Sunday, 28 October 2007

"Electricity Will Replace God"

On a recent episode of 'New Tricks', the Battersea Power Station featured prominently. This sparked two trains of thought for me. Firstly, and in line with this blog's interest in dead-tech, etc., I was curious to follow up the current status/use of this building. Not surprisingly there are many websites devoted to it, which, in part, outline the many proposals for its future; these include a massive redevelopment which would see the building housing restaraunts, cinemas, shops, etc., !
Secondly, in the show, the character Brian remarked that in mid-20th century Britain, the Battersea Power Station represented a "quasi-religious monument to electricity and power", and how appropriate then that its' art-deco exterior was designed by the architect of Liverpool Cathedral, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott . These comments reminded me of a paper written about the "sacred" importance of the science and technology "megaprojects" undertaken by mid-20th century totalitarian regimes (characterised, most recently, by Michael Burleigh as political religions). Such movements sort to bring about their 'mission' of creating 'heaven on earth', indeed, the very remodelling of humanity itself, through, among other things, the implementation of massive social engineering, building, and modernisation projects. Viewing people as "clay" to be reworked as necessary, death on a massive scale was inevitable.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Secret Agent Man

My fellow contributors, I know that this track and its clip are long lost gems we have endeavoured to track down, ever since they were featured on Rage sometime in the wee small hours, back in the 1980s. Of course the song predates the time in which we saw the clip, but I haven't experienced such a perfect symbiosis of sound and vision on youtube since watching Fad Gadget's "Collapsing New People". The unpolished clip matches the raw sound, and reminds us of how Devo were before the inevitable blandness set in. The way the song begins, with those ugly, experimental industrial sounds, replete with imagery of Devo in their disturbing Dr Who style "auton" masks, simply marvellous stuff....

The Dark Stuff: Serial Psychopathology

I haven't laid eyes on Nick Kent's book since around 1995, but after spending some time compulsively turning the pages in the Ariel Bookstore that hot summer day, I'm unable to ignore [what seems like] the anecdotal evidence for later theoretical concerns. One of the things I find particularly remarkable is how forthright Iggy Pop was in agreeing to pen a foreword for this book. I applaud his honesty, for Kent marshals considerable evidence for the indictment of Iggy as one of the most dissolute, intemperate figures in the annals of rock history. Indeed, Kent confirms and builds on some of Iggy's assertions from I Need More concerning a sexual fixation on underage girls, replete with apocalyptic imagery of him passed out among industrial ruins, with a semi-naked pre-pubescent girl lying next to him. Other examples abound, but the general picture is clear.
It might become clearer though if read alongside Danny Sugerman's memoirs, Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Excess. One of the most lucid and insightful passages in this book is when Sugerman offers a general evaluation of the transgressive behaviour of figures he was personally associated with, such as Iggy and Jim Morrison. He concludes that there was something calculated about their actions, inasfar as the obvious non-reciprocity was designed to destroy the sense of personal justice of those subject to it, thus controlling them. Upon returning home to discover an unconscious Iggy on the floor, with a trail of vomit, faeces and blood strewn down the hallway, Sugerman chose to adopt the managerial technique of instilling a sense of symmetry. Seizing Iggy by the ankles, he then proceeded to clean up the mess, using Iggy's long hair as a mop.
Reading The Dark Stuff and Wonderland Avenue in combination conveys a vivid sense of how such excesses define themselves against the sequenced interpolation of everyday encounters, which Giddens has fittingly described in terms of "seriality". The resort to primordialism draws its appeal from the possibility of transcending the negotiation of tact required by social interaction. Garfinkel was able to make comparable points with his experiments designed to breach trust. What this proves is the unfeasibility of the avant-garde's experimental approach to the world eventually destroying the Law; transgression is only meaningful insofar as a limit exists. On this basis I would modify some gender criticism of transgression, as it is not so much that protest masculinity is driven to return to a state of undifferentiation, to nothingness, at the most extreme end of the continuum. I think Nietzsche was closer to the heart of the matter when he noted that the problem was not the heights attained, but the fall. The discovery is not that there is nothing on the other side to "break on through to", but rather that its effects are inscribed within larger mechanisms of power. The self evolves in its complexity, and may revel in this reward, but this is a Faustian bargain, subject to continual renegotiation. Sooner or later then, seriality reappears to remind us that the retraction of symbolic boundaries constitutes a form of order.
If this holds, then it can hardly be coincidental that towards the end of his life, Morrison had adopted a more sombre, sociologically realist mode of songwriting. Indeed, "L.A. Woman" is one of the best things he ever wrote, with its ethnographic snapshots of everyday scenes (as opposed to an earlier "weird scenes inside the goldmine), "cops in cars/topless bars/never seen a woman so alone". True, glimpses of the old persona remain, with "The Changeling" and "L'America", but overall the album is his most diverse lyrically.
We know that Morrison claimed he would have studied more sociology if he had lived a different life, but whether this would have meant reading Deleuze's thesis of the "control society", Foucault and Lacan, that have influenced this posting, along with the aforementioned select sociological stablemates, no one can say for sure. In any case, Kent and Sugerman provide much grist for the theoretical mill, spurring the realisation that creativity can be a form of normativity. As I've commented on this blog before, it is only a failure to understand this that can fuel convictions of an inevitable Ballardian society leading us all on a merry dance towards the apocalypse. At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that such theorists make for strange bedfellows with neoconservative cultural critics, but this impression may soon fade. My advice would be to articulate ideas of aesthetic revolt to permanent revolution, and consider how complementary they are. Then watch the documentary Arguing the World and draw conclusions as to how and why so many of the interviewees "broke on through" to the other side of the political spectrum.

