music joel assaizky
Etienne Leroux’s use of an extensive field of reference in his novels, and especially his interlacing of diverse mythologies, psychological theories and literary sources, remains an aspect of his oeuvre that has enjoyed significant academic attention. From a musicological perspective, the numerous references in 18-44 to the music dramas of Richard Wagner are particularly striking. These references are also an aspect of 18-44 that is frequently understated in interpretations of the novel, many of which tend to focus on a Jungian interpretation. Indeed, 18-44 has in the past been referred to as Leroux’s strongest Jungian novel (Meiring 1968b). By postulating Wagner and Wagner reception as a context for Leroux I intend to demonstrate that the field of Leroux research has by no means been exhausted and that other interpretations are still possible by (to borrow a term from Willem Weststeijn in Botha 2003:89–90), a heruitvoering – “reperformance” – of 18-44.
This article employs a theoretical framework based on the work of Kristeva (1969), Barthes (1977) and Riffaterre (1978) to conceptualise intertextuality as a web of relations between writer, reader and cultural context where the creation of meaning lies with the reader and not, as was hitherto understood, only with the writer. This understanding acknowledges that each reader brings a unique background to any reading and is at liberty to draw on a number of extra texts or cultural contexts to aid interpretation and the creation of meaning. This article therefore takes as its starting point a reading of 18-44 as a text amongst texts, specifically with reference to Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Seen in the light of intertextuality, it is irrelevant whether Leroux was well acquainted with the work of Wagner or not, nor whether these symbols were intended as a conscious concealment of meaning in 18-44.
However, the aesthetic projects of Leroux and Wagner intersect in their understanding of mythology and the value thereof for individuals and collectives. Moreover, both men had an understanding of archetypal material as a subconscious layer that could be brought to the surface through the use of symbols, something they also shared with Jung. Wagner’s perception of myth facilitated the understanding that history could be understood as a series of repeating mythical prototypes (Rieger 2011:110). Leroux (1980) emphasised the importance of myth as a source of strength for the individual and the community; indeed, the search for a living myth and living symbols surfaces periodically as a priority within his oeuvre. This article argues that through Leroux’s references, his characters and themes can be connected with Wagnerian archetypal figures and themes, and that their treatment in the work of the latter can inform a reading of his work. Although this suggested context rests mainly on Der Ring des Nibelungen, there is scope for further research that includes Wagner’s other music dramas, such as Der Fliegende Holländer and Parsifal in a rereading of
There is only one direct reference to Wagner in 18-44,namely when the knolskrywer (hack writer) writes that he hears Wagner’s music, that Valkyries are flying through the air and that trumpets are playing the prelude to the third act (Leroux 1967:34). However, there is frequent reference to the knolskrywer’s wife as his Valkyrie or Brünnhilde. This article argues that there are concomitant points of similarity between Leroux and Wagner’s Valkyries, including their relationships with their fathers, their initial unattainability, their loss of power after being conquered and their ultimate suicide. There is reference to Valhalla, the home of the gods where Leroux’s Valkyrie’s father lives as Wotan – in 18-44 these are accompanied by references to incestuous love, sterility and butchery. There is reference to the knolskrywer as Siegfried, the hero of the Der Ring des Nibelungen saga, and indeed, both of these figures find their salvation in the love of a woman whom they betray. However, the knolskrywer emerges as an anti-hero, for unlike Siegfried, he is beset by fear. The article argues that the knolskrywer is a more effective hero for contemporary times because his fear aids him in a greater understanding of the tragedy of life and the necessity of betrayal. Through a rereading of Leroux against the background of Der Ring des Nibelungen, important perspectives and themes surface in this novel, among others marriage as an impossible promise and a curse on love itself, as well as that of adultery as necessary betrayal.
Moreover, there is extensive use of the Götterdämmerung in 18-44, a key theme of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. When one reads this alongside Wagner’s work, new light is shed on the knolskrywer’s personal Götterdämmerung, the destruction of an old myth and the creation of a new myth. For the knolskrywer regards his destruction as a rebirth, the death of his old worlds as the creation of others. However, there is another Götterdämmerung that takes place in 18-44, one that relates to world history. At the beginning of the novel the juxtaposition of the respective ages of the knolskrywer and one of the women in his life, his beloved “mej. X”, from “1844”, a year of historical unimportance. Their transition to 1945 one year later, however, points to the violent transition after the Second World War to a world without gods – the German national myths are dead, and the Japanese emperor-god has become mortal. The article shows how Wagner, through his anti-Semitic writings and the appropriation of his music by Hitler’s regime, is, to a certain extent, connected with the events of the Second World War. It furthermore argues that Leroux’s Valkyrie emerges in the novel as an extended metaphor for the German Third Reich, her suicide symbolising the fall of the gods and the creation of a new world order.
In a lecture at the 2012 Stellenbosch Woordfees Hermann Giliomee argues that although Leroux consciously avoided writing politically, he divined the future of the Afrikaners better than any other writer because he saw that their gods would eventually appear to be impotent. Indeed, Leroux’s warning that the Afrikaners’ gods are dead appears throughout his oeuvre, and finds specific treatment in 18-44. This article proposes that Leroux’s 18-44, with its mythological framework of a glorious Teutonic past and its portrayal of the consequences of German nationalism and Volksliebe can also be read as a concealed warning against Afrikaner nationalism. As such, 18-44 reads as a prophecy of the Afrikaner’s future, his desperate need for a living myth after the fall of his gods, but also the possibility of rebirth. Finally, the article recognises a positioning in 18-44 of the role of the writer within this Götterdämmerung through the treatment of one of the most important themes of this novel, namely the acceptance of betrayal in spite of fear.
read the full article here: http://www.litnet.co.za/Article/wagneriaanse-vergestaltings-in-etienne-leroux-se-18-44
A mini-series of 7 short adverts bringing across the versatility and hi-tech relevance of the archive to contemporary computer users.
The accent of the series is to re-define the “archive” as a thoroughly exciting, innovative, accessible and stimulating contemporary media tool entirely unlike the stuffy, inaccessible, user UNfriendly connotation that the word holds traditionally.
The seven editions of the “sting” are conceptualised around the Ghanaian practice of naming a baby depending on the day of the week that it is born. In order to focus on and highlight the role of the woman in African society each episode will have as its working title one of the seven girl’s names for the days of the week: ADJOA, ABENA, AKUA, YAA, AFUA, AMA, AKOSUA. The formal editing structure of each of these seven “stings” will be built around the code of the name, ie, if the audience were to download the “sting” and deconstruct its elements in the way that the archiving system it is advertising allows, they would discover the recurring “genetic code” of the Gahnaian day name recurring as a consistent motif across every element of the advert – editing, music, grading, etc.
Each sting will be divided into 2 constituent parts. Firstly, The generic “template” which in turn holds the particular, individual content node of the advert.
1. The generic template.
This 21 second template will comprise of a densely edited 3D simulation of the experience of using the system. The map of Africa will be used to move into and over in very fast digital morphing movements, each movement rushing over a sweep of space and time, over a different cartographic texture as well. For example the colonial map of 1870 will morph into a map of mountains and forests of now, this kind of articulation of the various kinds of cartographic analysis of space and time will prepare the audience for the extremely diverse nature of the contemporary digital archiving experience, one entirely unlike the analogue use of archive material.
As the audience are driven across space and time by the morph movements so images and music particular to the space and time being experienced will be generated in a constantly evolving “mashup” that will evoke an emotional as well as intellectual response in the viewer. For example a morph from Ghana to Nigeria will feature a burst of Kwame Nkrumah speaking at the inauguration of Ghana’s independence flowing inexorably into Fela Kuti performing his most famous hit Sorrow Tears and Blood, this will in turn morph as the cursor flees Nigeria and rushes to Libya where Colonel Gaddaffi is surrounded by his elephants and female elite soldiers which will then morph extremely quickly down to South Africa as Joburg erupts into mob violence outside Luthuli House and then morphing suddenly into Northern Namibia where Himba children are herding cattle to the sound of Miriam Makeba singing over Ali Farka Toure’s desert blues guitar riffs.
The speed and intensity of the Template is meant to absolutely rivet the attention of the viewer who is seduced by the hi-tech jouissance of the medium. This is the hi-tech world of contemporary Africa, not a “lost continent” but in fact a world leader in explorative technologies, of which this archiving system is its own best example.
2. The 7 individual content nodes.
If the generic template can be seen as an information hub with specific adaptations made for each content node, the content node can be seen as growing organically out of the template but zooming in, literally, to a specific time/space occurence and providing a dialectical analysis of the event in a way that is medium specific to this digital archiving system. In short – this part of the sting shows the viewer that this way of experiencing and using archived information is unique and provides a relationship to information that no other medium can, it is a medium specific relationship entirely futuristic and yet now accessible to all users of the system.
The first of these 7 content nodes will feature Judge Albie Sachs. A dramatic edit from the judge making a very rough joke about his limbless condition to the news footage of him lying on the ground just after the explosion that lost him his arm. As we see his writhing body on the ground so we hear him making a really funny Woody Allen-type joke about the event. The juxtaposition of horrific reality and relativising humour-in-time is a perfect example of how meanings are contructed and change, meanings never remain the same, and so with the archive, the use of which is constant creation and re-creation of the past and the present – which is in fact how we construct the ever-shifiting nexus that, in the analogue period, used to be known as “reality”
concept and text copyright Aryan Kaganof
5 September 2011
apologies for X-posting.
Please see below the #MINA2013 [Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa] call for projects, papers and smartphone, mobile and pocket films.
Feel free to forward the MINA call for mobile films [http://mina.pro/?p=1660] and papers [http://mina.pro/?p=1655] to anyone who might be interested.
Do not hesitate to contact me at any time shall you have any further questions regarding the upcoming MINA events.
With best wishes,
CALL FOR PAPERS
MINA — 2013 | Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa
3rd International Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium and Screening
20 – 22 November 2013
Deadline for 350-500-word Abstracts for papers and proposals 16th August 2013
AUT UNIVERSITY CITY CAMPUS
Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa [ MINA – www.mina.pro ] is an international network that promotes cultural and research activities to expand the emerging possibilities of mobile media. MINA aims to explore the opportunities for interaction between people, content and the creative industry within the context of Aotearoa/New Zealand and internationally.
This year MINA is pleased to announce that the School of Art & Design (AUT University) and CoLab (Creative Technologies Research Institute for the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies at AUT University) will co-host its 2013 International Symposium & Screening to be held at AUT University’s Auckland City campus, in collaboration with the College of Creative Arts, Massey University (Wellington).
The Symposium provides a platform for filmmakers, artists, designers, researchers and industry professionals to debate the prospect of wireless, mobile and ubiquitous technologies in art and design environments and the creative industries.
CALL FOR PAPERS
MINA invites proposals for papers and presentations relating, but not limited to mobile communities, mobile social media and social change, mobile art, mobile locative media, citizen journalism, mobile visual literacy, mobile video production, mobile-mentaries (mobile documentaries), mobile network, mobile media in education and mobile technologies and civic media.
This year the circulation of smartphones outnumbered the volume of mobile phones. Most mobile devices (including tablets and pocket size digital cameras) have a HD video capacity and provide Internet connectivity. Since the proliferation of apps five years ago, new opportunities for creative mobile media production emerged. Mobile filmmaking is now an established format ranging from music video to TV commercial production. A number of contemporary apps feature location-based services that can create new experiences and representations of places. Mobile filmmaking also provides prospects for citizen journalist to expand the domain of videography. Contemporary forms of collaborative filmmaking projects connect 21st century citizens and filmmakers across the globe creating new forms of digital, networked and transmedia storytelling. As an egalitarian filmmaking tool and technology, mobile filmmaking provides access to a new generation of filmmakers. In alignment with the ubiquity of social media, mobile communication is shifting towards an increasingly visual realm. Live streaming and micro formats of mobile filmmaking can be compared to early cinema and actuality film, while mobile short films resonate approaches and practices known from the field of experimental documentary and avant-garde moving-image practices.
The 3nd International Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium will explore the following mobile developments and dynamics in a transdisciplinary context.
¬ MOBILE & PEDAGOGY
¬ MOBILE & MEDIA PRODUCTION
¬ MOBILE & AESTHETIC
¬ MOBILE & SOUND
¬ MOBILE & HYBRID ART
¬ MOBILE & INTERACTIVITY
¬ MOBILE & SPACE
MINA welcomes presentations in a variety of formats including academic papers, workshops, poster presentations, performances, project showcases and screenings. The 3nd International Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium will also provide the opportunity to present papers via live video and live web-broadcasts. For each submission, please send:
– a proposal / abstract of approximately 400 words, including the title
– a brief biographical (100 words maximum)
Abstracts for papers and proposals of up to 500 words should be submitted by the 16th of August 2013. Please include a title and brief biographical note and send to firstname.lastname@example.org
All proposals will be double peer reviewed and presenters will be notified of acceptances by 16th of September 2013. All selected papers will be published in the Creative Technologies Journal – Special Mobile Edition.
If you have any questions related to conference proposals please contact Laurent Antonczak [ email@example.com | +64 211 625 072 ]. For further information, please check also: www.mina.pro
CALL FOR SMARTPHONE, MOBILE AND POCKET CAMERA FILMS
MINA — 2013 | Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa
3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening
Deadline for Mobile Films submission: 16th August 2013
The Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa [ MINA ] aims to explore the possibilities of interaction between people, content and the creative industries.
The International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013 will showcase short films produced on and with smartphones, mobile and pocket cameras. This year MINA is pleased to announce that the School of Art & Design (AUT University) and CoLab (Creative Technologies Research Institute for the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies at AUT University) will co-host the 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening to be held at AUT University’s Auckland City campus, in collaboration with the College of Creative Arts, Massey University (Wellington).
Working in collaboration with Ohrenblick Mal (Germany), iPhone Popup Film Festival (UK) International Mobil Film Festival and iPhone Film Festival (USA), MINA showcases mobile filmmaking projects from around the world at the 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening in Wellington (November 2013) Film Archive, Auckland (21st and 22nd November 2013), AUT University, Auckland City campus new Precint building and Melbourne (9th December 2013), RMIT University.
Selected mobile films will be featured in the MINA showreel. The MINA program is curated by Dr. Max Schleser (Massey University, Wellington, NZ) and Laurent Antonczak (AUT University, Auckland, NZ).
For each submission, please send:
– a proposal of approximately 250 words, including the mobile film title
– two still images
– the link to the online preview (if available)
– a brief biographical (100 words maximum)
to Dr. Max Schleser [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]. For further assistance regarding submission enquiries, please contact Dr. Max Schleser [ email@example.com | +64 226 920 872 ] or check also: www.mina.pro
Work can be sent in digital format, via post or courier:
Dr. Max Schleser
c/o MINA, School of Design
Po Box 756, Wellington 6140
MINA 2012 showreel: http://vimeo.com/51724574
[MINA] Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa
m: + 64 22 692 0872
Dear Aryan – thanks for this. Allows me to let off steam, without hopefully getting into preaching gear or moral mode!?
You certainly do reflect the chaos & narcissism that prevails. Your film style (if I may) is indeed thought-provoking & always creative… but the Ben Sharpa film? Here’s my take on the subject – not the excellent way you’ve captured him, but the very sad man & his followers depicted!
As pious & as patronizing as I sometimes sound (do I give a shit!?) and speaking as a ‘musician’ (of sorts) & an opinionated archivist at times, I find the ‘message of materialism’, entitlement & victimhood that most SAfrican ‘Harlem’ Hip Hop copy-cats convey, means very little; and not only because one can never hear the messages that they claim to convey – other than the feeling of sadness & sometimes anger at the talent wasted – but if music is one thing, messages are another! As Bob the Bard once whined: if you wanna send a message use Western Union.
Maybe I’m ‘messaged out’ and old fashioned – a folk-singer with a repertoire of mainly messages ‘n meaning – if that’s how the listener wants to hear it? For me, music (?) that carries words and / or poetry – and speaking as a lyricist who sincerely believes that the future is NOW (that the old ‘stuff’ we’ve recorded & collected is for reference & glass cabinets or hard-driving touch-screens only) – if I don’t get the feeling or can’t hear the words, then there is no message… and why should there be?
The only ‘message’ I hear here today – thru’ the chaos & noise – is that it’s OK to fuck the system, take ‘n steal what you didn’t work for, earn or create… music, attitude, fashion. To me that’s so colonial & Western; that’s exactly what the whites did. Very un-African. I can’t get my head (or heart) around it. Of course if this new-age colonisation and pollution of the spirit of Ubuntu & Batho Pele is happening, it cannot / should not (?) be ignored. But I have the right to ask… where has our unique Cape Gumba or Kwela or Marabi or even the revolting rock voices gone? How timid & tame we copy-cats have become.
Thank goodness we can sometimes rely on the skills and passion of people such as yourself to convey the chaos…. Even if it is a distorted, unhearable message!? All that top-down crass materialism & crotch grabbing pussy that strangely enough has nothing whatsoever to do with music & poetry… or the genuine ghetto Rapper’s Hip Hop from New York! Capetown?
‘Music’ for me – noisy, loud, soft or smooth – is another mystical, magic & spiritual ‘feeling’ altogether. Fuck the message. The Vuvuzela says it all loud ‘n clear… I hear that stuff, but I don’t have to listen to it. Not in this country where the spiritual connections thru’ the voices of 15 million people… that’s how many ‘sing & dance’ in groups every week…. more than any other country on earth, we hear here – have been drowned out by an abrasive flatulent plastic (white man’s) war-toy or the import of wealthy gold-dripping American rappers. And the mainstream media & the people who manufacture that crap – like guns – say it’s cool & it’s hip? It’s what the people want? If that’s all they see hear, that’s the message. Just like ‘music’ back in the A-Daze. Take it or leave it… the revolution in designer denim, backward peak-caps & video.
I’m generalising here of course; I get unravelled & angry, because I’ve heard (recorded and mixed for) some fine SAfrican ‘Harlem’ hip-hop, poets ‘n rappers who really do seem to say what they mean… until they become ‘famous’. Then they too fuck you & me & the system… but not for free! However, when I did mix (with) them one could usually hear what it is they’re communicating. The feeling rather than a message. I’m sorry, but those week-end entitled anarchists & wanna-be-materialists, just like our main-stream revolting rockers back in the 60’s, give me the creeps. They are not REAL revolutionaries… They’re revolting capitalist posers.
Point of this rant is: if we cannot hear and listen we cannot engage; eventually we run, or are driven away from victims crying blame, hate & entitlement.
But that’s my personal pale-person’s view of the morose materialism, bling, Ray Bans ‘n Beemers that the likes of the SABC & the commercial record industry fuck with. If the pigs in government could hear the so-called messages, they’d apply a music version of the Secrecy & Information Bill.
