as the word suggests, were essentially passive. They involve the take over of someone's body by external forces; and what is most catastrophic about this is when the victim of the parasitic force identifies themselves with its invading presence. Here, as ever, Burroughs' analysis of the male sex drive converges with Spinoza: the mechanical-repetitive agitational impulse towards climax is, literally, 'biologic film', a fantasmatic image-stimulus series that plays itself out using the male sexual apparatus. What is missed by the advocates of such passion is that the degree of agitation corresponds precisely to the degree of passivity.

Surprisingly perhaps, it is always useful to read Burroughs next to Irigaray. Like Burroughs, Irigaray absolutely refuses the liberal lie that 'we are all people underneath' and that there are no differences between men and women. She is not a biological essentialist, however, and her texts are best read as erotic engineering: manuals for opening up the potentials of the body by disabling bio-defaults. Irigaray's claim that heterosexuality is basically homosexual - in that involves the exchange of women, images of women, women as signs, women-for-men, never women-for- themselves - allows us to see that Burroughs' Garden of Delights orgasm addicted merry-go-round of passion and tristesse is by no means limited to male homosexual sex. Just because female bodies are involved does not mean that women enter necessarily enter into the economy (or echonomy as Irigaray sometimes puts it). The woman lying under a man in a state of passion may or may not achieve jouissance; if she does, it is surely a happy accident.

Passion is precisely the (p)laying out of your own fantasmatic economy in front of the other. How is she supposed to respond? And when it is clear, even to the man, that the woman does not correspond to any off-the-peg fantasmatic category, she must be posed as illegible enigma, prompting the old question, posed by a whole parade of drunken men to Infinite Thought (do they learn this from a manual? Did I miss the male development classes where this was taught?): 'just what is it that you want...WHAT DO YOU WANT?!' Which is at least a testament to the alterity of the other's desire, to its irreducibility.

(As I said to Infinite the other day, I'm not a heterosexual because I like women...)

Unlike passion, which uses the other only as an audience-receptacle, affection is, scandalously and obscenely, an attempt to affect the other. In terms of the liberal humanist pietism Zizek rightly decries, this is what is absolutely verboten, shockingly intimate. 'You're violating my personal space...' This is why whores won't kiss or hold their clients: submission to specular-phallic passion is easy to detach youerself from, whereas affection 'blurs personal boundaries'. And, as both the Pop Group and Adolfe McGroot recognise, we are all prostitutes today: we are all required to guard and cherish (the psycho-juridical fiction of) our self, since it is our principle commodity. 'Sell yourself.'

Irigiray famously opposes the specular to the tactile. The tactile relation is the one that can never be reproduced in an imagistic specular economy. It is when the other touches back, about surfaces pressing against each other, about two bodies becoming a depersonalised auto-affecting machine.

Posted by mark at 10:20 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 07, 2004



Years of being confronted by tedious sound art 'installations' - question: has ANYTHING called an 'installation' ever been worthwhile? - and of 'sonic art' (pasty-faced nerds with laptops sampling and looping the sound of broken glass or 'generating sound by non-conventional means' - i.e. hitting railings with sticks) has left me more than a little sceptical about sound art.

In principle of course, there's no reason sonic art couldn't work. On the contrary in fact. But as we know now, the meaning of 'art' within the Saatchi-corrupted English bourgeois culture is 'anything that's boring, produces no affects and has no vision whatsoever', so to append the description 'art' to an object or experience is in effect to say, 'abandon all hope of interest all ye who enter here'. Or, more accurately: bring your own libido. The artist cannot be expected to stimulate you. It is your job to clothe the emperor. (Get Craner to deliver his rant on art which claims to 'negotiate ideas of...'; it's absolutely otm.)

So, somewhat unwittingly I found myself in Bruce Nauman's new sound space at Tate Modern last week with Ray (Gnostic Dark Prince of Cold Rationalism, co-organizer of the Noise Theory Noise conferences at Middlesex).

I say sound space advisedly, not just because, as I indicated above, I loathe the term 'installation' but because, for once, here was an art experience that was all to do with space. Unlike the slovenly improv tedium of the sonic art I have previously encountered, which fogs the space with a damp haze of sludgy sonic signal, Nauman's hyper-precise sound orchestration not only used the space, it was the space.

There is no 'art object' in Nauman's Raw Materials: nothing to be mastered, nothing that could be re-viewed. There is only an affective space whose properties change dependent upon the population that moves through it. The sound we, the audience, make operates as the sonic equivalent of a found object: the unpredictable and anomalous signal that interacts with twenty-two recorded voices to produce an unliving sonic collage.

Nauman's schizophony is composed not only of the twenty-two voices (which can be heard very clearly only when you stand exactly opposite the speakers from which they emerge) but of other sounds that are in every sense unplaceable, most notable amongst which was a low moan (is it mechanical or natural? an aircraft drone? the wind?)

It presents you with a good reflexivity as opposed to the boring PoMo bad reflexivity with which we are all now so over-familiar. Instead of the meta-distance from a devoid-of-affect 'work', Nauman's sonicollage gave you a praticontemplation of immanence. As a participant-hearer you find yourself unable to gain any position of transcendence over the soundspace, and only partly because you yourself are a part of it. This is an encounter with acoustic space as described by McLuhan: 360 degrees round, schizophrenically diffuse, predator-ridden and haunted.


If Nauman's show drew out some of the specific semiotic and affective features of sound, the excellent Eyes, Lies and Illusion exhibition just down the
South Bank at the Hayward does something similar for the visual.

As Baudrillard has long complained, it is the hatred for illusion, the impulse to strip away the veils of (re)presentation and confront the unadorned Real, that defines our contemporary 'transaesthetics of banality'. What Badiou calls the 'passion for the real' can be seen in everything produced by the Emin-Lucas-Hirst sensational-borocratic abstract machine, which, with a quaint naivete that is almost admirable, makes a show of disdaining the artificial.

Paradoxically, this only heightens the sense of representationalist pathos surrounding such 'work'. The op art, anamorphs and optical illusions on show at the Hayward do exactly the opposite: draw attention to the representational machines that have produced them.

Once again, there is a good reflexivity, a vertiginous sense of radical immanence much like you encounter at a certain point in most of Philip K Dick's, Burroughs' and Ligotti's most powerful stories. As you contemplate an intricately constructed illusion, you suddenly realise that the world which you are contemplating it from and the ego which is doing the contemplation are themselves illusions in what seems like an infinite series of illusions.


Gnostic revelation.

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November 04, 2004


Really under the cosh at work, so not had much time to update... Big posts soon, promise....

In the meantime, Destiny's Child --- what a triumphant return. Beyonce, forget that solo career and we will ----

Aliens vs Predator --- one of the worst films ever made. The love scene between the Predators - 'stern but fair' - and the boil in a bag tough ass black female lead was the moment in which the whole franchise was finally, fatally desublimated ---

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November 01, 2004


Well, it's all happening at Dissensus....

If you haven't been there, get there as soon as you can...

And great to see one of the k-punk massive making his debut post here... Thanks Karl.. Now, what's happened to that Carter McBeath and his long-promised Prisoner post, eh?

More from me later on this evening (if my internet connections is up at home; I'm posting this from work, because it was inexplicably down this a.m. --- not sure if it was MS Plague or NTL incompetence, or some hideous combination of the two)... big post on eyes, lies and illusions and Nauman...

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