Theorising Thailand: Zones of Indistinction

I thought a rejoinder was required to my earlier posting on Thailand ("The Transformation of Thailand into a Post-Oedipal Playground of Transsexaul Kitsch"), which foregrounded the protaganist of Michel Houellebecq's novel Platform with respect to Orientalism, rather than to the more often cited H.P. Lovecraft, where humanity is perpetually victimised by primordial forces they can neither control nor understand (I figure Louis Ferdinand Celine must be awaiting comparison in this context). What I failed to do was cite any work by Thai academics that could contextualise how representative of their country were the informal economies of sex tourism etc, that are fetishsized in Platform, and indeed, in Internet culture more generally. According to the study I've cited, they are apparently very important, with decisive ramifications for the viability of Thai democracy, given the extensive corruption involved in the industry.
I also thought it incumbent on me to reproduce Lingis' reply to Peter Jackson's critical review of his work. Lingis offers one of the most unscholarly, ineffectual responses to a critic that I've ever read. Clearly he, like any academic, is obligated to answer the specific charges, but he merely evades this responsibility, choosing instead to engage in wordplay, and vaguely alluding to a literary character. Everyone knows that Lingis is a showman to some extent, lecturing from within a coffin, or turning off the lights in the lecture theatre, adorning himself in glowing bodypaints and what not, holding to the maxim, "the unlived life is not worth examining". But his response reads as a surprisingly timid, and perhaps even dishonest, missed opportunity to foreground his own investment in the topic at hand.
This is a pity, because I would have liked to have seen more from him about liminal experience in relation to other theoretical work, such as Foucault's heterotopias, or perhaps more fittingly Agamben's "states of exception" or "zones of indistinction", where the borderline between economics and politics, reproduction and production is dissolving. What else are the biopolitics of sex tourism if not this? And what about the question of how fitting it may be that such zones are inhabited by liminal figures such as kathoey? On these grounds, some qualification of Bakhtin's carnival is also required, as it is not the social order of the host society that temporarily reverses its power relations, it is rather, in the case of the western sex tourist, a reversal they can experience by travelling to such refuges from feminism and identity politics more generally, "king for a day, fool for a lifetime". Guilt is assuaged by travelling as far away as possible from familiar ties, and Houellebecq adds the interesting, and disturbing twist, complementary to the "desiring machine" reference of my earlier posting: this desire assumes a serial form, inasmuch as it views Asia as a gigantic factory producing an overabundance of life, an interchangeability of bodies and faces, where "they all [sic] look the same". It is indistinction on this level, which is [spuriously] contrasted with notions of western individualism, that Houellebecq draws upon to rationalise the actions of his protagonist: after innumerable encounters he is unable to distinguish anything other than the fact that he was there, thus freeing him from any haunting by the faces of the sexual partners left behind.
In these terms, the point of arrival is also a paradoxical point of departure; re-enchantment is tied to a terminal identity. As Platform makes clear, few settle in such zones to begin a new life, but simply to concede the end of their lives. So perhaps biopolitics does eventually reconnect with the pessimistic, organic entropy tropes found in Lovecraft's work afterall....
I have chosen a couple of youtube clips that may (in)directly speak to some of the concerns raised in this posting.