We have a Right2Know that those bejewelled, gold-dripping hips, lips ‘n tits, whose so-called ‘message’ is set to multi-million rand studio productions, are no different to the gold-medallion perverts in funny frocks, long dresses & beanies who run & ruin the lives of billions of poor superstitious folk from the Vatican, Teheran & Jerusalem. It’s the same old message… fuck the people, the earth and nature… you better buy our goods & gods or else! Proclaiming that we humans are God-given rulers of the earth & the muse, within & without. We who are free to rape ma Nature & ravage pa God! We take what we can, from who we can, while we can. That’s the ‘message ‘n meaning’ that most of those Hip-Hopers generate for me. Fuck ‘em!
Groucho Marks without the “X”
PS The question remains – that here in Africa… where it all began… in the past – why do so many of us SAfricans STILL suffer from colonial inferiority & apartheid complexes? If the future is NOW or never, we gotta learn, look ‘n listen to where the past lies!
I suddenly remembered as I woke up that I was always taught, whilst at the Film Academy in the Netherlands, to make a film “work”, to experiment only until it “works”
And my nature, my resistance, always in fact demanded of me that i experiment until it “played”, until the film itself was “playing”. So I would never ask technical people, does it work, I would ask, does it play? Is it playful?
This was hugely important whilst studying and became a major thread in my slow building of what it was that I believed the “works” should do. (Because I always loved the idea that what my work “did” was “play”. It felt subversive enough, a worthy enough end in itself. I did not expect the work to do much more than that. This was my formalist phase.
Later, after coming to South Africa, I began to find subject matter that seemed to demand a different kind of play and I also pretty much ceased to work with technical people. This became the period that I demanded of the work more than that it “played”, but that it “danced”. I was only finished with the edit of a piece (a “work”) when it danced. This dancing was a way of keeping the sense of play going whilst being cognizant that the my subject matter was deadly serious, was not in itself playful. The Uprising of Hangberg and The Exhibition of Vandalizim are examples of this phase that I might describe as my political phase.
The development that I notice in myself and my “work” (and how it “plays”) is that in An Inconsolable Memory I have, for the first time, demanded of the piece that it “sings”. The edit was only finished when I received that song from Ruth Fourie, on the cd she got from Ruth Goodwin, and I could insert the soaring, impeccable heights of song into the film so that it operates as an aesthetic fulcrum, one that allows the film to escapes district six, to escape the bizarre play of whites and coloured and blacks, to go back into the baby’s first experience of sound as pleasure, the roots of music itself, the sound of the mother and the taste of her breast, and the opening into the world through the leaves, that is the baby’s first impression of nature and the pictorial elegance called, incorrectly, the landscape, which is in fact the mindscape and Ruth Goodwin’s voice singing whilst this happens is the fusion of sound and image and the beginning of the baby’s individuation away from the fused identification with the mother into a distinct person and is at the same time the beginning of memory and the beginning of film, of cinema. This is my first film that sings and I hope not the last. I think it might herald the beginning of a psychological phase, and I almost hesitate to write this because I have always resolutely up to now, avoided allowing any hint of psychological reasoning to infiltrate the films because I always found this too easy, too simple, too pat. Perhaps being this exhausted and broke has finally destroyed my resistance to the realm of psychology and perhaps this is a good thing. We shall see. If it sings.
A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age
(Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.)
John Perry Barlow is a retired Wyoming cattle rancher, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since May of 1998, he has been a Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, following a term as a Fellow with the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. John gave 3rd Ear Music permission to use this piece:
“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Throughout the time I’ve been groping around cyberspace, an immense, unsolved conundrum has remained at the root of nearly every legal, ethical, governmental, and social vexation to be found in the Virtual World. I refer to the problem of digitized property. The enigma is this: If our property can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession, how can we protect it? How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds? And, if we can’t get paid, what will assure the continued creation and distribution of such work?
Since we don’t have a solution to what is a profoundly new kind of challenge, and are apparently unable to delay the galloping digitization of everything not obstinately physical, we are sailing into the future on a sinking ship.
This vessel, the accumulated canon of copyright and patent law, was developed to convey forms and methods of expression entirely different from the vaporous cargo it is now being asked to carry. It is leaking as much from within as from without.
Legal efforts to keep the old boat floating are taking three forms: a frenzy of deck chair rearrangement, stern warnings to the passengers that if she goes down, they will face harsh criminal penalties, and serene, glassy-eyed denial.
Mbube The Magic Music Muse Bottle
Mbube The Magic Music Muse Bottle
Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain digitized expression any more than real estate law might be revised to cover the allocation of broadcasting spectrum (which, in fact, rather resembles what is being attempted here). We will need to develop an entirely new set of methods as befits this entirely new set of circumstances.
Most of the people who actually create soft property – the programmers, hackers, and Net surfers – already know this. Unfortunately, neither the companies they work for nor the lawyers these companies hire have enough direct experience with nonmaterial goods to understand why they are so problematic. They are proceeding as though the old laws can somehow be made to work, either by grotesque expansion or by force. They are wrong.
The source of this conundrum is as simple as its solution is complex. Digital technology is detaching information from the physical plane, where property law of all sorts has always found definition.
Throughout the history of copyrights and patents, the proprietary assertions of thinkers have been focused not on their ideas but on the expression of those ideas. The ideas themselves, as well as facts about the phenomena of the world, were considered to be the collective property of humanity. One could claim franchise, in the case of copyright, on the precise turn of phrase used to convey a particular idea or the order in which facts were presented.
The point at which this franchise was imposed was that moment when the “word became flesh” by departing the mind of its originator and entering some physical object, whether book or widget. The subsequent arrival of other commercial media besides books didn’t alter the legal importance of this moment. Law protected expression and, with few (and recent) exceptions, to express was to make physical.
Protecting physical expression had the force of convenience on its side. Copyright worked well because, Gutenberg notwithstanding, it was hard to make a book. Furthermore, books froze their contents into a condition which was as challenging to alter as it was to reproduce. Counterfeiting and distributing counterfeit volumes were obvious and visible activities – it was easy enough to catch somebody in the act of doing. Finally, unlike unbounded words or images, books had material surfaces to which one could attach copyright notices, publisher’s marques, and price tags.
Mental-to-physical conversion was even more central to patent. A patent, until recently, was either a description of the form into which materials were to be rendered in the service of some purpose, or a description of the process by which rendition occurred. In either case, the conceptual heart of patent was the material result. If no purposeful object could be rendered because of some material limitation, the patent was rejected. Neither a Klein bottle nor a shovel made of silk could be patented. It had to be a thing, and the thing had to work.
Thus, the rights of invention and authorship adhered to activities in the physical world. One didn’t get paid for ideas, but for the ability to deliver them into reality. For all practical purposes, the value was in the conveyance and not in the thought conveyed.
In other words, the bottle was protected, not the wine
Record Contract 1904 – Melba
Record Contract 1904 – Melba
Now, as information enters cyberspace, the native home of Mind, these bottles are vanishing. With the advent of digitization, it is now possible to replace all previous information storage forms with one metabottle: complex and highly liquid patterns of ones and zeros.
Even the physical/digital bottles to which we’ve become accustomed – floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and other discrete, shrink-wrappable bit-packages – will disappear as all computers jack-in to the global Net. While the Internet may never include every CPU on the planet, it is more than doubling every year and can be expected to become the principal medium of information conveyance, and perhaps eventually, the only one.
Once that has happened, all the goods of the Information Age – all of the expressions once contained in books or film strips or newsletters – will exist either as pure thought or something very much like thought: voltage conditions darting around the Net at the speed of light, in conditions that one might behold in effect, as glowing pixels or transmitted sounds, but never touch or claim to “own” in the old sense of the word.
Some might argue that information will still require some physical manifestation, such as its magnetic existence on the titanic hard disks of distant servers, but these are bottles which have no macroscopically discrete or personally meaningful form.
Some will also argue that we have been dealing with unbottled expression since the advent of radio, and they would be right. But for most of the history of broadcast, there was no convenient way to capture soft goods from the electromagnetic ether and reproduce them with quality available in commercial packages. Only recently has this changed, and little has been done legally or technically to address the change.
Generally, the issue of consumer payment for broadcast products was irrelevant. The consumers themselves were the product. Broadcast media were supported either by the sale of the attention of their audience to advertisers, by government assessing payment through taxes, or by the whining mendicancy of annual donor drives.
All of the broadcast-support models are flawed. Support either by advertisers or government has almost invariably tainted the purity of the goods delivered. Besides, direct marketing is gradually killing the advertiser-support model anyway.
Broadcast media gave us another payment method for a virtual product: the royalties that broadcasters pay songwriters through such organizations as ASCAP and BMI. But, as a member of ASCAP, I can assure you this is not a model that we should emulate. The monitoring methods are wildly approximate. There is no parallel system of accounting in the revenue stream. It doesn’t really work. Honest.
In any case, without our old methods, based on physically defining the expression of ideas, and in the absence of successful new models for nonphysical transaction, we simply don’t know how to assure reliable payment for mental works. To make matters worse, this comes at a time when the human mind is replacing sunlight and mineral deposits as the principal source of new wealth.
Furthermore, the increasing difficulty of enforcing existing copyright and patent laws is already placing in peril the ultimate source of intellectual property – the free exchange of ideas.
Columbia Camels Silence
Columbia Camels Silence
That is, when the primary articles of commerce in a society look so much like speech as to be indistinguishable from it, and when the traditional methods of protecting their ownership have become ineffectual, attempting to fix the problem with broader and more vigorous enforcement will inevitably threaten freedom of speech. The greatest constraint on your future liberties may come not from government but from corporate legal departments laboring to protect by force what can no longer be protected by practical efficiency or general social consent.
Furthermore, when Jefferson and his fellow creatures of the Enlightenment designed the system that became American copyright law, their primary objective was assuring the widespread distribution of thought, not profit. Profit was the fuel that would carry ideas into the libraries and minds of their new republic. Libraries would purchase books, thus rewarding the authors for their work in assembling ideas; these ideas, otherwise “incapable of confinement,” would then become freely available to the public. But what is the role of libraries in the absence of books? How does society now pay for the distribution of ideas if not by charging for the ideas themselves?
Additionally complicating the matter is the fact that along with the disappearance of the physical bottles in which intellectual property protection has resided, digital technology is also erasing the legal jurisdictions of the physical world and replacing them with the unbounded and perhaps permanently lawless waves of cyberspace.
In cyberspace, no national or local boundaries contain the scene of a crime and determine the method of its prosecution; worse, no clear cultural agreements define what a crime might be. Unresolved and basic differences between Western and Asian cultural assumptions about intellectual property can only be exacerbated when many transactions are taking place in both hemispheres and yet, somehow, in neither.
Even in the most local of digital conditions, jurisdiction and responsibility are hard to assess. A group of music publishers filed suit against CompuServe this fall because it allowed its users to upload musical compositions into areas where other users might access them. But since CompuServe cannot practically exercise much control over the flood of bits that passes between its subscribers, it probably shouldn’t be held responsible for unlawfully “publishing” these works.
Notions of property, value, ownership, and the nature of wealth itself are changing more fundamentally than at any time since the Sumerians first poked cuneiform into wet clay and called it stored grain. Only a very few people are aware of the enormity of this shift, and fewer of them are lawyers or public officials.
Those who do see these changes must prepare responses for the legal and social confusion that will erupt as efforts to protect new forms of property with old methods become more obviously futile, and, as a consequence, more adamant.
From Swords to Writs to Bits
His Masters Voice King Edward 1935
His Masters Voice King George 1935
Humanity now seems bent on creating a world economy primarily based on goods that take no material form. In doing so, we may be eliminating any predictable connection between creators and a fair reward for the utility or pleasure others may find in their works.
Without that connection, and without a fundamental change in consciousness to accommodate its loss, we are building our future on furor, litigation, and institutionalized evasion of payment except in response to raw force. We may return to the Bad Old Days of property.
Throughout the darker parts of human history, the possession and distribution of property was a largely military matter. “Ownership” was assured those with the nastiest tools, whether fists or armies, and the most resolute will to use them. Property was the divine right of thugs.
By the turn of the First Millennium AD, the emergence of merchant classes and landed gentry forced the development of ethical understandings for the resolution of property disputes. In the Middle Ages, enlightened rulers like England’s Henry II began to codify this unwritten “common law” into recorded canons. These laws were local, which didn’t matter much as they were primarily directed at real estate, a form of property that is local by definition. And, as the name implied, was very real.
This continued to be the case as long as the origin of wealth was agricultural, but with that dawning of the Industrial Revolution, humanity began to focus as much on means as ends. Tools acquired a new social value and, thanks to their development, it became possible to duplicate and distribute them in quantity.
To encourage their invention, copyright and patent law were developed in most Western countries. These laws were devoted to the delicate task of getting mental creations into the world where they could be used – and could enter the minds of others – while assuring their inventors compensation for the value of their use. And, as previously stated, the systems of both law and practice which grew up around that task were based on physical expression.
Since it is now possible to convey ideas from one mind to another without ever making them physical, we are now claiming to own ideas themselves and not merely their expression. And since it is likewise now possible to create useful tools that never take physical form, we have taken to patenting abstractions, sequences of virtual events, and mathematical formulae – the most unreal estate imaginable.
In certain areas, this leaves rights of ownership in such an ambiguous condition that property again adheres to those who can muster the largest armies. The only difference is that this time the armies consist of lawyers.
Threatening their opponents with the endless purgatory of litigation, over which some might prefer death itself, they assert claim to any thought which might have entered another cranium within the collective body of the corporations they serve. They act as though these ideas appeared in splendid detachment from all previous human thought. And they pretend that thinking about a product is somehow as good as manufacturing, distributing, and selling it.
What was previously considered a common human resource, distributed among the minds and libraries of the world, as well as the phenomena of nature herself, is now being fenced and deeded. It is as though a new class of enterprise had arisen that claimed to own the air.
What is to be done? While there is a certain grim fun to be had in it, dancing on the grave of copyright and patent will solve little, especially when so few are willing to admit that the occupant of this grave is even deceased, and so many are trying to uphold by force what can no longer be upheld by popular consent.
The legalists, desperate over their slipping grip, are vigorously trying to extend their reach. Indeed, the United States and other proponents of GATT are making adherence to our moribund systems of intellectual property protection a condition of membership in the marketplace of nations. For example, China will be denied Most Favored Nation trading status unless they agree to uphold a set of culturally alien principles that are no longer even sensibly applicable in their country of origin.
In a more perfect world, we’d be wise to declare a moratorium on litigation, legislation, and international treaties in this area until we had a clearer sense of the terms and conditions of enterprise in cyberspace. Ideally, laws ratify already developed social consensus. They are less the Social Contract itself than a series of memoranda expressing a collective intent that has emerged out of many millions of human interactions.
Humans have not inhabited cyberspace long enough or in sufficient diversity to have developed a Social Contract which conforms to the strange new conditions of that world. Laws developed prior to consensus usually favor the already established few who can get them passed and not society as a whole.
No Masters Dog in India 1950s
No Masters Dog in India 1950s
To the extent that law & established social practice exists in this area, they are already in dangerous disagreement. The laws regarding unlicensed reproduction of commercial software are clear and stern…and rarely observed. Software piracy laws are so practically unenforceable and breaking them has become so socially acceptable that only a thin minority appears compelled, either by fear or conscience, to obey them. When I give speeches on this subject, I always ask how many people in the audience can honestly claim to have no unauthorized software on their hard disks. I’ve never seen more than 10 percent of the hands go up.
Whenever there is such profound divergence between law and social practice, it is not society that adapts. Against the swift tide of custom, the software publishers’ current practice of hanging a few visible scapegoats is so obviously capricious as to only further diminish respect for the law.
Part of the widespread disregard for commercial software copyrights stems from a legislative failure to understand the conditions into which it was inserted. To assume that systems of law based in the physical world will serve in an environment as fundamentally different as cyberspace is a folly for which everyone doing business in the future will pay.
As I will soon discuss in detail, unbounded intellectual property is very different from physical property and can no longer be protected as though these differences did not exist. For example, if we continue to assume that value is based on scarcity, as it is with regard to physical objects, we will create laws that are precisely contrary to the nature of information, which may, in many cases, increase in value with distribution.
The large, legally risk-averse institutions most likely to play by the old rules will suffer for their compliance. As more lawyers, guns, and money are invested in either protecting their rights or subverting those of their opponents, their ability to produce new technology will simply grind to a halt as every move they make drives them deeper into a tar pit of courtroom warfare.
Faith in law will not be an effective strategy for high-tech companies. Law adapts by continuous increments and at a pace second only to geology. Technology advances in lunging jerks, like the punctuation of biological evolution grotesquely accelerated. Real-world conditions will continue to change at a blinding pace, and the law will lag further behind, more profoundly confused. This mismatch may prove impossible to overcome.
Promising economies based on purely digital products will either be born in a state of paralysis, as appears to be the case with multimedia, or continue in a brave and willful refusal by their owners to play the ownership game at all.
In the United States one can already see a parallel economy developing, mostly among small, fast moving enterprises who protect their ideas by getting into the marketplace quicker then their larger competitors who base their protection on fear and litigation.
Perhaps those who are part of the problem will simply quarantine themselves in court, while those who are part of the solution will create a new society based, at first, on piracy and freebooting. It may well be that when the current system of intellectual property law has collapsed, as seems inevitable, that no new legal structure will arise in its place.
But something will happen. After all, people do business. When a currency becomes meaningless, business is done in barter. When societies develop outside the law, they develop their own unwritten codes, practices, and ethical systems. While technology may undo law, technology offers methods for restoring creative rights.
A Taxonomy of Information
One Pound Gramophones
One Pound Gramophones
It seems to me that the most productive thing to do now is to look into the true nature of what we’re trying to protect. How much do we really know about information and its natural behaviors?
What are the essential characteristics of unbounded creation? How does it differ from previous forms of property? How many of our assumptions about it have actually been about its containers rather than their mysterious contents? What are its different species and how does each of them lend itself to control? What technologies will be useful in creating new virtual bottles to replace the old physical ones?
Of course, information is, by nature, intangible and hard to define. Like other such deep phenomena as light or matter, it is a natural host to paradox. It is most helpful to understand light as being both a particle and a wave, an understanding of information may emerge in the abstract congruence of its several different properties which might be described by the following three statements:
Information is an activity.
Information is a life form.
Information is a relationship.
In the following section, I will examine each of these.
I. INFORMATION IS AN ACTIVITY
Information Is a Verb, Not a Noun
Freed of its containers, information is obviously not a thing. In fact, it is something that happens in the field of interaction between minds or objects or other pieces of information.
Gregory Bateson, expanding on the information theory of Claude Shannon, said, “Information is a difference which makes a difference.” Thus, information only really exists in the Delta. The making of that difference is an activity within a relationship. Information is an action which occupies time rather than a state of being which occupies physical space, as is the case with hard goods. It is the pitch, not the baseball, the dance, not the dancer.
Information Is Experienced, Not Possessed
Even when it has been encapsulated in some static form like a book or a hard disk, information is still something that happens to you as you mentally decompress it from its storage code. But, whether it’s running at gigabits per second or words per minute, the actual decoding is a process that must be performed by and upon a mind, a process that must take place in time.
Marching Music 1914 War
Marching Music 1914 War
There was a cartoon in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists a few years ago that illustrated this point beautifully. In the drawing, a holdup man trains his gun on the sort of bespectacled fellow you’d figure might have a lot of information stored in his head. “Quick,” orders the bandit, “give me all your ideas.”
Information Has to Move
Sharks are said to die of suffocation if they stop swimming, and the same is nearly true of information. Information that isn’t moving ceases to exist as anything but potential…at least until it is allowed to move again. For this reason, the practice of information hoarding, common in bureaucracies, is an especially wrong-headed artifact of physically based value systems.
Information Is Conveyed by Propagation, Not Distribution
The way in which information spreads is also very different from the distribution of physical goods. It moves more like something from nature than from a factory. It can concatenate like falling dominos or grow in the usual fractal lattice, like frost spreading on a window, but it cannot be shipped around like widgets, except to the extent that it can be contained in them. It doesn’t simply move on; it leaves a trail everywhere it’s been.
The central economic distinction between information and physical property is that information can be transferred without leaving the possession of the original owner. If I sell you my horse, I can’t ride him after that. If I sell you what I know, we both know it.
II. INFORMATION IS A LIFE FORM
Information Wants to Be Free
King of Spain Recording in the Palace
King of Spain Recording in the Palace
Stewart Brand is generally credited with this elegant statement of the obvious, which recognizes both the natural desire of secrets to be told and the fact that they might be capable of possessing something like a “desire” in the first place.
English biologist and philosopher Richard Dawkins proposed the idea of “memes,” self-replicating patterns of information that propagate themselves across the ecologies of mind, a pattern of reproduction much like that of life forms.
I believe they are life forms in every respect but their freedom from the carbon atom. They self-reproduce, they interact with their surroundings and adapt to them, they mutate, they persist. They evolve to fill the empty niches of their local environments, which are, in this case the surrounding belief systems and cultures of their hosts, namely, us.
Indeed, sociobiologists like Dawkins make a plausible case that carbon-based life forms are information as well, that, as the chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg, the entire biological spectacle is just the DNA molecule’s means of copying out more information strings exactly like itself.
Information Replicates into the Cracks of Possibility
Like DNA helices, ideas are relentless expansionists, always seeking new opportunities for Lebensraum. And, as in carbon-based nature, the more robust organisms are extremely adept at finding new places to live. Thus, just as the common housefly has insinuated itself into practically every ecosystem on the planet, so has the meme of “life after death” found a niche in most minds, or psycho-ecologies.
The more universally resonant an idea or image or song , the more minds it will enter and remain within. Trying to stop the spread of a really robust piece of information is about as easy as keeping killer bees south of the border.
Information Wants to Change
Queens of Rumania Listens
Queens of Rumania Listens
If ideas and other interactive patterns of information are indeed life forms, they can be expected to evolve constantly into forms which will be more perfectly adapted to their surroundings. And, as we see, they are doing this all the time.
But for a long time, our static media, whether carvings in stone, ink on paper, or dye on celluloid, have strongly resisted the evolutionary impulse, exalting as a consequence the author’s ability to determine the finished product. But, as in an oral tradition, digitized information has no “final cut.”
Digital information, unconstrained by packaging, is a continuing process more like the metamorphosing tales of prehistory than anything that will fit in shrink-wrap. From the Neolithic to Gutenberg (monks aside), information was passed on, mouth to ear, changing with every retelling (or re-singing). The stories which once shaped our sense of the world didn’t have authoritative versions. They adapted to each culture in which they found themselves being told.
Because there was never a moment when the story was frozen in print, the so-called “moral” right of storytellers to own the tale was neither protected nor recognized. The story simply passed through each of them on its way to the next, where it would assume a different form. As we return to continuous information, we can expect the importance of authorship to diminish. Creative people may have to renew their acquaintance with humility.
But our system of copyright makes no accommodation whatever for expressions which don’t become fixed at some point nor for cultural expressions which lack a specific author or inventor.
Jazz improvisations, stand-up comedy routines, mime performances, developing monologues, and unrecorded broadcast transmissions all lack the Constitutional requirement of fixation as a “writing.” Without being fixed by a point of publication the liquid works of the future will all look more like these continuously adapting and changing forms and will therefore exist beyond the reach of copyright.
Copyright expert Pamela Samuelson tells of having attended a conference last year convened around the fact that Western countries may legally appropriate the music, designs, and biomedical lore of aboriginal people without compensation to their tribes of origin since those tribes are not an “author” or “inventors.”
But soon most information will be generated collaboratively by the cyber-tribal hunter-gatherers of cyberspace. Our arrogant legal dismissal of the rights of “primitives” will be soon return to haunt us.
Information Is Perishable
Russian Records 1909
Russian Records 1909
With the exception of the rare classic, most information is like farm produce. Its quality degrades rapidly both over time and in distance from the source of production. But even here, value is highly subjective and conditional. Yesterday’s papers are quite valuable to the historian. In fact, the older they are, the more valuable they become. On the other hand, a commodities broker might consider news of an event that occurred more than an hour ago to have lost any relevance.
III. INFORMATION IS A RELATIONSHIP
Meaning Has Value and Is Unique to Each Case.
In most cases, we assign value to information based on its meaningfulness. The place where information dwells, the holy moment where transmission becomes reception, is a region which has many shifting characteristics and flavors depending on the relationship of sender and receiver, the depth of their interactivity.
Each such relationship is unique. Even in cases where the sender is a broadcast medium, and no response is returned, the receiver is hardly passive. Receiving information is often as creative an act as generating it.
The value of what is sent depends entirely on the extent to which each individual receiver has the receptors – shared terminology, attention, interest, language, paradigm – necessary to render what is received meaningful.
Understanding is a critical element increasingly overlooked in the effort to turn information into a commodity. Data may be any set of facts, useful or not, intelligible or inscrutable, germane or irrelevant. Computers can crank out new data all night long without human help, and the results may be offered for sale as information. They may or may not actually be so. Only a human being can recognize the meaning that separates information from data.
In fact, information, in the economic sense of the word, consists of data which have been passed through a particular human mind and found meaningful within that mental context. One fella’s information is all just data to someone else. If you’re an anthropologist, my detailed charts of Tasaday kinship patterns might be critical information to you. If you’re a banker from Hong Kong, they might barely seem to be data.
Familiarity Has More Value than Scarcity
Gramophone Germany 1930s
Gramophone Germany 1930s
With physical goods, there is a direct correlation between scarcity and value. Gold is more valuable than wheat, even though you can’t eat it. While this is not always the case, the situation with information is often precisely the reverse. Most soft goods increase in value as they become more common. Familiarity is an important asset in the world of information. It may often be true that the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.
While this has not always worked with shareware, it could be argued that there is a connection between the extent to which commercial software is pirated and the amount which gets sold. Broadly pirated software, such as Lotus 1-2-3 or WordPerfect, becomes a standard and benefits from Law of Increasing Returns based on familiarity.
In regard to my own soft product, rock ‘n’ roll songs, there is no question that the band I write them for, the Grateful Dead, has increased its popularity enormously by giving them away. We have been letting people tape our concerts since the early seventies, but instead of reducing the demand for our product, we are now the largest concert draw in America, a fact that is at least in part attributable to the popularity generated by those tapes.
True, I don’t get any royalties on the millions of copies of my songs which have been extracted from concerts, but I see no reason to complain. The fact is, no one but the Grateful Dead can perform a Grateful Dead song, so if you want the experience and not its thin projection, you have to buy a ticket from us. In other words, our intellectual property protection derives from our being the only real-time source of it.
Exclusivity Has Value
The problem with a model that turns the physical scarcity/value ratio on its head is that sometimes the value of information is very much based on its scarcity. Exclusive possession of certain facts makes them more useful. If everyone knows about conditions which might drive a stock price up, the information is valueless.
But again, the critical factor is usually time. It doesn’t matter if this kind of information eventually becomes ubiquitous. What matters is being among the first who possess it and act on it. While potent secrets usually don’t stay secret, they may remain so long enough to advance the cause of their original holders.
Point of View and Authority Have Value
In a world of floating realities and contradictory maps, rewards will accrue to those commentators whose maps seem to fit their territory snugly, based on their ability to yield predictable results for those who use them.
In aesthetic information, whether poetry or rock ‘n’ roll, people are willing to buy the new product of an artist, sight-unseen, based on their having been delivered a pleasurable experience by previous work.
Reality is an edit. People are willing to pay for the authority of those editors whose point of view seems to fit best. And again, point of view is an asset which cannot be stolen or duplicated. No one sees the world as Esther Dyson does, and the handsome fee she charges for her newsletter is actually payment for the privilege of looking at the world through her unique eyes.
Time Replaces Space
In the physical world, value depends heavily on possession or proximity in space. One owns the material that falls inside certain dimensional boundaries. The ability to act directly, exclusively, and as one wishes upon what falls inside those boundaries is the principal right of ownership. The relationship between value and scarcity is a limitation in space.
In the virtual world, proximity in time is a value determinant. An informational product is generally more valuable the closer purchaser can place themselves to the moment of its expression, a limitation in time. Many kinds of information degrade rapidly with either time or reproduction. Relevance fades as the territory they map changes. Noise is introduced and bandwidth lost with passage away from the point where the information is first produced.
Thus, listening to a Grateful Dead tape is hardly the same experience as attending a Grateful Dead concert. The closer one can get to the headwaters of an informational stream, the better one’s chances of finding an accurate picture of reality in it. In an era of easy reproduction, the informational abstractions of popular experiences will propagate out from their source moments to reach anyone who’s interested. But it’s easy enough to restrict the real experience of the desirable event, whether knock-out punch or guitar lick, to those willing to pay for being there.
The Protection of Execution
Zonk Label – East rand Sisters
Zonk Label – East rand Sisters
In the hick town I come from, they don’t give you much credit for just having ideas. You are judged by what you can make of them. As things continue to speed up, I think we see that execution is the best protection for those designs which become physical products. Or, as Steve Jobs once put it, “Real artists ship.” The big winner is usually the one who gets to the market first (and with enough organizational force to keep the lead).
But, as we become fixated upon information commerce, many of us seem to think that originality alone is sufficient to convey value, deserving, with the right legal assurances, of a steady wage. In fact, the best way to protect intellectual property is to act on it. It’s not enough to invent and patent; one has to innovate as well. Someone claims to have patented the microprocessor before Intel. Maybe so. If he’d actually started shipping microprocessors before Intel, his claim would seem far less spurious.
Information as Its Own Reward
It is now a commonplace to say that money is information. With the exception of Krugerrands, crumpled cab fare, and the contents of those suitcases that drug lords are reputed to carry, most of the money in the informatized world is in ones and zeros. The global money supply sloshes around the Net, as fluid as weather. It is also obvious, that information has become as fundamental to the creation of modern wealth as land and sunlight once were.
What is less obvious is the extent to which information is acquiring intrinsic value, not as a means to acquisition but as the object to be acquired. I suppose this has always been less explicitly the case. In politics and academia, potency and information have always been closely related.
However, as we increasingly buy information with money, we begin to see that buying information with other information is simple economic exchange without the necessity of converting the product into and out of currency. This is somewhat challenging for those who like clean accounting, since, information theory aside, informational exchange rates are too squishy to quantify to the decimal point.
Nevertheless, most of what a middle-class American purchases has little to do with survival. We buy beauty, prestige, experience, education, and all the obscure pleasures of owning. Many of these things can not only be expressed in nonmaterial terms, they can be acquired by nonmaterial means.
And then there are the inexplicable pleasures of information itself, the joys of learning, knowing, and teaching; the strange good feeling of information coming into and out of oneself. Playing with ideas is a recreation which people are willing to pay a lot for, given the market for books and elective seminars. We’d likely spend even more money for such pleasures if we didn’t have so many opportunities to pay for ideas with other ideas. This explains much of the collective “volunteer” work which fills the archives, newsgroups, and databases of the Internet. Its denizens are not working for “nothing,” as is widely believed. Rather they are getting paid in something besides money. It is an economy which consists almost entirely of information. This may become the dominant form of human trade, and if we persist in modeling economics on a strictly monetary basis, we may be gravely misled.
Getting Paid in Cyberspace
How all the foregoing relates to solutions to the crisis in intellectual property is something I’ve barely started to wrap my mind around. It’s fairly paradigm warping to look at information through fresh eyes – to see how very little it is like pig iron or pork bellies, and to imagine the tottering travesties of case law we will stack up if we go on legally treating it as though it were.
As I’ve said, I believe these towers of outmoded boilerplate will be a smoking heap sometime in the next decade, and we mind miners will have no choice but to cast our lot with new systems that work.
I’m not really so gloomy about our prospects as readers of this jeremiad so far might conclude. Solutions will emerge. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does commerce.
LM Radio Rocks 1970
LM Radio Rocks 1970
Indeed, one of the aspects of the electronic frontier which I have always found most appealing – and the reason Mitch Kapor and I used that phrase in naming our foundation – is the degree to which it resembles the 19th-century American West in its natural preference for social devices that emerge from its conditions rather than those that are imposed from the outside.
Until the West was fully settled and “civilized” in this century, order was established according to an unwritten Code of the West, which had the fluidity of common law rather than the rigidity of statutes. Ethics were more important than rules. Understandings were preferred over laws, which were, in any event, largely unenforceable.
I believe that law, as we understand it, was developed to protect the interests which arose in the two economic “waves” which Alvin Toffler accurately identified in The Third Wave. The First Wave was agriculturally based and required law to order ownership of the principal source of production, land. In the Second Wave, manufacturing became the economic mainspring, and the structure of modern law grew around the centralized institutions that needed protection for their reserves of capital, labor, and hardware.
Both of these economic systems required stability. Their laws were designed to resist change and to assure some equability of distribution within a fairly static social framework. The empty niches had to be constrained to preserve the predictability necessary to either land stewardship or capital formation.
In the Third Wave we have now entered, information to a large extent replaces land, capital, and hardware, and information is most at home in a much more fluid and adaptable environment. The Third Wave is likely to bring a fundamental shift in the purposes and methods of law which will affect far more than simply those statutes which govern intellectual property.
The “terrain” itself – the architecture of the Net – may come to serve many of the purposes which could only be maintained in the past by legal imposition. For example, it may be unnecessary to constitutionally assure freedom of expression in an environment which, in the words of my fellow EFF co-founder John Gilmore, “treats censorship as a malfunction” and reroutes proscribed ideas around it.
Similar natural balancing mechanisms may arise to smooth over the social discontinuities which previously required legal intercession to set right. On the Net, these differences are more likely to be spanned by a continuous spectrum that connects as much as it separates.
And, despite their fierce grip on the old legal structure, companies that trade in information are likely to find that their increasing inability to deal sensibly with technological issues will not be remedied in the courts, which won’t be capable of producing verdicts predictable enough to be supportive of long-term enterprise. Every litigation will become like a game of Russian roulette, depending on the depth of the presiding judge’s clue-impairment.
Uncodified or adaptive “law,” while as “fast, loose, and out of control” as other emergent forms, is probably more likely to yield something like justice at this point. In fact, one can already see in development new practices to suit the conditions of virtual commerce. The life forms of information are evolving methods to protect their continued reproduction.
For example, while all the tiny print on a commercial diskette envelope punctiliously requires a great deal of those who would open it, few who read those provisos follow them to the letter. And yet, the software business remains a very healthy sector of the American economy.
Why is this? Because people seem to eventually buy the software they really use. Once a program becomes central to your work, you want the latest version of it, the best support, the actual manuals, all privileges attached to ownership. Such practical considerations will, in the absence of working law, become more and more important in getting paid for what might easily be obtained for nothing.
I do think that some software is being purchased in the service of ethics or the abstract awareness that the failure to buy it will result in its not being produced any longer, but I’m going to leave those motivators aside. While I believe that the failure of law will almost certainly result in a compensating re-emergence of ethics as the ordering template of society, this is a belief I don’t have room to support here.
Instead, I think that, as in the case cited above, compensation for soft products will be driven primarily by practical considerations, all of them consistent with the true properties of digital information, where the value lies in it, and how it can be both manipulated and protected by technology.
While the conundrum remains a conundrum, I can begin to see the directions from which solutions may emerge, based in part on broadening those practical solutions which are already in practice.
Relationship and Its Tools
I believe one idea is central to understanding liquid commerce: Information economics, in the absence of objects, will be based more on relationship than possession.
One existing model for the future conveyance of intellectual property is real-time performance, a medium currently used only in theater, music, lectures, stand-up comedy, and pedagogy. I believe the concept of performance will expand to include most of the information economy, from multicasted soap operas to stock analysis. In these instances, commercial exchange will be more like ticket sales to a continuous show than the purchase of discrete bundles of that which is being shown.
The other existing, model, of course, is service. The entire professional class – doctors, lawyers, consultants, architects, and so on – are already being paid directly for their intellectual property. Who needs copyright when you’re on a retainer?
In fact, until the late 18th century this model was applied to much of what is now copyrighted. Before the industrialization of creation, writers, composers, artists, and the like produced their products in the private service of patrons. Without objects to distribute in a mass market, creative people will return to a condition somewhat like this, except that they will serve many patrons, rather than one.
We can already see the emergence of companies which base their existence on supporting and enhancing the soft property they create rather than selling it by the shrink-wrapped piece or embedding it in widgets.
Trip Hawkins’s new company for creating and licensing multimedia tools, 3DO, is an example of what I’m talking about. 3DO doesn’t intend to produce any commercial software or consumer devices. Instead, it will act as a kind of private standards setting body, mediating among software and device creators who will be their licensees. It will provide a point of commonality for relationships between a broad spectrum of entities.
In any case, whether you think of yourself as a service provider or a performer, the future protection of your intellectual property will depend on your ability to control your relationship to the market – a relationship which will most likely live and grow over a period of time.
The value of that relationship will reside in the quality of performance, the uniqueness of your point of view, the validity of your expertise, its relevance to your market, and, underlying everything, the ability of that market to access your creative services swiftly, conveniently, and interactively.
Interaction and Protection
Cheyenne Protecting our Intellectual Property
Cheyenne Protecting our Intellectual Property
Direct interaction will provide a lot of intellectual property protection in the future, and, indeed, already has. No one knows how many software pirates have bought legitimate copies of a program after calling its publisher for technical support and offering some proof of purchase, but I would guess the number is very high.
The same kind of controls will be applicable to “question and answer” relationships between authorities (or artists) and those who seek their expertise. Newsletters, magazines, and books will be supplemented by the ability of their subscribers to ask direct questions of authors.
Interactivity will be a billable commodity even in the absence of authorship. As people move into the Net and increasingly get their information directly from its point of production, unfiltered by centralized media, they will attempt to develop the same interactive ability to probe reality that only experience has provided them in the past. Live access to these distant “eyes and ears” will be much easier to cordon than access to static bundles of stored but easily reproducible information.