Alphonso Lingis' Response to Peter Jackson's 'Spurning Alphonso Lingis' Thai "Lust": The Perils of a Philosopher at Large'
Alphonso Lingis

I really reveled in the wicked pleasure of reading, as much, I think, as Peter Jackson of writing, the portrait of Alphonso Lingis - this individual neither of us has met. Any academic like us gets off on letting out all the stops sometimes. This Alphonso Lingis is 'ignoran[t] of the power relations in East-West erotic contact.' He 'rule[s] out the possibility of loving erotic relationships between Caucasians and Thais.' He is unable 'to tell the difference between a kathoey and a Thai woman.' He takes Thailand to be a 'matriarchal Garden of Eden.' He takes 'transvestites [as] representative of Thai males,' and 'assume[s] that all Thai men are potentially kathoey.' He is afflicted with 'blindness to non-Western cultural patterns.' He 'imperiously' 'fail[s] to see or acknowledge the local different rules of the erotic.' He embodies 'an uncritiqued Orientialism,' and 'an uncritiqued imperialist view of Asian masculinities as inferior forms beside Western expressions of manhood.' Makes one think of Fritz Shrobenius, in Yambo Ouologuem's Bound to Violence. But in the end Alphonso Lingis is 'just another angst-ridden coloniser feeling guilty about his power rather than a liberator.' Peter Jackson lets us down there. Ouologuem's portrait of Shrobenius is both more malicious and more liberatingly side-splitting.
I do sincerely apologize to Peter Jackson for having somehow dropped the appropriate footnote for the two sentences he indeed is the origin of.
Al Lingis
Professor Alphonso Lingis,
Department of Philosophy
The Pennsylvania State University
Guns, Girls, Gambling, Ganja: Thailand's Illegal Economy and Public Policy (Paperback)
Editorial Reviews
Card catalog description
Gambling, prostitution, drugs, arms trading, oil smuggling, and trafficking in people - these six illegal businesses are large and getting larger. They distort the economy and victimize people. They are increasingly linked together through networks of protection and organized crime. They help to fund Thailand's corrosive 'money politics' and to sustain corruption in the police. In this sequel to Corruption and Democracy in Thailand, the authors argue that control of the illegal economy, especially through reform of the police, is vital for the development of a modern economy and functioning democracy.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Flint, Michigan via Subtopia

"There we were in this plain white vehicle truckin’ northbound on the I-69 with oversized Starbucks cups in our hands (unfortunately, without those there would be absolutely no coffee in Indiana, a very sad fact it seems), whizzing past corn fields and Rest Areas and strange taxonomies of roadkill that accumulated every few hundred yards or so on the highway’s shoulders (I’m convinced Indiana has more roadkill than any other state in the U.S. – after forcing Wes to open his eyes while driving we spotted three mangled little corpses blur past us in a single second followed immediately by a broken down Oldsmobile, the perfect exclamation point to all that ended up there and would never make it across the road), squirrels, raccoons, mice, gophers, rabbits, cats, drivers (who knows what else) … the road to Flint was already a stroll through a long cemetery.

"When Wes, Nihal, and I headed up there a few weeks ago I couldn’t wait to pick up on that geography of urban ruins that weaves so many of my interests together about architecture, global economies, lost histories, indigenous culture, systemic poverty, the road trip, contexts of abandonment, informal communities, urban salvagers, and so on.

"As you know, Wes has been paying close attention to Flint over the last couple of years, he says he’s photographed literally thousands of abandoned houses there, some that have just remained boarded up for years, others that have been tagged with For Sale signs from hustlers trying to collect money on structures they don’t even own. Still, some homes are being moved into by neighbors looking to upgrade next door just as the occupants have left the property. There are owners who are defiant, scared, territorial, proud, some who want to keep their homes and those who pray for demolition, and in many ways Flint is just another shade of New Orleans caught in between states of devastation and piddly renewal. Though instead of having been flooded, it’s all dried up instead."