In most cases, control will be based on restricting access to the freshest, highest bandwidth information. It will be a matter of defining the ticket, the venue, the performer, and the identity of the ticket holder, definitions which I believe will take their forms from technology, not law. In most cases, the defining technology will be cryptography.
Cryptography, as I’ve said perhaps too many times, is the “material” from which the walls, boundaries – and bottles – of cyberspace will be fashioned.
Josephine Baker 1930s
Josephine Baker 1930s
Of course there are problems with cryptography or any other purely technical method of property protection. It has always appeared to me that the more security you hide your goods behind, the more likely you are to turn your sanctuary into a target. Having come from a place where people leave their keys in their cars and don’t even have keys to their houses, I remain convinced that the best obstacle to crime is a society with its ethics intact.
While I admit that this is not the kind of society most of us live in, I also believe that a social over reliance on protection by barricades rather than conscience will eventually wither the latter by turning intrusion and theft into a sport, rather than a crime. This is already occurring in the digital domain as is evident in the activities of computer crackers.
Furthermore, I would argue that initial efforts to protect digital copyright by copy protection contributed to the current condition in which most otherwise ethical computer users seem morally untroubled by their possession of pirated software.
Instead of cultivating among the newly computerized a sense of respect for the work of their fellows, early reliance on copy protection led to the subliminal notion that cracking into a software package somehow “earned” one the right to use it. Limited not by conscience but by technical skill, many soon felt free to do whatever they could get away with. This will continue to be a potential liability of the encryption of digitized commerce.
Furthermore, it’s cautionary to remember that copy protection was rejected by the market in most areas. Many of the upcoming efforts to use cryptography-based protection schemes will probably suffer the same fate. People are not going to tolerate much that makes computers harder to use than they already are without any benefit to the user.
Nevertheless, encryption has already demonstrated a certain blunt utility. New subscriptions to various commercial satellite TV services skyrocketed recently after their deployment of more robust encryption of their feeds. This, despite a booming backwoods trade in black decoder chips, conducted by folks who’d look more at home running moonshine than cracking code.
Another obvious problem with encryption as a global solution is that once something has been unscrambled by a legitimate licensee, it may be available to massive reproduction.
In some instances, reproduction following decryption may not be a problem. Many soft products degrade sharply in value with time. It may be that the only real interest in such products will be among those who have purchased the keys to immediacy.
Furthermore, as software becomes more modular and distribution moves online, it will begin to metamorphose in direct interaction with its user base. Discontinuous upgrades will smooth into a constant process of incremental improvement and adaptation, some of it manmade and some of it arising through genetic algorithms. Pirated copies of software may become too static to have much value to anyone.
Even in cases such as images, where the information is expected to remain fixed, the unencrypted file could still be interwoven with code which could continue to protect it by a wide variety of means.
In most of the schemes I can project, the file would be “alive” with permanently embedded software that could “sense” the surrounding conditions and interact with them. For example, it might contain code that could detect the process of duplication and cause it to self-destruct.
Cheyenne & Miranda talk in Tongues
Cheyenne & Miranda talk in Tongues
Other methods might give the file the ability to “phone home” through the Net to its original owner. The continued integrity of some files might require periodic “feeding” with digital cash from their host, which they would then relay back to their authors.
Of course files that possess the independent ability to communicate upstream sound uncomfortably like the Morris Internet Worm. “Live” files do have a certain viral quality. And serious privacy issues would arise if everyone’s computer were packed with digital spies.
The point is that cryptography will enable protection technologies that will develop rapidly in the obsessive competition that has always existed between lock-makers and lock-breakers.
But cryptography will not be used simply for making locks. It is also at the heart of both digital signatures and the aforementioned digital cash, both of which I believe will be central to the future protection of intellectual property.
I believe that the generally acknowledged failure of the shareware model in software had less to do with dishonesty than with the simple inconvenience of paying for shareware. If the payment process can be automated, as digital cash and signature will make possible, I believe that soft product creators will reap a much higher return from the bread they cast upon the waters of cyberspace.
Moreover, they will be spared much of the overhead presently attached to the marketing, manufacture, sales, and distribution of information products, whether those products are computer programs, books, CDs, or motion pictures. This will reduce prices and further increase the likelihood of noncompulsory payment.
But of course there is a fundamental problem with a system that requires, through technology, payment for every access to a particular expression. It defeats the original Jeffersonian purpose of seeing that ideas were available to everyone regardless of their economic station. I am not comfortable with a model that will restrict inquiry to the wealthy.
An Economy of Verbs
Sketch by David Marks
Sketch by David Marks
©(p) 3rd Ear Music 1985.
The future forms and protections of intellectual property are densely obscured at this entrance to the Virtual Age. Nevertheless, I can make (or reiterate) a few flat statements that I earnestly believe won’t look too silly in 50 years.
In the absence of the old containers, almost everything we think we know about intellectual property is wrong. We’re going to have to unlearn it. We’re going to have to look at information as though we’d never seen the stuff before.
The protections that we will develop will rely far more on ethics and technology than on law. Encryption will be the technical basis for most intellectual property protection. (And should, for many reasons, be made more widely available.)
The economy of the future will be based on relationship rather than possession. It will be continuous rather than sequential.
And finally, in the years to come, most human exchange will be virtual rather than physical, consisting not of stuff but the stuff of which dreams are made. Our future business will be conducted in a world made more of verbs than nouns.
The Economy of Ideas
A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age
(Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.) By John Perry Barlow
previously published on the web here: http://www.3rdearmusic.com/forum/forumfeb03/copyright.html
One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet–not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I want to write like a white poet”; meaning subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet”; meaning behind that, “I would like to be white.” And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself. And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet. But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America–this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.
But let us look at the immediate background of this young poet. His family is of what I suppose one would call the Negro middle class: people who are by no means rich yet never uncomfortable nor hungry–smug, contented, respectable folk, members of the Baptist church. The father goes to work every morning. He is a chief steward at a large white club. The mother sometimes does fancy sewing or supervises parties for the rich families of the town. The children go to a mixed school. In the home they read white papers and magazines. And the mother often says “Don’t be like niggers” when the children are bad. A frequent phrase from the father is, “Look how well a white man does things.” And so the word white comes to be unconsciously a symbol of all virtues. It holds for the children beauty, morality, and money. The whisper of “I want to be white” runs silently through their minds. This young poet’s home is, I believe, a fairly typical home of the colored middle class. One sees immediately how difficult it would be for an artist born in such a home to interest himself in interpreting the beauty of his own people. He is never taught to see that beauty. He is taught rather not to see it, or if he does, to be ashamed of it when it is not according to Caucasian patterns.
For racial culture the home of a self-styled “high-class” Negro has nothing better to offer. Instead there will perhaps be more aping of things white than in a less cultured or less wealthy home. The father is perhaps a doctor, lawyer, landowner, or politician. The mother may be a social worker, or a teacher, or she may do nothing and have a maid. Father is often dark but he has usually married the lightest woman he could find. The family attend a fashionable church where few really colored faces are to be found. And they themselves draw a color line. In the North they go to white theaters and white movies. And in the South they have at least two cars and house “like white folks.” Nordic manners, Nordic faces, Nordic hair, Nordic art (if any), and an Episcopal heaven. A very high mountain indeed for the would-be racial artist to climb in order to discover himself and his people.
But then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority—may the Lord be praised! The people who have their hip of gin on Saturday nights and are not too important to themselves or the community, or too well fed, or too learned to watch the lazy world go round. They live on Seventh Street in Washington or State Street in Chicago and they do not particularly care whether they are like white folks or anybody else. Their joy runs, bang! into ecstasy. Their religion soars to a shout. Work maybe a little today, rest a little tomorrow. Play awhile. Sing awhile. 0, let’s dance! These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardizations. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself. Whereas the better-class Negro would tell the artist what to do, the people at least let him alone when he does appear. And they are not ashamed of him–if they know he exists at all. And they accept what beauty is their own without question.
Certainly there is, for the American Negro artist who can escape the restrictions the more advanced among his own group would put upon him, a great field of unused material ready for his art. Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their “white” culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient matter to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work. And when he chooses to touch on the relations between Negroes and whites in this country, with their innumerable overtones and undertones surely, and especially for literature and the drama, there is an inexhaustible supply of themes at hand. To these the Negro artist can give his racial individuality, his heritage of rhythm and warmth, and his incongruous humor that so often, as in the Blues, becomes ironic laughter mixed with tears. But let us look again at the mountain.
A prominent Negro clubwoman in Philadelphia paid eleven dollars to hear Raquel Meller sing Andalusian popular songs. But she told me a few weeks before she would not think of going to hear “that woman,” Clara Smith, a great black artist, sing Negro folksongs. And many an upper -class Negro church, even now, would not dream of employing a spiritual in its services. The drab melodies in white folks’ hymnbooks are much to be preferred. “We want to worship the Lord correctly and quietly. We don’t believe in ‘shouting.’ Let’s be dull like the Nordics,” they say, in effect.
The road for the serious black artist, then, who would produce a racial art is most certainly rocky and the mountain is high. Until recently he received almost no encouragement for his work from either white or colored people. The fine novels of Chesnutt’ go out of print with neither race noticing their passing. The quaint charm and humor of Dunbar’s’ dialect verse brought to him, in his day, largely the same kind of encouragement one would give a sideshow freak (A colored man writing poetry! How odd!) or a clown (How amusing!).
The present vogue in things Negro, although it may do as much harm as good for the budding artist, has at least done this: it has brought him forcibly to the attention of his own people among whom for so long, unless the other race had noticed him beforehand, he was a prophet with little honor.
The Negro artist works against an undertow of sharp criticism and misunderstanding from his own group and unintentional bribes from the whites. “Oh, be respectable, write about nice people, show how good we are,” say the Negroes. “Be stereotyped, don’t go too far, don’t shatter our illusions about you, don’t amuse us too seriously. We will pay you,” say the whites. Both would have told Jean Toomer not to write Cane. The colored people did not praise it. The white people did not buy it. Most of the colored people who did read Cane hate it. They are afraid of it. Although the critics gave it good reviews the public remained indifferent. Yet (excepting the work of Du Bois) Cane contains the finest prose written by a Negro in America. And like the singing of Robeson, it is truly racial.
But in spite of the Nordicized Negro intelligentsia and the desires of some white editors we have an honest American Negro literature already with us. Now I await the rise of the Negro theater. Our folk music, having achieved world-wide fame, offers itself to the genius of the great individual American composer who is to come. And within the next decade I expect to see the work of a growing school of colored artists who paint and model the beauty of dark faces and create with new technique the expressions of their own soul-world. And the Negro dancers who will dance like flame and the singers who will continue to carry our songs to all who listen-they will be with us in even greater numbers tomorrow.
Most of my own poems are racial in theme and treatment, derived from the life I know. In many of them I try to grasp and hold some of the meanings and rhythms of jazz. I am as sincere as I know how to be in these poems and yet after every reading I answer questions like these from my own people: Do you think Negroes should always write about Negroes? I wish you wouldn’t read some of your poems to white folks. How do you find anything interesting in a place like a cabaret? Why do you write about black people? You aren’t black. What makes you do so many jazz poems?
But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul–the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile. Yet the Philadelphia clubwoman is ashamed to say that her race created it and she does not like me to write about it, The old subconscious “white is best” runs through her mind. Years of study under white teachers, a lifetime of white books, pictures, and papers, and white manners, morals, and Puritan standards made her dislike the spirituals. And now she turns up her nose at jazz and all its manifestations–likewise almost everything else distinctly racial.
She doesn’t care for the Winold Reiss’ portraits of Negroes because they are “too Negro.” She does not want a true picture of herself from anybody. She wants the artist to flatter her, to make the white world believe that all negroes are as smug and as near white in soul as she wants to be. But, to my mind, it is the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering “I want to be white,” hidden in the aspirations of his people, to “Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro–and beautiful”?
So I am ashamed for the black poet who says, “I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” as though his own racial world were not as interesting as any other world. I am ashamed, too, for the colored artist who runs from the painting of Negro faces to the painting of sunsets after the manner of the academicians because he fears the strange unwhiteness of his own features. An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he must choose.
Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing the Blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near intellectuals until they listen and perhaps understand. Let Paul Robeson singing “Water Boy,” and Rudolph Fisher writing about the streets of Harlem, and Jean Toomer holding the heart of Georgia in his hands, and Aaron Douglas’s drawing strange black fantasies cause the smug Negro middle class to turn from their white, respectable, ordinary books and papers to catch a glimmer of their own beauty. We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.
THE NATION, 1926
published on the web here: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/mountain.htm
Thank you for sharing yet another short film with me. It forms an interesting sequence to “My Face Goes Here”. I enjoyed how the “reverse” technique has been used in the footage. It works well with the protest images of civil rights movements, particularly those depicting the Black Panther movement and Malcolm X, the most militant components of that era. Underground hip hop is synonymous with some form of militancy, and taking the viewer back to the political militancy of the Black Panther era has resonance with the movement of hip hop, I think. As Ben Sharpa rightfully says, [hip hop] has evolved over the years. Perhaps that is why the “reversing footage” has relevant resonance with evolution i.e. politics and music. Perhaps that is why I would have appreciated to have some footage of pioneering hip hop artists incorporated in the film, in order to show the relationship underground hip hop in particular, has had with politics. Hip Hop acts like the NWA (Niggers With Attitude) among others released song/s that captured some of the attitudes that hip hop acts and perhaps communities have had towards the police. The inclusion of similar pioneering acts in the film may have added a vital element of this music and its culture; considering that the genre itself emerged from the US, where the very civil rights movement was most vibrant.
Talking of the Black Panther movement; I appreciate the use of the footage where a man writes “state” on the police vehicle, under the word “police”, hence the resulting message “police state” becomes relevant to many aspects of our history and perhaps the present. Here one remembers horrific incidents like the brutal assault of Rodney King by the police; the killing of Black Panther’s Fred Hampton allegedly by the police; the killing of Andries Tatane and the mass murder of miners at Marikana by the South African police force. Are we living in police states? These incidents and others that may have not seen the light suggest so. And maybe that is why hip hop has been instrumental in denouncing acts of police violence and other ills of the society, despite its own flare of violence as witnessed in the East and West Coast rap wars that resulted in fatalities such as the killing of Tupac Shakur, allegedly by rival hip hop acts.
I think Ben Sharpa’s words regarding the evolution of hip hop or rap are a testament to the resilience of this genre of music that continues to grow its audience. The genre has managed to enjoy great commercial success worldwide to the happiness and dismay of its followers and musicians alike. While one group celebrates this success, another feels that the integrity of the music may have been dissolved by the commercial success. The so-called underground hip hop artists feel the popular form of this music has lost its social and political advocacy. But this is something I should not allow to take my attention away from your film.
The recurring “theme” works well in this film too. The monochromic image of Ben Sharpa along with the words “I am Ben Sharpa” that he utters, work well and may be revealing some truths about some culture of hip hop. It is known that hip hop or rap artists take pride in their stage names and use them often in the music as a means of asserting themselves and claiming a kind of sound they want to be associated with. And your editing in how the artist’s image and assertion blends with the culture of hip hop is wonderfully done. And of course there is that ending I like very much, “Papa was a what?” which Ben Sharpa utters, to which you cleverly respond by incorporating the Rolling Stones logo in the film.
I enjoyed this one too. Thank you.
For a number of years I have been focusing [ Bio-mechanical studies ] relating to mobility of vehicular traffic and relating the motions to human mobility – it involves obtaining data by recording traffic mobility, mathematics , and psychoanalysis . The equations that I produce are translatable into musical notation.Its a long and tedious process but rewarding because you can do so much more by involving mathematics, physical and biological sciences , psychology and computer programing in composing.
I am for example busy for 2 years with a vocal piece :Produced through TTS singing and speech synthesis totally artificial which based on vehicular travelling motion and overtaking- studying and examining travelling motion, overtaking principles in a multilane uni-directional system and inspecting phantom cluster formations in traffic – were clusters occur but just like a platoon the vehicles do not stop but carry on moving at a reduced speed [after peak hours] – resulting in warped concertina formation that produce fascinating aural results when translated into sound.
Oh,on the 25th of May at 11h00 at the Sasol Museum in Stellenbosch I am featured on Gesticular Cena 8 an 8 minute work from 2006 written for the projekt-insitu [French] company. see if you are in the area and catch a glimpse
17 April 2013 Rose*, one of the two victims from Monday night’s violent assault by members of the Jewish Community Security Organization has revealed that Mr Zev Krengel, the President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), was present and also involved in the violent assault of herself and her colleague. During a counselling session yesterday afternoon, Rose identified Mr Zev Krengel as one of the approximately 10 people present in the parking lot of Gold Reef City in Johannesburg where she was physically assaulted by security personnel belonging to the Jewish CSO. “The Jewish CSO members”, Rose explains, “had my hands tied with cables, my face forced on the ground and would forcibly lift my head up by my hair so that the man wearing a checkered shirt could take photos of my face with his cellphone camera. This happened several times”. Rose later identified Krengel as the man with the “checkered shirt.”
Shereen Usdin, a Jewish member of BDS South Africa commented: “Its appalling that a leader of any community, including the Jewish community, may have been involved in such acts of violence and intimidation. As a Jewish person, I support the young protesters who are pursuing charges against the perpetrators and the CSO.”
South African activists are pressing charges against the South African Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO), the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) for the recent violent assault of two young women Palestine solidarity protesters (including the daughter of a senior member from South Africa’s largest trade union federation, COSATU) . One Palestine solidarity protester was left in a state of concussion due to the assault injuries (see: www.bdssouthafrica.com/2011/04/press-release-jewish-security.html ) * The victim wishes to remain anonymous as she is in fear of her life. Rose is a pseudonym. (To arrange a telephonic interview with Rose or one of the other victims you can contact Muhammed Desai on 0842119988)
On Monday night supporters of Israel held a music concert to celebrate Israeli Independence Day at Gold Reef City Casino in Johannesburg, which was organized by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) had insisted on arranging their own security (the “Jewish Community Security Organization”) instead of allowing either Gold Reef City Casino or the South African Police Services (SAPS) to perform the role of safety and security for the Israeli event. Palestinian protesters contested that the Israeli celebration was essentially a “celebration of murder, expulsion and continued Israeli oppression against the indigenous Palestinian people” and arranged a picket outside the venue where over 250 members from COSATU, the SA Students Congress, BDS South Africa and several other civil society organizations were present. In addition, young activists (mostly women students) had also bought tickets, made their way into the venue of the Israeli event and partook in a direct-action Greenpeace-like protest where they released bad smelling “stinky-bombs” and wore T-shirts that read “Israeli Apartheid Stinks” in luminous green writing. During the direct-action protest inside Gold Reef City, two young women protesters were violently assaulted by the Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO) including having their hands tied with cables, their faces covered and their heads smashed into the parking lot’s concrete paving. Other protesters were forcibly thrown down escalators and one protester was locked into a passageway where he was repeatedly and simultaneously kicked in the stomach by more than five Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO) personnel – he later suffered a concussion. Members of the Jewish community attending the event also punched a woman protester in the face several times resulting in a serious swelling injury. Charges against the Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO), the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) include:
– Smashing the heads of two young women protesters into the concrete paving of the Gold Reef City Casino parking lot; – Illegally restraining the young protesters with cable ties and leaving them with their heads covered in the Gold Reef City parking lot; – Locking a protester into a passage way, throwing him to the ground and then instructing over five security personnel to kick the protester, which resulted in a state of concussion; – Throwing two young women protesters down escalators resulting in several body bruises, including a badly injured leg; – Forcibly hurling several women protesters onto walls; – Verbally abusing the young protesters, including threatening to “find them” and “kill them”; – In addition, a charge of theft will be laid against the Jewish CSO, the SAJBD and the SAZF for having illegally confiscated cellphones and other possessions from the protesters.
ISSUED BY MUHAMMED DESAI BDS SOUTH AFRICA SPOKESPERSON: 084 211 9988
Country Conquerors are an Afrikaans medium reggae band based in Heuwelkroon, an area located between Greyton and Genadendal.
Their distinctive brand of reggae is a syncretic fusion of classic seventies “one-drop” style with a more frenetic, jaggedy rhythm that is native to the Western Cape. This goema flavour gives their reggae a charming, genuine quality that is completely their own. The fusion of goema and reggae in fact makes them often sound more like an early sixties Jamaican ska band although they claim never to have heard any ska. From a musicological perspective this already is good enough reason to record their catalogue of compositions but the interest is exacerbated when one realizes that they are the only Afrikaans medium reggae band in the country. Unlike most reggae bands who always sing in English or patois, the Country Conquerors have retained their mother tongue for their songs and therefore they provide a unique example of how music styles and languages cross-pollinate deep into the countryside.
The band is a six piece, comprising drums, electric bass, electric guitar, keyboards and two vocalists.
I have been in a bit of a dip myself after the elation that I felt last two weeks ago during the Country Conquerors’ recording session.
The truth is that all I really want to do is be around music whilst it is being made. When I sit in on the rehearsals it is just like drinking a magic potion. As the structure of a song emerges from the chaotic jam so I feel healed. Six men in a room finding a song. It really is the source of energy, of magic, of life. I love being in that atmosphere, where the invisible becomes visible, the unheard becomes heard, where all that is underneath the surface skein of perception suddenly materializes and is made evident. I used to have this with my own poetry, and writing, but that phase seems truly over now. Thus it is only at the remove of observer status that I can live again. I realized this all in the days after the glow of the recording session. The magic has left my own creative impulse. It may come back. It certainly cannot be forced to, there are no inducements.
17 april 2013
“I don’t write the music,” says Thandiswa Mazwai. “I receive the music and sing it how it wants to be sung. The music comes from the universe, from that collective consciousness [and] memory, the conversations that we all have with the past, and the future and the present. In my mind those voices speak Xhosa. As an instrument to the music, I have to keep the music’s integrity.”.
watch it here: http://www.rollingstone.co.za/musicrev/item/2296-short-film-on-thandiswa-mazwai-qmy-face-goes-hereq
entirely self-taught, the country conquerors drummer is a musical prodigy!
recorded at stellenbosch university on saturday 23 march 2013
recording engineer is albert duplesis
wayne sampson is on drums and vocals
if you would like to book taswill for piano concerts, or book the country conquerors reggae band, contact marshall rinquest – firstname.lastname@example.org
Headlining the Easter Festivities @ the Bluff Yacht Club on Saturday 30 March was Durban’s dance Rock Electronica band Rise. It was a surprise to discover the Bluff Yacht Club as an idyllic oasis nestled amongst the core of Durban’s heavy pantechnicons and crate carrying trucks to and from the cargo holds of freight ships. The predicted rain backed off and the evening turned out to be a no-wind perfect out-door late summer event!
Opening the set was acoustic guitarist Tony Liddel. Tony has an ease of presence and good command of his cover material. A Crowded House and U2 fan, he soon had the audience relaxed and singing along! It would be wondrous to catch him singing his own material.
The last time I saw Rise perform was at Origin about two years ago at the launch of “Water on Canvas” when the line-up consisted of Martin McHale (DJ, programming), Kerry Wood (lead singer) and Colin Peddie (guitars, backing vocals). They have since notched up huge successes playing massive outdoor events and festivals. However, Martin (ex 330) has left the band and has turned his energies into managing the direction of Origin Nightclub. Filling this huge and difficult gap with aplomb is Donna Peddie (keyboards, backing vocals, percussion (including drum pad) and Dan Wilson (bass). Dan was absent from this Bluff gig as he was at Splashy supporting featured guest artist, Ant Cawthorn-Blazeby.
Rise has progressed to become the premier dance Electronica band of Durban…if not SA….and have rocketed their way into the ever present with their growing innovation, their layered musical constructions that overlap and extend the depth of the aural experience taking the discerning listener into an exciting multi-dimensional territory. Delving into this most important yet largely neglected base (within the average S.A. band) has had a profound effect on Rise’s confidence. With perfect vocal pitch and texture Kerry has thus been freed to spread her wings more broadly, allowing her voice to play with the instruments and richness presented, all of which decisively matches her gift at every level. Added to this, Kerry has a performance energy of unpretentious earthiness and drive and she is exuberance personified. At this gig she had the audience begging for more…and more…and more….
Colin’s guitar work startles! Taking the jangly bits of the Cure influences and mixing it with the driving rhythms of the best of New Order he has found a sound unique to Rise. This live version of ‘All We Have Is Now’ was electrifying! In the highly competitive world music scenario this transformation is no mean feat and it would be interesting to see if this groundbreaking work becomes the well earned stepping stone towards an international stage.
Of deep import too have been the subtle yet compulsive melodies of Donna’s discoveries, and her percussive range wings a relationship within the rhythms that are inventive and fresh. She is quiet and unassuming yet displays great strength and focus.
The expansive, inclusive lyrics (“Be The Change” still seems largely under-rated in my humble opinion!) gives body to their work enabling the band to find an important niche in the current politico/social context. “Pop Tart” has been cleverly contextualised to deliver a decisive blow to the shallow meanderings of the corporate music scene by surrendering completely with the pay-off line: ”I believe all the lies…” and deserves to be their next big hit!
Rise is rock solid! They have transcended their respective influences and are creating a unique contribution to the South African music scene.
I could not agree more with a fan statement on Reverbnation: “There are no borders in music when looking for beauty. Feel the beauty of music forever.” Respect and support from I&SON.
Buy their album: “Water on Canvass!” Support their live performances! You will be uplifted and energised!
A live album surely would be the next best thing!
Lou Gottini (0824589653) booking agent and general manager.
Nick Zedd is a revolutionary filmmaker, writer, painter, actor, political satirist , journalist and First Minister of Protocol for the Cinema of Transgression, a movement he spearheaded in New York 25 years ago and whose reverberations are still being felt across the globe.
Using multiple pseudonyms, Zedd edited and published the groundbreaking UNDERGROUND FILM BULLETIN from 1984 to 1990, hand coloring the covers of each issue, adorned with portraits he drew of local eminences within.
On the pages of this hand xeroxed “crudzine” Zedd penned the Cinema of Transgression Manifesto and invented a forum for the most scathing and subversive ideas emerging from the avant garde of that time.
Zedd is considered a genius for formulating a strategy of subversion that empowered a group of guerilla filmmakers to circumvent the institutional indifference of dominant culture and “the censorship of omission” corrupting communication s through “the shared hallucination of consensus reality” by organizing an insurgency and creating a new media to document it. In the process he introduced the “transgression” meme that has so dominated critical thought in our culture for the last quarter century.
Through the vehicle of innovative movies like his two-screen WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY and low budget 16mm gems like ECSTASY IN ENTROPY, Zedd employs shock value in the service of xenomorphosis, a term he coined to describe what happens when the “domain wall of an alternate universe smashes your reality tunnel and neurological re-engineering occurs.” In these films a “union of opposites” provokes cognitive dissonance or atavism causing viewers and participants to change from within.
“Alienating myself in complete darkness to the abstract world of Nick Zedd’s bewildering pornography, I had a vision, and here’s what I saw: Plagues being dispensed at a hasty rate, sort of like a gushing bang from a hot spring geyser, or an ejaculating dick. About the time I’m viewing a tongue twirling around a tit with two nipples, the prophecy of deformity from man-made clones appears rather vividly. Blood dripping from a slit wrist, mostly onto the mildew caked floor, made me conclude that unexpected death and nuclear warfare are the least of our worries from human negligence. Nick Zedd has purposely portrayed that he is not a director. He is more of a prophet, clearly depicting his visions for the views of humanity,” stated Chase Spring in Sleazegrinder.
“Nick Zedd makes violent, perverted art films from Hell- he’s my kind of director!” – John Waters
“There is a tremendous energy and unbound, uninhibited imagination present in his work…forbidden, maybe even evil, perverted, ungodly,” said Jonas Mekas.
It is this mind blowing experience of viewing his films, described in Zedd’s Theory of Xenomorphosis that has created a legion of followers among a far flung cognoscenti, as well as a plethora of critical appreciations: (DEATHTRIPPING by Jack Sargeant, ART THAT KILLS by George Petros and the documentaries NO AGE NEW YORK, LLIK YOUR IDOLS and BLANK CITY all explore the influence of Zedd’s insurgent , satanic, hedonistic and hermetic work.)
Combining forces with Henry Rollins (who published his autobiography TOTEM OF THE DEPRAVED), Richard Kern (with whom he co-directed and starred in THRUST IN ME) ; Sonic Youth (for the soundtrack of WHOREGASM); Lydia Lunch (THE WILD WORLD OF LYDIA LUNCH); Richard Hell (GEEK MAGGOT BINGO); Annie Sprinkle, Taylor Mead and Rev Jen in the cable TV series ELECTRA ELF; and collaborating with the latter in the making of such spoofs as LORD OF THE COCK RINGS and I WAS A QUALITY OF LIFE VIOLATION, Nick Zedd has produced a magic theatre for our time while eluding the critical scrutiny of newspapers, schools, museums, galleries, magazines and mainstream media for decades. He is a people’s auteur.
“Nick Zedd’s films are legendary—he is a truly seminal figure in the New York underground. Now we have his first book, (Totem of the Depraved) and I recommend it to anyone interested in the rough underside of our overly processed culture.” – Jim Jarmusch
In his under-the-radar status as an intentional amateur making new discoveries, Zedd produced such uncompromising work as a film version of Nietsche’s THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA and a DV short entitled TOM THUMB that clearly influenced a feature by Pedro Almadovar.
Other films bearing the influence of Zedd include Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant and a Pizza Hut commercial that ripped off a shot of a guy being run over by a giant cheese ball from an episode of ELECTRA ELF.
Zedd’s outspoken analysis of existence has made him both a pariah and a visionary to many, especially in the post 9-11 era of conformity and mass deception.
“As consumers we are being daily subjected to a gigantic Simulation, designed by a global elite to strip us of our autonomy through mental addiction to social networking sites, reality television, sporting events and false political struggles with preordained outcomes reinforcing a cosmetically changing status quo. Through the ingestion of disinformation we’ve become victims of the science of mind control in which we appear to make our own decisions interactively while unknowingly being subjected to useless distractions from increasingly diverse sources, enabling us to feel united with unseen friends on websites designed to monitor our preferences and reinforce the illusion of personal freedom. The end result of this massive, near religious embrace of information siphoned thru computer screens is a passive population kept off the streets (except to work and purchase products,) politically castrated yet content ed through adoration of leader icons (actors, politicians, singers, models, sports figures and other pawns of corporate sponsors and unseen puppet masters,)” says Zedd.
As an authentic dissident, Zedd has paid an enormous price, operating between the cracks in a virtual underground, demonized or hidden by a dominant culture terrified of genuine revolt.
Film textbooks in Italy feature Zedd on their covers. Filmmakers in Turkey and Brazil send him fan mail. Books have been published in England about him, and yet Zedd insists he is not actually famous.
“That only happens when people’s mothers know who you are.”
In a rare anomaly, Zedd presented a retrospective of films one night at the Museum of Modern Art in 1989.
“I was shocked that the auditorium was full of people. The audience was even more shocked once they saw my films.”
A print of one of his most powerful movies, POLICE STATE is in the permanent collection of MOMA.
Included in Zedd’s “greatest hits” dvd ABNORMAL, POLICE STATE tells the story of a rebellious kid picked up on the streets of the Lower East Side by an overeager cop played by the late Willoughby Sharp. At a local precinct , the kid (Zedd) meets a rotating clutch of sadistic cops played by Attica vet Flip Crowley and the late Rockets Redglare who engage him in a frightening and hilarious series of tests designed to destroy his mind.
A black comedy addressing police brutality, POLICE STATE cemented Zedd’s reputation as a true anarchist and political satirist prior to the infamous Tompkins Square police riots that devastated the community and helped forge a short lived resistance to government sponsored gentrification on the Lower East Side. Around this time, Zedd forged an alliance with squatters and broke into an empty building to establish one of the local homesteads that survive to this day as an alternative to the feudal system of landlordism that oppresses millions of people in capitalist countries. Zedd has identified predatory capitalism, state terrorism, corporate globalization and landlordism as the main sources of oppression to be overcome by revolutionary means.
Other filmmakers have solicited Zedd to appear in their movies. He has acted in SUBMIT TO ME NOW, WHAT ABOUT ME (co-starring Johnny Thunders, Dee Dee Ramone, Richard Hell & Gregory Corso), SHADOWS IN THE CITY (co-starring Jack Smith, Emile DeAntonio and Kembra Pfahler), JONAS IN THE DESERT (co-starring Blixa Bargeld and Nina Hagen) and many others.
Zedd’s writing is featured in the anthologies Low Rent, Captured, Up Is Up But So Is Down, Underground USA, No Such Thing as a Free Ride (A Collection of Hitchhiking Tales) and Radium (from Sweden.)
Collections of his movies include STEAL THIS VIDEO (released by Film Threat in the 90’s), ABNORMAL: THE SINEMA OF NICK ZEDD (Rubric, 2001), GEEK MAGGOT BINGO, WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY and GENERATION Z (all on MVD).
A 4 disc boxed set of Zedd’s television series THE ADVENTURES OF ELECTRA ELF will be released by MVD in April.
Zedd briefly fronted a “noise unit” called ZYKLON B in 1999/2000 making digital hardcore music, and released a single on Rubric Records entitled CONSUME OR DIE which has since become a valuable collectors item.
In the last two years Zedd has reinvented himself as a painter and clothing designer, selling custom made hoodies, t-shirts, and skirts online and occasionally in stores. Current designs can be purchased at his website nickzedd.com which also features his writing and videos for sale.
My first encounter with Nick Zedd took place one night in the basement of a rock n’ roll club on Eldridge where my friend Isabell’s band was scheduled to play. In between acts, his startling movies were being projected onto a screen in front of the stage, depicting a nude woman painted orange having sex with an octopus.
Shots of deformed fetuses preceded a montage of war casualties; images of living soldiers with half their faces blown off; the kind of clinical examination that is strictly taboo on television, movies and most of the world wide web on the grounds of “bad taste.” In truth, such prohibitions can be attributed to the fact that war is a profitable enterprise for the arms industry, private security firms and robber barons who control the content of all corporate media.
(Perpetual war for perpetual peace must never be questioned by the masses.)
Intrigued by the avalanche of images jumping off the screen in violation of an unspoken edict that in all public places one must “get stupid” “go with the program” and “don’t worry, be happy,” I approached the tall, thin projectionist dressed in a black blazer and pink ruffled shirt and requested an interview. To my relief, he agreed.
Q: When did you start making films and what was your first one?
A: In 1979 I made a feature in Super-8 called THEY EAT SCUM, followed the next year by a short called THE BOGUS MAN that dealt with a CIA plot to clone the President.
Q: What was it like back then as opposed to now? Warhol had an enormous impact on underground films in the sixties, then got shot and seemed more interested in making money doing portraits of dictators and their wives while hobnobbing with the jet set in the seventies.
A: A void had to be filled after the sixties ended. The media turned the other way when punk happened. As a result, making money stopped being a factor in the equation for creating anything. This freed us in the making of things that were new and dangerous.
There’s a purity of vision when what you are doing is being done for fun, as a learning experience, which is the essence of amateurism, a much maligned term. Every child knows this. Adults try to beat it out of them. The amateur is the one who makes the discoveries and advances all human thought . This has been demonstrated throughout history.
Professionalism is a curse; a straightjacket stifling innovation, and the dependence upon it by artists, politicians and and those in power has left us bereft of excitement, surprise or joy. My work is an antedote to this malaise.
There are far too many people nowadays posing as filmmakers, waiting for enough money or hardware to complete their goals. I live in the land of “show me.” Otherwise shut up.
Q: How have you been reaching an audience in the last 5 years?
A: I infiltrated the open mike scene and made a bunch of movies using local comedians, shooting with digital video cameras I borrowed, until I could afford to buy my own equipment.
The best places to shoot in and screen to audiences always turned out to be in the most precarious positions, getting closed down by authorities or demolished by hostile landlords. It seemed to be some kind of universal law. But I’d suck every bit of creative energy out of the place before that happened, then move onto the next place or hibernate and go back to writing or start something new like painting.
The cracks in the façade of our prison planet branch out in unexpected directions.
When I got locked out of every place in NY, I created a low budget tv series and put it on public access channels where I ended up reaching an even wider audience..
keep reading this interview here: http://www.zoom96.mx/nick-zedd-king-of-underground-films-8/?PHPSESSID=d03cb24ff0d4db24db13e671440aa6f1
Now that contemporary art, a system that stands for privilege, nepotism and political connections is finally dying, get out of the fucking way.
We who have been locked out of your galleries, museums and art holes… ignored, reviled and cast aside for having convictions (and belonging to the wrong class) are the voice of the future. We spit on the fashionable insignificance of today’s culture. We puke on moderation, a generation’s fashionable irony and deliberately boring contemporary art. We shit on your chronic timidity and your tamed and domesticated notion of what art can be.
The time has come for a rupture, a break, and an honest method of digging our way out of the manure of contemporary art. Your system is spineless and must be replaced.
Those who are proud of being imperceptible are lost.
Todays gatekeepers remind us that painting is dead and if that’s the case, then so must be photography, movies, music, writing, sculpture, performance and all human creativity. The logical implication of curatorial culture’s hierarchical dominance is the negation and replacement of the individual with a neutered clone. Academia’s curatorial class, we are told, are god-like. They determine history. Their choices are showered upon us from above. The fact that breakthroughs in history are the exclusive domain of the AMATEUR (a lone individual who invents and innovates) is beyond the double-think reality tunnel of the insulated curator. Todays curatorial elite have determined that passion, anger and conviction are replaced with ironic indifference, a stance of self removal, an evasion, a retreat into the herd. With sheep-like acquiescence, a generation of followers have emerged with no point of view, afraid to stand for anything, yet pretending to be fearless while hiding behind an ironic indifference that amounts to a compulsion to conform. The follower artist’s philosophy is one of capitulation.