If there is life in Flint...
- Subtopia: A Field Guide to Military Urbanism

The Last House - vertical cemetery

"Though it looks like something out of Perdido Street Station, it's really a skyscraping extension to the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica, 'a vertical cemetery established in Santos in Brazil in 1983.'

"This futuristic, insectile extension 'will create another 25,000 niches, set inside a 108-metre-high tower block that will complete the complex.'It will be circled by birds, looming alien on the horizon.

"The vertical cemetery is particularly widespread in Brazil and is also beginning to be used in other places: the Panteón Memorial Towers complex, which consists of 13 towers in a vaguely deconstructivist style, has recently been presented at Bogotá in Colombia and sparked debate concerning changes in funeral rituals related to the social changes that have taken place over the last 30 years. In the South Korean pavilion at the last Venice Architecture Biennale, the project The Last House by architect Chanjoong Kim (founder of System Lab) addressed the same notion, bringing it into line with more contemporary architectural styles and approaches and drawing on a zoomorphic language that echoed systems of vascular circulation. Architecture appears swift to take the opportunity to address a new area where death creates a market, on the borderline between consumerism and entertainment."

Structures of the Death Market - BLDGBLOG

The Hanging Cemetery of Baghdad

Nannette Jackowski and Ricardo O. C. de Ostos once proposed “a gigantic presence of a hanging funeral structure” that will hover above the war torn streets of Baghdad, floating unceasingly “from bright explosive mornings to airless night hours,” and lush with growth from an endless supply of dead Iraqis.

“Day by day, nearly hourly, it updates its assimilating heavy stocks, a statistic of a hundred thousand Iraqi corpses or maybe twenty five thousand.”

"The Hanging Cemetery is a speculative project of architecture. Since its sketchy inception dating back to the summer of 2004 to today. We intend to explore what architecture could generate when faced with extreme cultural and political scenarious like the current crises in the Middle East. As with the rest of our work, the focus of the project is less in the form of a final object than as a script that it inserts into the city.

"The main driving force was to consistently explore through an inventive design proposal the ambiguities that surround our current lives, not only as social producers of space but also as global spectators."

Serial Behaviour: "Nevermind The Beatles, here's Exile 61 and Nico"

Have recently done some Luhmannesque investigation of popular music, both on this blog, and elsewhere. What happens when we start to look at the "interpenetration" of social and psychic systems, in the form of the critic, the listmaker, "the greatest albums of all time"? What purposes do the drawing of such distinctions serve? I'm gathering material on these topics, and hope to put some of it up here soon (unfortunately my time has become more restricted, with the year drawing to a close, mounting commitments etc).
In the meantime, I've just come across another approach, which I suspect is closer to a Bourdieu type taxonomy of "taste", while still making some concession to the "disinterestedness" of aesthetics. I'm trying to repress visions of High Fidelity though.....
Nevermind The Beatles, here's Exile 61 and Nico: ‘The top 100 records of all time’ – a canon of pop and rock albums from a sociological and an aesthetic perspective
"Popular Music" (2006), 25: 21-39 Cambridge University Press Copyright © 2006 Cambridge University Press-->
Copyright © 2006 Cambridge University Press
Published online by Cambridge University Press 17Feb2006

For this article the authors analysed thirty-eight lists of ‘The 100 greatest albums of all time’ type. As the findings demonstrate, a canon of popular music has evolved which shows strong tendencies towards stability in featuring albums from the late 1960s (especially those by The Beatles), while only a few albums from the 1990s have gained ‘classic’ status. The canon's contents and exclusions are explained by the social dispositions of the participants, predominantly white males aged twenty to forty. Influenced by efforts of the cultural industries, these actors also evaluate certain albums for the purposes of distinguishing themselves from the ‘mainstream’. Furthermore, aesthetic and artistic criteria underlying the esteem of the ‘masterworks’ are identified by analysing reviews. The authors suggest that future research on canonisation should interlock sociological and aesthetic perspectives. Findings from such an approach might initiate reflection among music fans about their own exclusions, and result in an opening up of the meaning and significance of the canon.