Through capitulation the follower is conditioned to anticipate and grovel for the expectation of inclusion into the world of high culture and it’s attendant material rewards.
What the followers, apologists and their gatekeeping masters fail to understand is the essential non-differentiation between high and low art. Today’s smut is tomorrow’s fine art. The profane, with the passage of time becomes sacred. Having suffered under a reactionary ontological hermeneutics for the last fifty years, the extremist movement constitutes an emergent phenomena which is more than the sum of the processes from which it has emerged. Interpretation theory rewarded by dominant culture would have us believe that history is objective when in fact its subjective nature is based on hierarchical systems of exploitation benefiting a global elite.
Extremist art is non-metaphysical, based on the senses.
It establishes the human body as the ultimate arbiter, the component that allocates wisdom.
In an empirical sense, extremist art is a unified confirmation of one’s resistance to and transcendence of status quo thinking.
The Simulation imposed upon us by shadow governments and hidden elites must be exposed and destroyed. That includes a cancerous art establishment based on commerce and the malignant dictums of predatory capitalism that negates individual breakthroughs based on lived experience.
Non-referential, non-simulated breakthroughs are accomplished by plunging into life and grabbing it by the balls. This means taking chances, offending people, causing alarms to go off and generally disturbing the equilibrium in a strategic manner.
We are the new extremists, armed with a vision to see through the charade imposed upon us by the gatekeepers of consensus reality, who manage a mass hallucination we choose to reject.
Ours is the art of bad taste, which blots out and destroys your system of lies and self-delusion. For too long the sheep among us have been rewarded for their subservience to a bankrupt system of lies. WE SHIT ON GOD. BECAUSE THERE ARE NO GODS AND THERE NEVER HAVE BEEN.
ALL SYSTEMS OF TOTALITARIAN CONTROL MUST BE SUBVERTED AND DESTROYED. HUMAN FREEDOM DEMANDS VIGILANCE AND RESISTANCE TO HIERARCHIES, WHETHER IMPOSED BY REVOLUTIONARIES OR COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARIES. WE ARE FOR ACCELERATED EVOLUTION
THAT SUPERCEDES REVOLUTION.
WE ARE EXTREMISTS UTILIZING PROVOCATION, ENLIGHTENMENT, HATE AND LOVE.
WE WILL UNITE OPPOSITES.
c. Nick Zedd 3/6/2013
first published on the web here: http://www.badlit.com/?p=25022
There’s this spunky little blonde who keeps checking me out in Psychology One. She turns around in the lectures and looks me full in the eye. So I introduce myself, and begin wooing her. She leads me on like crazy: she looks straight at my groin wherever we meet, at a party, at the cafeteria, in a conversation with friends, while we wait to go into lectures. She shows me places to smoke weed. One of them is called ‘the quarry’. I do everything I can to get into her pants, but somehow this never happens. She is the most expert cock-tease I have ever come across. I learn from my new friends that I am not her first victim. Undaunted, I persist. One day in my res room she promises to blow me. All I have to do is drop my pants. When I do so, she races to the door and escapes. My pants are round my ankles and I can’t catch her. Years later, after leaving varsity, I get the opportunity to finally shag her. But I discover when we are naked in bed together, that, strangely, I don’t really want to. The hype about shagging her was all in my mind; I had created a chimera and the reality is, she actually doesn’t turn me on.
As soon as I am in my new res room, I start practising my bass guitar, playing along with my fold-up suitcase turntable, often to Jimi Hendrix. Word soon spreads and I meet up with a drummer, who is a king-size asshole, but not a bad beater of the drums. We procure a lead guitarist who sings, and form a band called The Red Sails. I can’t quite remember what this was in reference to. The singer is so filthy or ‘siff’ that when his house is robbed, legend has it that the thieves took every item in the house except his sheets. We play one gig and fade into obscurity, but I have been noticed: I am recruited into Vader Jakob.
Vader Jakob is driven by a couple of cousins from Uitenhage who are into punk and gothic music and attitude, short hair and beer and socialism. These guys, though younger than me, have been at varsity longer than me, and are more clued up on the lingo of the left. The first thing they demand is that I cut off my hair and shed my sandals in favour of boots. This is, officially, the end of my hippy era. At our first ECC gig – we were called Section 27 then – the guitarist is so shy he plays with his back to the audience. After a few months of wild and discordant gigs, we get to record with Not Even the TV in East London. The first thing I do is break the E string of the bass I borrow from them. Both recordings are done over the course of a day or two. All the recordings I have ever done have been over the same length of time, due to cost restrictions. Later, we play an ECC gig in Cape Town, which is cancelled when the entire concert is banned by the apartheid authorities. We swipe part of a PA from some rastas at our Obs house, who apparently stole it from Johnny Clegg, so it’s not a complete washout of a gig; the PA serves three more bands over the next decade.
One of the Vader Jakob band members is leaving for Johannesburg. He is to take a train, and to bid him farewell, we smoke a huge dagga pipe in my digs. We leave straight afterwards, as he is running late for the train. I had been driving around Grahamstown with no brakes in my VW Passat for a couple of weeks, using the handbrake and gears to slow down, and when that failed, turning up driveways or sidestreets. This time however I am truly fucked: as we approach the station, we are on a downhill, and a farmer stops his bakkie in front of me. I drove smackbang into his arse. A massive, irate figure emerges from the cab of the bakkie and approaches us. Suddenly all the doors of my car open and the entire band makes a run for it, leaving me to face the music. I am taken to the police station, fill in statements, face the wrath of the farmer on my own. All of this while off my head from the pipe, accentuated by adrenalin. I pray the police will not inspect where I live and find drugs. They ask me why my brakes failed. I tell them they failed just before I hit the bakkie. The look in my bonnet and laugh at me. There is absolutely no trace of brake fluid anywhere. But in the end, all is well: I phone my father, who pays for the damages to the vehicles. It pays to be a spoilt, kept brat, especially when you run into shit.
I’m driving back to Somerset West for a holiday from Rhodes with an acquaintance. We left late and it is getting dark when we are only halfway, at Plettenberg Bay; we decide to sleep over somewhere. Quite by chance, we run into the girlfriend of a old mate of mine whom I was at school with, and got bust shoplifting with. She invites us to sleep over; we are broke, and delighted at the prospect. Her friends come over. One of them is wearing tiny running shorts, and his massive schlong is almost hanging out of it. My travelling partner appears intrigued, and disappears with the lad. I end up shagging my friend’s woman. The next day I ask my passenger if he is gay, and he replies, ‘of course, didn’t you know?’ I am unaccustomed to people being out about being gay, and we have a lively discussion about it. While on holiday at home, my penis starts burning. Turns out I caught the clap from the Plett girlfriend. My father takes me to the doctor. They have a good haw-haw about it, tell me I am a ‘man of the world’ now. Years later my old schoolmate confronts me about my indiscretion, and he, too, has a good laugh when I tell him what I picked up from his ex ..serves me right, he says ..
I am taking part in a demonstration on campus. The police line up opposite the students, tapping their sjamboks against their legs in anticipation. Most of the students are white, so we won’t get shot, but they do have dogs sometimes, and they love whipping us. The warnings to disperse is ignored .. the signal is sounded … and the cops charge at us! I have a camera and I’m determined to get shots for Rhodeo, the campus paper. A cop corners a young black female student by the Journ department, and starts sjambokking her mercilessly. I shoot shot after shot, and then leg it for the newspaper’s darkroom. But I am in such a rush, and so excited, that I open the camera and expose the film before I turn the light off. My film is ruined… I manage to half-rescue one shot from the whole lot .. A few months later, as I am driving through town, I see smoke rising over the buildings and race toward it, anticipating a protest or a bomb. These are the times I am living in: PW Botha has declared a state of emergency. But it’s just a steam train pulling in to the station. Soon after, I abandon my ambitions of being a news photographer. I don’t like the feeling of looking through a lens, when just off to the side of me, there could be a cop racing towards me, and I wouldn’t even see him.
A group of us go down to the sea and drop acid on the beach. It’s dark and a cold wind springs up, and there ain’t much to do. One of the group puts his head down on the sand, in a muslim prayer position, and another starts throwing sand onto it. We watch in silent, morbid fascination as the sand piles higher, eventually almost burying the prostrate figure. Then we get paranoid about him suffocating, and dig him out. We leave the beach, freaked out, and head back to Grahamstown. On the way back we are stopped by police, who search the car for drugs. One of them finds a “head” of weed on the floor of the car. Our hearts miss a collective beat. He shows it to his colleagues, then tosses it over his shoulder. Light-headed with relief, we descend on a motel and demolish their bar snacks, after buying one drink for the entire group…
I take speed and spend almost an entire evening trying to convince a female friend of the benefits of being a communist. She seems quite taken by my diatribe. Then I drink a bottle of cough mixture to ‘come down’. As I walk home in the early hours of the morning, suddenly my energy runs out. This happens as I am crossing a road. I am frozen to the white line in the centre of the tarmac. I find myself praying that a car will not pass while I am immobile. After some time, I am able to move again and make it home okay…another time, I remember having a huge pipe at ‘Brickies’ after getting drunk, and then, as we drive up to ‘The Mot’ I am puking from the open door, while the car keeps driving ..
I am so desperate to obtain good results, to keep from doing army camps, that, after studying frantically, I get the time of my exams wrong. Beside myself, I beg my lecturer to allow me to write the exam. As I haven’t spoken to those who wrote it, he allows me to. I pass with sufficient marks to get into post-graduate studies.
My friend and I are at a party, which is on the second-floor of an old building of one of Grahamstown’s main streets. The host has been walking around handing out shots which contain ethanol – pure alcohol. The cops pull up in an armoured car beneath the windows. Drunk as skunks, we lean out of the window and hurl insults at the policemen, spitting into the open top of their vehicle. Furious, they threaten to fuck us up, but just then they get a call and speed off. My friend, who is blond, and I leave the party. We hear later the police came back, looking for a “short little bliksem” and his blond friend, and handed out ‘klaps’ freely.
The band needs sound-proofing for its rehearsal room, a house on New Street which is painted almost entirely black. One of our band members digs a hole under his room and lives in it, until it fills up with water. The plan for fund-raising it to open a stall at a market on campus. We collect all our old hippie stuff, our Roger Dean posters, our Joplin albums; we are ditching the sixties and seventies. We sell them at the stall under the roughly painted banner ‘horrible rockist junk stall’. One of our best-selling items is our lucky packets, which we fill up with anything we can find: condoms, nails, buttons, bottle-tops, stompies. Most of the clients which buy them are moms, who give the lucky packets to their kids. We actually raise enough cash to seal off our music from the outside world.
I am accosted by a beautiful woman as I leave a jol and head home. She runs up and pinches my bum. I offer to take her home for a joint, and she agrees. We have the best sex I have ever had. I am totally struck by this wild force of nature woman, I want to see her all the time, but all she wanted was a good shag, and she laughs me off. I realise that it’s not only men that use women for sex. It goes both ways. But we do have several one-night stands after that …and I forgive her with all my heart ..
The band opens a venue called ‘Club Foot’ about 5km out of town, on the road to PE. It’s in an outhouse of a motel, owned by an Indian whom we dub as ‘Fat Chance’. We see his whole family as chancers – imagine thinking that they could earn money from this venue, from us? So the entire extended family get nicknames on the chance theme – his son, who works directly with us, is called ‘No Chance’, his smaller brother ‘Small Chance’. The first thing we do before opening the venue is to paint a huge Club Foot poster over a Sputnik picture that Fat Chance commissioned for the club. The Sputnik was painted with UV paint to show up under the disco lights and cost him a small fortune. ‘My Sputnik! My Sputnik!’ he wails upon discovering its disappearance. We have a few gigs and a few fights at this venue, but as we suspected from the start, there was almost no chance of us making money for ourselves or Fat Chance.
In 1989 I travelled up to Johannesburg from Grahamstown with the band Manhole to play a gig with a group called the Skyt Muties. The gig was in Hillbrow at a seedy venue called the Summit Club. I’m not sure if it was at that venue or just the building it was held in, but I do recall Roman statues being part of the décor … disturbingly out of place in the rest of the modern urban decay of central Joburg.
Manhole had a keyboardist who was classically trained, who offset the punk non-musician rest of the band well. From him came the seminal ‘Mobile Home’ … he used to run around parties in Grahamstown with a bunch of madmen called the Skullfucks, wearing underpants on their heads and playing with kitchen utensils on sinks and walls. He is now the head of a very orthodox Jewish sect.
My most distinct impression of the Muties – who derived their name from the word mutant, abbreviated into the slang ‘mtuie’ by characters in 2000AD comic – was of their drummer, commonly known as ‘Big Dave’. He had an awesome beard, was somewhere in the region of six and a half feet, and at that stage had a Staccato drumkit – the bottoms of the drums flare out in different directions – and he took his drumming very seriously (he still does). I was a drum novice, who thrashed away enthusiastically on a kit I had just bought from a guy is Sea Point. The silver-glitter coated kit was so large I later divided it in half and sold one half as a complete drumkit.
I also have vivid memories of the singer Andrew Kay coming to greet the ‘country bumpkins’ from Grahamstown to the Big Apple, dressed in a leather jacket and shorts. I mean, this guy was zef, like, three decades before Die Antwoord. He regaled us with stories of the movie industry, its various and ridiculous heirarchies, and had us clutching our sides .. in one story he described a guy telling him, in all honesty, that he was a ‘born grip’. This was all with a thick, doff accent and screwed up facial expresions and .. his leather jacket, ‘kaif’ and shorts.
I never saw this incident, but the other guys in the band talked about it in hushed tones: our manager, who was at that stage a hefty guy called Carl Johnson, was lifted up and held against the wall by a Summit Club bouncer when he inquired about our payment. Carl is the kind of size guy that can lift most other guys up against the wall himself.
I was staying at one point with a former band member’s girlfriend’s flat, and the two of them were arguing hectically. At one point we were walking through Joubert Park, where she lived, and they sort of split up and started walking in opposite directions. Unsure of who to follow, I chose the old bandmate, as the prospect of getting lost in town at night – and the city was pretty massive to me, a total stranger – was pretty scary.
It was in that same flat that I awoke from tripping on acid and a large, black rabbit was wiffling its nose at me, right in front of my face. I was sleeping on the floor, so it was just inches away from me. I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating, as we were seven floors up.
The Skyt Muties – minus their late bassist – and I will be touring Mpumulanga at Easter, playing some songs from the 80s like ‘9 Mil’ … especially for Oscar. Follow us on Facebook.
(the attachment is the poster for that 1989 gig)
(appeared in slightly-edited version in Chimurenga #1, 2002, pp.45-47)
ALLOW ME some biographical indulgence, editor and reader, black, white, ‘coloured’, or any of the other million identities for sale.
I spent 10 months in the USA, on a scholarship and just after I had voted in 1994. There were moments in that country where I longed for SA racism, more visible, less sinister. So I was happy to return to my own backyard of racism in 1995. Since then I have been following the buildup to our present, often hysterical discoursing on race and racism. And here I am: hysterical, tired of the even tones of reason, angry. An angry black man.
With regards to race, South Africa has changed: race and racism is no longer the preserve of National Party policy wonks, anti-apartheid activists and intellectuals, or dinner discussion and argument. It is public, mainstream, consciously in the national conscious; it is on everyone’s tongue, in the media, in our dreams, in our nightmares. Which means that South Africa has not changed, that racism remains ingrained, if not embedding itself deeper and deeper in our psyches. Here may follow the necessary, self-aware acknowledgement: no one expects such a founding aspect of our modern national history to disappear in the space of a decade or two.
But I have followed the public discoursing on race with a sense of exhaustion: a tug of war, accusation and counter-accusation, a white viewpoint, a black viewpoint. Or a rehearsal of old arguments.
Sometimes I have found an enlivening anger. But always, at the moment of committing to the page a response or my two cents, paralysis. Racism, like any area of human life, is complicated; and to acknowledge this complexity in the way one writes about it may lessen the anger, the motivation, the reason for wanting, in the first place, to write it out of the psyche.
It is also often too easy to shout ‘Racism!’ and exploit existing prejudices and habits of thought that are so visible in our lives and media. And no writer wants to be accused of cheap shots, of lazy habits of thought.
It is difficult to write about racism also because the dismissal or counter-argument follows easily. The racially significant encounter in the shop or cinema is easily dismissed as the fabrication of an ‘over-sensitive’ mind, of someone who has a chip on his or her shoulder. This is certainly the most powerful of dismissals — throughout history, anywhere — because it casts the writer who describes, complains, who accuses, who fingers this national sore, as abnormal, as someone with mental problems, as someone whose thought lacks adequate logic, that shibboleth that guarantees the voice its authority. And which writer wants to be accused of being disturbed? But here I am, completely fucking mental.
Among the many pieces that have accumulated in the print media around this issue was Njabulo Ndebele’s piece (M&G, 15 September 2000). Complaining about racism submits, he says, to ‘whiteness’ in that it grants the latter ‘power of relief’. The real analysis he leaves in the form of a question:
Is the fore-grounding of race and racism a veiled admission that perhaps there is as yet no material basis for the black majority to contain this scourge through the imposition of it (sic) own versions of the future? Does this speak to the black majority’s perception that perhaps they are not yet agents of history?
Certainly this is fundamental. Racism does not cause but exacerbates an economic problem. Racism is a powerful reminder that one remains a non-agent of history. In an individual sense, it also undermines one’s agency because it obliterates the individual’s self-description, perhaps the primal site of agency. Racism elevates a visible aspect of one’s being, and denies even the possibility of other aspects that may be, to the particular individual, more central to their identity.
Again, anecdote. I teach at the University of Cape Town. Like any institution that has a colonial history, it will, not surprisingly, have its implicit, institutionalised, age-old and persistent legacy that demands a generous amount of deracination. Deracination: the other side of the race coin, but not yet in our national conversation. I leave the complexities of this for another occasion.
Since I believe that the process of my own more interesting education and empowerment started with the shock of alienation and disempowerment that went along with enrollment at that university in the 1980s, I think a dose of deracination is always healthy (a pity, though, that it does not allow deracination away from whiteness for those who subscribe to that epithet). Almost certainly without fail, on walking home, I am, have been, will be, re-racinated, so to speak. I will encounter someone who will – excuse my over-sensitivity – privilege the visible aspect of my body, my skin, and behave accordingly. Most hurtful and angering, the clutch at a bag or the wide berth that white women will give me.
For most of my day, I am a decently educated person who teaches 18 year-olds and older about literature, English literature. It is not entirely preposterous to think that I may have the son or daughter of the white woman I encounter on the sidewalk in my class. When she clutches her bag though, I am no longer a teacher to her son or daughter. With the aid of that powerful tool we call national crime statistics, she has been able to reduce me to a cipher of criminality: the black man. I am no longer an agent in how the world sees me.
I do not expect, nor want, to be greeted with a vigorous nod and smile by strangers. I understand the caution of women in a society which is riddled by crime, a society which, by measure of its rape statistics, is terrifyingly close to losing its humanity. But this understanding, this attempt to grant my encountered white woman some measure of sympathy, this little step of the imagination – what is it like for her? – this attempt to humanise her rests on my dehumanisation, and I am complicit with her.
How does one respond? Remain silent and so allow the hurt and anger to fester? Is it any surprise that an ordinary little burglary turns instantaneously into brutality? How can we not see the connection between, not crime per se, but between the often brutal turns it takes, and racism in South Africa. Yes, crime too is complex, and I do not intend to explain it away and blame it on racism. But it seems that ‘ordinary’ crime – the crime that poor individuals commit in order to survive, like housebreaking (in South Africa, yes, mainly by black people) may contain in the surprise encounter with the homeowner (yes, often white) a moment of recognition, a moment which South Africa at large still needs to experience.
I am sure that to the white homeowner the suspicion of black criminality is confirmed. But the black criminal? What goes through his mind? What triggers the swift move from housebreaker to murderer? Is that not perhaps the catharsis Fanon speaks about?
Since I am educated, I may be less prone to criminality and will not lash out at my fellow citizen. And, since I have intellectual pretensions, I hurry home to husband the anger and write it out of me. But then, the demons of paralysis: everyone’s writing about it, what new things can I add? And, am I oversensitive? Will I, in Ndebele’s words, ‘reduce [myself] to the status of complainant’? Will I be admitting to a psychological weakness? And what about making public an almost physical hurt that goes to the very core of one’s sense of self? Is that the weakness? That I, often described as confident to the point of arrogance, can in the instant it takes someone to clutch at a bag, feel like I have been bludgeoned? Is there indeed not something wrong with me? And so doubt creeps in, and the moment of writing paralyses. But here I am, writing.
I admire writers who remain calm: Njabulo Ndebele, Xolela Mangcu, John Matshikiza. I marvel (or am puzzled?) by my friends who shrug their shoulders at these little encounters they also experience. One of my friends even has the perfect counter to the ‘chip on the shoulder’ remark: ‘I make sure I have a chip on both shoulders, so I remain well-balanced.’ How, in short, do they maintain power, agency, sanity? Is there, indeed, something wrong with me?
By its frequency and by its nature, my encounters with white women are emblematic of a central aspect in racism. It is race that allows it: the construction and continuing use of race as an explanatory concept prevents us from understanding our world in other ways; prevents us from allowing even the possibility of explaining the world differently and, possibly, more accurately.
If I am walking briskly, in Rondebosch, with a bag of groceries in each hand and what is clearly a bag of books on my back, one can make certain assumptions about me. Rondebosch – UCT; books – student or teacher; groceries – can satisfy basic needs; together with brisk walk – in a hurry to get home and eat after a day at university. Rondebosch is full of such figures. There goes a student. There goes a university teacher.
In his basic activities and needs, how is a black student or teacher different from this figure? (The male pronoun is deliberate since I am concerned with the black man read as criminal threat.) Certainly there can be no difference: both are in a hurry to get home and eat, irrespective of what personal histories and tragedies may lie behind any stranger we encounter. Indeed, it is a stranger, and we cannot know. It is what we add in our ignorance – the domain of assumption – that is my concern. If we allow this racial qualifier, if we submit to a desire for the racial qualifier, if we submit to the need to describe the world by using such qualifiers, we open the door to a range of assumptions.
This is an old story. The neutral is of course not neutral, but white; the black nevertheless signifies a deviation from the neutral. So, still, the white is often described in neutral terms and only the black is racialised. Racialising the white does not resolve the issue, it simply provides balance. I am not interested in balance.
It is the actual use of racial categories that should be scrutinised, still, again, against especially the world’s love affair with asserting ethnic and racial identities. From the need to see the student as black it is an instantaneous switch to seeing only the black and to a blindness regarding groceries, book bag, brisk walk. Seeing the black man gives way to the non-rational and the looker sees only blackman, the category, no human, nothing but a cipher of criminality. Nothing, and she clutches at her bag.
Where does this power of the white woman over me lie? When did I concede it to her? Did I concede it to her? And if the criminal is an unwanted presence, which it is, then I am again the unwanted presence in a white suburb, no matter how many black people populate it. And what about guilt? The exhaustion of white guilt is well known. But what about the black man who now feels guilty for causing the encountered white woman such visible anxiety? What is it in that brief moment – she sees me, she cluthes at her bag? How do I maintain agency? Shout a quick, sharp ‘Boo!’ at her?
I am, also, what is called ‘coloured’, a term that still rankles, and it is finally the Mike Nicol piece (‘The trouble with Cape Town’, M&G, 3 August 2001) that drove me to the page in an anger that I feel, now, as I write this, dissipate, because I have attempted again to unpick something in me, something of which I think South Africa is far from resolving. A national sore which will not heal; something both public and thus open to intellectual scrutiny; something which can cause private agony, the confession of which, in turn, is an admission of vulnerability and cause for paralysis.
I found Bryan Rostron’s piece about Cape Town (M&G, 20 July 2001) worthwhile because it certainly described my experiences of public Cape Town. Some of the encounters he describes or quotes are too familiar: people quizzically quoting you the price of an item, assuming that you cannot possibly afford it, and so on and so forth.
The accusations of ‘coloured’ racism, quoted by Rostron, and said by a black person. Another thing that rings true. Since I pass as ‘coloured’, I am often privy to such racism, on a parallel to what Rostron described several months ago in another article about his encounters, as a white person, with white racism at dinner parties. An interesting footnote to this is how some white people, complete strangers, will make assumptions about my racial politics because I am ‘coloured’ and freely espouse racist views about black people.
All in all, the Rostron article about Cape Town puts in writing, in a newspaper, experiences and perceptions of Cape Town that I share, that I have heard in conversation, and so on.
But certainly it cannot be simply a matter of perception, as Mike Nicol suggests in his response: ‘this is true if you see the city as colonial redoubt’ (my emphasis). If it is a matter of perception, then the response or counter to that can only be another perception, as indeed Mike Nicol goes on to do: he uses the figure of the teenager to explain how he sees Cape Town. His depiction of Cape Town as made up of so many things, from the beautiful to the ugly, while more complex, more balanced, does not give to me what is my dominant experience of the place. No matter how hard I try to see the mountain, to wonder at a pair of pied crows cajoling in the air not more than 50 metres up, I will be walking along a sidewalk where certainly I will be reminded of the ugly.
Certainly perception plays a large role in how we describe the world, and certainly some things can be perceived in many different ways. But by casting the Rostron article as true depending on how you see Cape Town, what is then true is again dependent, in a way, on a state of mind. I see some of my experiences in the Rostron article; those experiences are experiences of racism; my experiences of racism are often easily dismissed as perceiving something which is not there. An article which confirms some of my experiences is countered by the same argument: the incidence of racism is a matter of perception. If you experience Cape Town as overwhelmingly racist, you walk around with half-closed eyes. We end up with competing perceptions, one true for X, the other true for Y. Equal truths, another site of paralysis. What do my descriptions of racism matter if they are one-sided, my perception of a small piece of a wider reality?
It is towards the end that the Nicol piece exasperated me though: ‘I’ve heard the coloured voice declare off record: this is our city, what do blacks want here? What is needed now are coloured voices to articulate publicly the deeper issues behind these sentiments’ (my emphasis).
My exasperation is partly caused by the writer, and partly caused by whomever the ‘coloured’ voice or voices are which he quotes. Nicol is, after all, merely relaying what he has heard and what many other people have relayed and what many other people have said.
My contention with the writer surrounds that definite article: ‘the coloured voice’. By suggesting a singular ‘coloured’ voice which is racist towards black people, the ‘coloured’, all ‘coloureds’ are swiftly, by virtue of a definite article, cast as resistant to the presence of black fellow Capetonians.
When I walk the streets, in other words, I am a cipher of criminality and a cipher of racism, irrespective of whether I engage in criminal behaviour or not, irrespective of whether I espouse racist views or not. I am both a target and an agent of racism.
Nicol’s definite article is simply a galvanising moment for me. I have been following with despair, since 1994, the rise of the ‘coloured’, in the context of a world captivated by the assertions and celebrations of ethnic identities. And it is this that is bothersome. We still give to ethnic and racial categories so much explanatory power and by so doing fall into easy thought. So it was the ‘coloured’ vote that left the Cape ‘unliberated’, one more addition to our politics that remain race-driven. Thanks to the media’s political analysis, I was also a National Party supporter. Criminal, racist, NP supporter: is this what is meant with multiple identities?
The ‘coloured’ is exactly that category which subverts our reliance on race as an explanatory category; the ‘coloured’ confounds racial thinking and should be read as emblematic of the non-existence of race. It is an old story, but one that bears repeating. How do you know someone is ‘coloured’? Skin colour? Good luck. Accent? Music? Again, good luck.
Unfortunately, the ‘coloured’ is now a race and the individual who can be described as such easily stands in for the race, the group. Then, whatever we have constructed to believe about the group can help us to interpret, in an instant, the individual. The line between racial thinking and racism is thin thin thin.
Here, now, I no longer care how many people assert and celebrate a ‘coloured’ identity. And here I turn to Nicol’s ‘informants’. I am sick and tired of ‘colouredness’. Fuck ‘colouredness’! And fuck bobotie! It is parochial, limiting; and it feeds racism. This city is not yours, in the same way as it still does not belong to black Capetonians. You are again simply a buffer, the bodygaurd of white capital. Here I am, a ‘coloured’ voice, on record.
first published on the web here: http://groundwork.wordpress.com/2006/07/03/fuck-colouredness-and-the-coloured-voice/
From ” Assagai ”
Label: Vertigo — 6360 030
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
A1 Telephone Girl
A3 Hey Jude
B1 Irin Ajolawa
B4 I’ll Wait For You
Guitar — Fred Coker
Tenor Saxophone — Bizo Mngqikana (Bizo Mngqikana, Bizo Mnggikana)
Alto Saxophone — Dudu Pukwana
Bass Guitar — Charles Ononogbo
Cornet — Mongezi Feza
Drums — Louis Moholo
“Hey Jude” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney.
The ballad evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song widely accepted as being written to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce – although this explanation is not universally accepted and even McCartney has given conflicting accounts over the years.
“Hey Jude” was released in August 1968 as the first single from The Beatles’ record label Apple Records.
More than seven minutes in length, “Hey Jude” was, at the time, the longest single ever to top the British charts.
It also spent nine weeks as number one in the United States—the longest run at the top of the American charts for a Beatles’ single, and tied the record for longest stay at #1.
The single has sold approximately eight million copies and is frequently included on professional lists of the all-time best songs.
“Hey Jude” was released on 26 August 1968, in the United States and 30 August in the United Kingdom, backed with “Revolution” on the B-side of a 7″ single.
The single was the debut release of The Beatles’ record label Apple Records; in the US, it was also the first Beatles’ single to be issued in a company sleeve rather than a picture sleeve.
“Hey Jude” began its sixteen-week run on the British charts on 7 September 1968, claiming the top spot a week later. It only lasted two weeks on top before being knocked off by another single from Apple, Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days” (a song which, incidentally, if not penned was actually produced by McCartney).
The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on 13 September; that same week NME reported that two million copies of the single had been sold.
The song entered the US charts on 14 September 1968, where it stayed for nineteen weeks.
Two weeks later, “Hey Jude” was number one in the charts, and held that position for nine weeks, the longest time spent by a Beatles’ single at number one, as well as being the longest-playing single to reach number one.
On 30 November 1968 NME reported that sales had reached nearly six million copies worldwide.
“Hey Jude” became the biggest-selling debut release for a record label ever, selling an estimated eight million copies worldwide and topping the charts in eleven countries.
“Hey Jude” was the top Billboard Hot 100 single for 1968, according to year-end charts.
Less than three weeks after its release, the record was certified gold for sales of one million copies.
In 1999, it was certified 4x platinum, representing four million units shipped.
Upon the release of the “Hey Jude” single, Time contrasted it with its B-side “Revolution.” Time wrote, “The other side of the new disk urges activism of a different sort” as McCartney “liltingly exhorts a friend to overcome his fears and commit himself in love.”
Music analyst Alan Pollack praised “Hey Jude,” saying, “it’s such a good illustration of two compositional lessons—how to fill a large canvas with simple means, and how to use diverse elements such as harmony, bassline, and orchestration to articulate form and contrast.”
He also said it is unusual for a long song because it uses a “binary form that combines a fully developed, hymn-like song together with an extended, mantra-like jam on a simple chord progression.”
Pollack described the song’s long coda and fadeout as “an astonishingly transcendental effect,” while Unterberger observed, “What could have very easily been boring is instead hypnotic”.
John Lennon said “Hey Jude” was “one of his [Paul’s] masterpieces.”
“Hey Jude” was nominated for the Grammy Awards of 1969 in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal categories, but failed to win any of them.
It did win the 1968 Ivor Novello Award for “A-Side With the Highest Sales”.
In the 1968 NME Readers’ Poll, “Hey Jude” was named the best single of the year.
In 2001, “Hey Jude” was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 2004, it was ranked number 8 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it #7 on The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs.
It came in third on Channel 4’s list of 100 Greatest Singles.
The Amusement & Music Operators Association ranked “Hey Jude” the 11th-best jukebox single of all time.
I’d like to begin today by proposing a difference between a “fragment” and a “segment.” Segment derives from the Latin secare, to cut; it suggests the division or subdivision of some thing X; implies a part that is bounded by a line, whether real or imaginary; and in this division, this notion of some strip, piece or part divided, it suggests how those divisions remain sworn and bound to the whole unified thing from which they were originally cut off and which they now, in their present form of being a segment, remain a segment of X, or a subsection or subdivision of X, where X may be a circle, but X may also be a bowel. It is thus fitting that Eisenstein, the great stylist of the cut, would admonish that “With such organically thought-out and photographed parts of one large significant and general conception, these must be segments of some whole, and by no means […] stray, strolling études” (Film Form 92). Every segment holds out the seductive lure of every ideology of recombination and totality.
A fragment is an entirely different thing. Frangere, to break, as in bread, or a glass—but also a neck or a skull—but also to breach (as in to breach a contract); the fragment involves a mutilation, a broken piece of an undiscoverable something; a remnant; a scrap; a fracture; but also sharing the root frag- with fragilis, fragile, what is, in fact, easily breakable. (And as in George Crabb’s early-19th century dictionary entry on the term, what is ultimately most subject to fragmentation is what is also subject to finitude: “Man, corporeally considered, is a fragile creature, his frame is composed of fragile materials.”) A fragment is a part broken away, and this broken piece contains within itself the dimension of what is broken, what is incomplete, what is interrupted in its continuity. While a segment is acted upon by the cut, the fragment contains within itself the pure dimension of already being broken without making recourse to its origin; or, rather, the fragment is broken from an always imaginary and impossible to recover origin. If that break constitutes something painful, the source of that pain is not rediscoverable; the pain is born out in the very ontology of the fragment. Any fragment bears each fragment’s fragile mutilation, which is to say the very form of mutilation, in itself. I suspect this is a fairly uncontroversial distinction.
I am beginning with this division because it would seem that there are theorists and artists who hold to the unity-cut logic of the segment, and those who bond themselves to the episteme of the break in the fragment. As this panel is broadly about the role of the critique of metaphysics in film theory, it should go without saying that I am putting the fragment on the side of the affirmation of the play enabled by the noncenter which is not a loss of the center that the Derrida of “Structure, Sign, and Play” associates with the Nietzschean turn. And again, I suspect it is fairly uncontroversial to link the fragment to a broader poststructuralist affection for the particular, the contingent, the detail, from Barthes’s work on the punctum to Derrida’s attention to paratextual and parergonal textual effluvia.
The underground filmmaker Aryan Kaganof, about whom I will speak today, makes films constituted around an aesthetic and an ethic of the fragment. His films feel like constant restatements or reappropriations or accumulations of perversities; these schemas of enumeration paradoxically destroy the eidos of enumeration, which is a relation based on hierarchization. Indeed, Kaganof insists on this fractured dimension of his work, writing in a manifesto that “the atomic unit of the RE:MIX is not the shot, but the fragment—which is a clump, a volatile conglomerate. Granular, dense, and stuck together” (Nostalgia for the Future).
But if Kaganof emphasizes the remixed collection of fragments at the risk of reinstating an assembled totality, I am more interested in one of the consequences of organizing one’s corpus around the fractured fragile piece of the fragment as such. Specifically, that in its remnant dimension, the fragment as a form holds out the pure notion of the break. Kaganof’s films thus are decomposed as much as composed; the privileged atom of his work is a 2-to-6-minute long mutilated piece of film marked by a kind of violence, not one that explicitly takes place in the otherwise unbroken image, but a force bound up with the fragment as its formal condition of possibility.
Kaganof was born in South Africa, but fled to Amsterdam when he was 19 to escape conscription into the Apartheid army; in his early years, he made films under the name Ian Kerkhof. His work is influenced by Debord, Bataille, Rilke, and Burroughs; by porn and by extreme performance art; and as much by contemporary South African jazz musicians and poets as by the British avant-garde filmmaker Peter Whitehead. (Whitehead, if originally best known for his 1960s pop music promos with the Rolling Stones, is perhaps better known these days for his assertion that Osama Bin Laden made the most significant film of the 21st century.) This assemblage is mutually concerned with the transformative possibilities of radical aesthetics, each working through, mutatis mutandis by field, the expressive dimension of modes of bodily and formal strain, discomfort, disintegration, degradation, and extremity.
These titles of a few of Kaganof’s many films betray, despite his stylistic heterogeneity, his enduring conceptual interests: Nice to Meet You, Please Don’t Rape Me! (a satirical musical about violence in South Africa; one ad for the film reads “From the Country that Gave You Apartheid, Now the World’s First Rape Musical”); another is Beyond Ultra-Violence: Uneasy Listening by Merzbow (a documentary about the experimental Japanese noise musician Masami Akita, whose otological excesses have also appeared as scores for several of Kaganof’s films); the Bataille-citing and bodily-fluid gushing The Dead Man 2: Return of the Dead Man; and the fairly self-explanatory The Boy Who Masturbated Himself to a Climax. Kaganof works in numerous media formats, often shooting on digital video that is blown up to 35mm, and is best known outside underground circles for one such experiment: the 2007 SMS Sugar Man, a feature-length film shot entirely on cellphones. He curates and churns out work; and his website, kagablog, functions as a manic archive of assembled writings, images and meditations. His work, replete with vomit, shit, urine, cum, is also, it must be said, oddly playful.
The 1994 film I’m focusing on today, 10 Monologues From the Lives of the Serial Killers is, in some ways, exactly what it claims to be—except in so far as the title lies (more on that later).
The film is organized around the rhythm of fragmentation, the cadence of wrecked, degraded things—broken bodies, genitals, histories, voices. It opens with a voice intoning one of Kaganof’s poems over a painfully white screen: “In the beginning was the mountain, Then the cloud, Then the radar station, Then the helicopter, Then the cancer…”; Fragment 1 turns on the real voice of serial killer Ed Kemper (aka “The Co-Ed Killer”) over the grainy blue-tinted image of a man framed in a cell, smoking a cigarette, rendered less object than cause of the making-exquisite of disrupted light. The opening lines of the film abdicate the privilege of speaking monologically: the pronoun “I” is first posited in a state of pronounced refusal: “Well, I’m not an expert, I’m not an authority; I’m someone who has been a murderer for almost 20 years.” Fragment 2 reverberates to “Murder Avenue” from the Geto Boys; in 3, a black man nearly invisible in the far left corner of a dank space speaks the 1968 “The Generations of America” litany from J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition in a clipped preacher’s cadence that rises to a crest of guttural bluesy exhalations of “Sirhan Sirhan shot Robert F. Kennedy. And Ethel M. Kennedy shot Judith Birnbaum. And Judith Birnbaum shot Elizabeth Bochnak…” Fragment 4 sets grainy and degraded home movie footage to Roberta Lannes’ short story, “Goodbye, Dark Love,” a farewell to the abuses of a lover who has shot himself: as the meat of the decaying film fades, we hear of the post-mortem hillside that it is all “hair and skin and blood and flesh and him and him and him.”
Fragment 5 wilds to Charles Manson’s meditations on freedom, while 6 turns to a recorded dialogue between Ted Bundy and James Dobson on the dangers of pornography, recorded the day before Bundy’s execution, and set to the image of Kaganof masturbating while double exposures project pornographic images onto his body (so he is screen and surface, cause and effect of his own arousal). Says the actor speaking Manson’s words, in modulating sound sync that devastates the immediacy of the performance: “My head is empty; I have no opinion.” (One cannot help but note, given the title of the film and the conceit of its fragments, that Derrida says of the specificity of the interior monologue that it is a form of auto-affection—here, Kaganof literalizes and pornographizes this notion.)
Fragment 7 returns to Ballard, a voice recounting an anal sex scene from Crash. Over a mostly black screen with flashes of indeterminate peach and pink, this image is reduced to tones, the nervous spasms of a textual body in cut-up forms, like reopened wounds, like bits, even, of lovely skin. After returning to the dark crimson of the Geto Boys, Fragment 8 sets a grainily whispered diary entry from Henry Rollins over surveillance imagery trailing a woman, violence always about to arrive without arrival. Monologue 9 places a 1979 voice recording of Kenneth Bianci over a long shot of a body bound to a chair—each mode of violence opening up a formal modification in the arrangement of limbs. Fragment 10 returns to the Ballard Atrocity Exhibition, and at the end, an off-screen voice commands, “Stop,” and so the film does.
So those are the monologues that comprise Kaganof’s Ten Monologues from the Lives of the Serial Killers.
But the title of this film, as I mentioned, lies. Or, rather, there is a curious and pronounced carelessness to its choice of words. Monologos, we all know, means “speaking alone, speaking singly” (from monos: single, singular, one, alone, only; logos, of course: word). Several of the fragments, however, involve multiple speakers. Furthermore, despite the titular insistence, not every mode of speech, whether monological or dialogical, is associated with a serial killer. But once the monologue is no longer the definitive mark of each fragment, then the epigraphical and epilogical voice droning “In the beginning” should properly count towards the final tally; or, if the title seems to hold out the promise of unique or singular monologues, then the two repeated sections should count as two, not four, units of monological discourse: so the film either contains 8 monologues or 12, but it does not contain 10.
The monologues promised in the title, we might say, appear in the opening credits, appear under the sign of the title, only to disappear, to erase themselves with each non- monological, non-serial killing performance. This film more generally is comprised of many such forms of erasure, fading, retreat. Each narrative focuses on some dimension of the past, bearing out a nostalgia for what is lost and gone. What has passed on in the film is multiple: bodies, now corpses; corpses, now decayed; unity, now fragmented; the past, now obliterated; but also more ephemeral things, like memory (as in Kenneth Bianci’s uncanny monotone: “This one I killed; this one I don’t know about; I remember that cunt”). In the midst of this film of disappearances, the text also troubles its own visual presence, constantly retreating into illegible images and the failure of speech to manifest as something seeable. And, of course, each fragment in turn passes—each is there in so far as it comes to not be there, comes to be replaced with yet another.
How is one to read these disappearances, this dimension of where things are not in the text? My claim is that this is fundamentally a film that frustrates any language of formal analysis that would rely on accounting for what is present in the film.
When Derrida aimed to “shake metaphysics,” one of his central targets was the displacement of presence as the center and foundation of Western philosophy. One of the most pernicious effects of the obsession with presence, argues Derrida, was that the history of philosophy becomes a photology, “a history of, or treatise on, light” (“Force and Signification,” 27). This emphasis on the seeable and the visible has produced formalisms (neo- and otherwise) in film theory that, even when they claim not to, turn ultimately on discourses of presence. They are therefore ill-equipped to read the ephemeral traces, non- appearances, self-erasure and the violent disappearances that structure Kaganof’s destructured film.
My argument is that a revitalized non-metaphysical formalism in film studies would need to trouble mise-en-scène as a logic of presence. Freud taught us how to take grammar seriously; in his theorization of the unheimlich, he writes, “the prefix ‘un’ [‘un-’] is the token of repression.” In a similar fashion, in order to interrupt formal analysis as photology, I want to insert the sign of negation into the building block of cinematic analysis: a little n. Formal analysis after presence requires reading for what I call in my forthcoming book mise-n’en-scène. This phrase is a grammatical impossibility; it is an error in French. It is useful less for what it represents than for the possibilities it sets loose. Mise-n’en-scene suggests that in addition to reading for what is put-into-the-scene, one must also read for all of its permutations: what is not put into the scene; what is put into the non-scene; and what is not enough put into the scene.
The genealogy of non-unities written by an attention to the mise-n’en-scène is a fitting anti-narrative for Kaganof’s fragments about disappearances. Reading for form after the critique of metaphysics requires beginning with the premise that form has a force, that it is not reducible to any duality between form and content, that it is not to be put to work for the cognitive processes of spectators. Taking seriously a form organized around form’s waning and absence, for its traces and formlessness, suggests that violence in a film such as Kaganof’s is not in the text, in what is visible, audible, speakable or comprehensible, but is an unstable process bound up with the act of reading for its formal charge. Mise-n’en-scene suggests a critical practice that reads with the fragmentation of the fragment without attempting to piece the fragment back together—or, rather, tarries with the fragment, without attempting to turn each fragment into any segment.
Is there a way for the title of this film not to be lying? If we emphasize the logos of monologos, we are back to a metaphysical privileging of presence, and of the imagined immediacies of speech. What I’d like to suggest is that any analytical mode that ultimately takes the title at its (spoken) word, and looks for the presence of what is in the scene, will ultimately reduce this film to an articulation of its themes and fall for the metaphysical lure of logos’ purported bond to self-presence, immediacy or what is as a pure conveyance of meaning.
Put another way, I’d like to engage in a thought experiment and see what kind of critical possibilities are opened up if we begin with the premise that presence and speech are not where we want to focus our critical energies.
So, once again, does the title of this film lie? There is a tradition of the theatrical monologue in which a person is made to declare or put on trial their own attributes, such that it might be the case that the speaker plays the parts of multiple advocates and of a judge. This forced declaration of attributes might be more what is at stake here. In the classical requirements for the monologue, the speaker must not be the poet; the speaker must address himself in the form of self-prompting (we see this in Fragment One, posed as a series of questions and provocations to Kemper from himself); and, crucially, the speaker must address his soliloquy to a silent interlocutor. Indeed, the non-response of the listener is what makes for the anti-dialogical dimension of the monological. On the one hand, if the other is the spectator, then we should recall Christian Metz’s point in The Imaginary Signifier about the difference between the theater and the cinema—the actor is always present at our absence, and our presence requires their corresponding absence—in which case every film is monological. If, on the other hand, the silent interlocutor is within the text, then we might at least consider whether there are formal manifestations of this required non-responsiveness.
Dead response form suggests a rather different intertextual source for Kaganof’s monological mode: I am thinking here of Beckett’s A Piece of Monologue, which begins: “Birth was the death of him. Again. Words are few. Dying too. Birth was the death of him. Ghastly grinning ever since.” Speaker, the single protagonist of Beckett’s play, insists that this matter is the alpha and omega of what matters: “Never but the one matter. The dead and gone. The dying and the going.” If the non-response of the other is not only the formal requirement of the monologue, it is more so the refusal of a response that Speaker names and performs for some absent him. In other words, “the dying and the going” speaks without response but also in the wake of a non-response, defers response, and declares the impossibility of response.
This same form is at stake in the privileged fragment of Kaganof’s film, which is to say one of the two that are doubled, and the one that concludes the film: the formula of deferral from Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition—“X shot Y and Y shot Z, and Z shot A, and A shot B,” and so forth. This repetition empties the meaning of any one name to the rhythm of repetition; to the violence of the formula; to all manner of formalized violence. The man speaks alone and says everything but “I”. The litany becomes eulogy becomes cadence becomes death count becomes – what, exactly? Just the deferral so that the duration of the formula can exert its pressure on the text. So the title lies a third time, not for the numerical or the falsely monological, but because speech is not what speaks here: the film is something more like a formologue, which deploys form and the formula, makes present the force of the formal.
Although the entire film involves stories about the past, marked by forms of obsession, repetition and rumination, the explicit chain of names in the Atrocity Exhibition bits takes this broader logic and literalizes, or radicalizes, it. As though pressing on what Nancy calls “the threshold of community,” the voiced deferral puts on display the form of the deaths of others. If this is unrecognizable in its mode of address, if the semiotics of the death count become pure cadence and rhythm to which no response is possible or adequate (the truest sense of the monological), this is not the case of form obliterating sense, but of the sense of deferral functioning as the impossible assimilation of these deaths. It is thus the form of deferral that enacts the double sense of Ballard’s use of the word “generation”: what is made to go on, and what has already, definitively, passed on. That double sense cannot be in the text—it is neither present, nor bound up with presence—it is, rather, where the scene defers and what is constituted by this form of deferral, this disappearance without reference to what at any point appeared.
Ballard’s chain as Kaganof stages it involves a mutual deferral of origin and end. The rhythm of the formula repeats until the arbitrary, contingent and off-screen, which is to say external to the monological, voice declares “Stop”—deferring any final or last victim. And, likewise, the rhythm of repetition brackets any notion of the origin that might begin and thus promise coherence to such a list through its linking algebraic terms. Not least because Ballard starts with 1968 and Sirhan Sirhan, he leaves at minimum before the list the assassination of John F. Kennedy; 1968 arrives too late, which suggests that it is not the beginning in the sense of an origin at all. If we go back to the literal founding text of meta-physics, there, Aristotle proposes the kinoumenon kinei, the unchanging, primary substance of the “Unmoved Mover.” Kaganof’s film defers not only a telos for the list, it also refuses the fantasy of the “Unshot Shooter” who would ground or center the fragment. This mathematical transitivity is founded on grammatical transitivity, and the mise-en- abîme of transitivities extends so long as the voice has not yet declared “Stop” to this expanded field of relations.
This scene is built on ruins; it is constituted around the devastation of origin or end. If we analyze the presence of what is “in the scene,” including the presence of the speaker—the body, the voice, the dripping water, the dankness of the space—we reassert the primacy of a vocal and visual presence, a photology, a photophilia, a logophilia. If, instead, we take seriously fragmentation and the formula, then it is transitivity as such that exerts force in this cinematic bit. No image in the film, least of all this part of it, contains explicit acts of violence—rather, the juxtaposition of word and image deploys violence in and for the form of the film. Violence at the end of the work involves this suspension of origin and end, involves the force of deferral such that it is impossible to say that it is ever there in the film.
If the fragment includes its break, then the fragment is not reducible to any formalist logic organized around simple presence (i.e., the content of the fragment). Mise- n’en-scene suggests these are not monologues, but formalogues; but if formologue still holds too tightly to the logos (it is almost impossible to do away with), then I propose yet another revolution in the title of this film in order to make it not lie: 10 Formalgias, recalling that algon, as in nostalgia, really means a mode of aching pain. For it is formal material in deferred broken pieces and not pieces of flesh or the past that suffers, that bears out a chain of transitive suffering in the film.
Kaganof’s work is no less violent for that.
Eugenie Brinkema Massachusetts Institute of Technology Paper Presented March 23, 2012 in Boston, MA Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference
Felix Laband and the Impossible Day.
When I call Felix Laband up I have no idea what to expect. It’s been six wide years since ‘Dark Days Exit’, Laband’s high watermark following on cult favourites ‘Thin shoes in June’ and ‘4/4 Down the stairs’, the latter two albums having already re-sculpted dance-floor soundtracks throughout Cape Town, and brought him to the attention of hip German Electronica and Acid-Jazz label Compost.
‘Dark Days Exit’, widely and wildly lauded by critics throughout the hipper corners of the globe, introduced a more pensive aspect of Laband’s musicality. Its moods shifted from prettily haunted to vaguely ominous – its beauty was carved in twilight spaces, its beats shuffling in shadow. It was a great record, and – by his own admission – was created in a period of inspired productivity.
Following the clamor of praise and applause, Laband opted to withdraw from the adoring crowds. Then seemed to fall away from the earth itself.. leaving, in his stead, the usual proliferation of whispers and rumours that tend to accompany such sudden and sustained disappearances.
I’m surprised at the relaxed voice on the other side of the phone, inviting me to his studio in Rosebank. When my editor asked me to interview Laband at his new spot in Jo’burg, I calmly assured him that Laband was very much Cape-centric, and that his ‘new spot in Jo’burg’ was probably just another snippet of ficticious rumour. Several days later – more than a little disbelievingly – I found myself driving up a typically pretty, leaf-twirling Rosebank street.
Stepping into Laband’s home is like stepping into a living Felix Laband album cover, in 3D. The cozy, calm space of trees and geriatric-friendly gardens outside are replaced by Laband’s signature cheeky, unsettling manipulations of found images –
Here’s Barack Obama’s face blooming Ziggy Stardust tattoos; there’s Mugabe poking his newly mandible-fanged head through an ANC poster; here’s a cute huddle of Pornettes being penetrated by lucky skeletons; there a sweaty babe being ruptured by weird technologies.
Some of the collisions/collages bear the legend ‘Deaf Safari’..
‘And that shit’s happening right now..’
Laband and longstanding girlfriend Lauren have to pop out to a friend’s place (I’m a tad early), and instead of asking me to take a drive and come back later, or wait outside, Felix says I can chill in their lounge, “We’ll just be 15 minutes..”
From whichever perspective you view it, this is a very prettily ribboned gift for any journo or fan to receive – 15 minutes of unselfconscious exploration.. of inspecting the periphera, the creative traces of an artist’s living space. I flip through two boxes of records, which, along with the room-lining cd collection (hopping from book-shelves to cardboard box to cardboard boxes to crates and back) is mostly, and surprisingly, generic. No Steve Hofmeyr though. A handful of dvd’s scattered about are more intriguing – some dark and experimental titles wink at me.
When they return (“Feel free to read some books..” Laband mentioned before leaving) I’m paging through an occult pulp novel by Ira Levin (author of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.) “You should check these out; insane stuff. Important,” he says while scooping up a selection. Then he pops off to make some coffee (“Do you take milk?”)
Felix Laband has been reading. A lot. The tumble of books he hands me are mostly non-fiction, “this guy missioned right into Sierra Leone, amazing shit.” Rwanda’s RPF; psychopathic child gangs in Sierra Leone; political analyses of corrupt regimes; the behind-the-hush cesspool of what SA troops did and experienced at the border in those sinister Eighties; ANC rebels being taught the primal power of necklacing in Angola. “These kids (in Sierra Leone) basically waltzed into the capital and hacked off everybody’s limbs. Everybody’s.”
Heavy stuff, and one can see it in Felix’s eyes, in his gait, the heaviness. It takes something out of you exploring the dark – it claims its pound of flesh. Africa, that is Laband’s new mission – the Africa behind the scenes, behind the screens, behind the vaulted walls of fearful rich white/black folk soothing Africa’s reality away with the salve of money. Money has become the ultimate security system – the metaphorical distance that turns tragedy into comedy, or at least into something inoffensive. Whatever’s been in his veins before, Laband is mainlining harsh reality, “It just freaks me out that this shit (the Rwandan genocide and ongoing nightmares in Sierra Leone) went down while we were teens. It makes you realize that some people exist in a living hell, while others party next door.”
Laband is tired of the hip crowds, the self-congratulatory throngs of Capetonian Hipsters, with their jaded wit – with their comforting distance from hacked-off limbs and prepubescent children torturing people for kicks. “It makes you realize we’re all flesh,” he says, in reference to some deeply disturbing Sierra Leone footage he’d seen.
Laband is meaning to inject some reality into his music too. That, and some Jozi. I ask him about his move to Johannesburg. The answer is simple – he wants to mix with new artists, new rhythms; he wants to move new crowds.
One of the tracks he plays me off the long-pending new album ‘Deaf Safari’, is neck-deep in Kwaito.. but a tweaked Kwaito – bounce-heavy, yet Alien.. Another track snakes ingeniously around the rhythmic rants of some North African evangelist. Said track freshly reveals the inherent musicality of African sermons – music is Everywhere, in prayer and damnation alike.
It’s an interesting approach, ‘Deaf Safari’: Get people boogying to get them thinking. Listening to the ‘Deaf Safari’ tunes I sense Laband’s got his approach down.. The familiar motifs still pop up here and there – tinkling vibraphones, prettily looped acoustic guitars – but there’s a new edge here: Dark Funk – Phosphorescent beauty which can only be appreciated in shadow..
“People can talk all they want, and I guess I’ve kinda lived up to all the rumours… but when ‘Deaf Safari’ drops I want it to hit. I want it to mean something.”
Laband started off as a teen punk – ‘Incurable’ when he was in Standard 7, later ‘Fingerhead’. It was listening to electro-Goth and Industrial groups (Alien Sex Fiend, Skinny Puppy) that got Laband interested in programming (their latter outfit utilized a drum machine).
That spirit – adolescent, hungry – is still there, waiting to pounce.
Felix Laband is revisiting his live band days – ‘Deaf Safari’ will be the first Laband album to feature his own vocals, own lyrics. “I’m at a place where I have something to say..” From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be something of an onslaught.
Check one. Check 1-2-3.
First published in BPM Magazine.