The New Cinema of War

I was recently reading an article titled, "D-Day in Hollywood Motion Pictures: a Brief History of Changing Perceptions of War" by Carsten Hennig ( The Normandy Campaign 1944: Sixty Years on, Edited by John Buckley ), which argued, in part, that the theme of many post-9/11 Hollywood war films ( with many of these depicting or referencing the Civl War, in particular, - another major symbol of American national trauma ) have attempted to incorporate/ameliorate the trauma of 9/11 into American national myth by reframing the image of war. Below is a link to another article by Hennig that addresses this topic more fully.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

An Excursus on Posthuman Music Culture(s): The Furry Music Foundation:

How can we explain the overwhelming fixation on Oedipalised tragic humanism in so much writing about music? Just off the top of my head, I can think of one prominent blog that frequently references Slavoj Zizek, which has also dipped into close readings of that Oedipal wreck of the moment, thanks to the film Control, Ian Curtis ("mother I've tried hard believe me/I'm doing the best that I can"). And this is to say nothing of that comparable genre pic, albeit presented as "a triumph of the human spirit" of sorts, The Devil and Daniel Johnston (nice man, untalented musician though). Meanwhile, although further research is needed to substantiate my assertion, The Wire announces its mission statement as following adventures in experimental music, but I wonder if some kind of humanist framework is limiting the investigation of musical cultures, even there. I think the problem is evident from the way a lot of electronic artists are not granted enough leeway in autopoietic terms, which could determine some other directions the artists/collectives could be interested in exploring, besides the well known (and rightly condemned) fascist/constructivist nexus/TETSUO (technomasculine fantasies).

What if this leeway could be extended to interrelationships with (non) human others? A few years back I was greatly impressed by David Toop's book Ocean of Sound, which at least broached this question, with its description of whale music/interspecies communication. I've also read a fine piece by Pauline Oliveros, in which she relates her music to the issue of posthumanism (pasted below). But I reserve particular praise for Emily White for setting out the cultural context, with reference to The Furry Music Foundation (also pasted below). Finally, with a view to (hopefully) some future research along some of these lines, I've linked below to a new issue of Qualitative Sociology on Human/Animal Relations.

Notice that I'm not performing the last rites on humanism, I'm simply asking why humanism isn't more explicitly brought upfront, especially when it features in [music] criticism that ostensibly presents itself as avant-garde, transgressive, or whatever comparable term is applied. A well known example might make the point clearer: have these critics ever spent a nanosecond considering what other meanings could be read into "taking a walk on the wild side" in light of some of the material gathered here? If we use Lou Reed's popular song as a convenient reference point, already daring enough for its groundbreaking evocation of transgender, new imaginings become available. Will we see furry culture(s) adopt such pop cultural artefacts, to the point where they take on new connotations? In these terms, Reed's song could recount the journey of a marginalised anthromorph in the concrete jungle of New York City. Perhaps Jim Morrison, the self-proclaimed "Lizard King", will be portrayed in such a context as something other than rock music's heir to Rimbaud? In Deleuzian terms, perhaps it could even be said that "The End" typified a new beginning, as primordialism, "becoming animal", offered a potential line of flight from Oedipal tragedy ("father I want to kill you/mother I want to....)?

If we could start to face up to these possibilities, it might be clearer if music plays any role in the inauguration of a bioculture, and what some of the implications of this may be (i.e. involving a two way process having ramifications beyond a musical subculture). Should these experiments be resisted, if so, why? Is the absence of direct engagement in some of the otherwise "authoritative" sources cited above, itself a form (in the appropriately standardised Zizek psychoanalytical terms, an unconscious form) of resistance?

Furry Music: Songs in the Key of Fur
By Emily White
May 15, 2002
Intercultural Music in America
University of Colorado @ Colorado Springs
Instructor Dr. Smith
The connection of man and animal has been around since the earliest recordings of history. In cave drawings, depictions of animal-men have been around from the time of the images of men themselves. Stories and fables of talking animals, werewolves, Kitsune and changelings are common in every culture. There are so many ways that cultures connect themselves to animals through their dances, music and ceremonies that this is a common theme of mankind. It is these traditions that the furry sub-culture helps to continue. Using modern methods, "furries" around the world try to find their balance and connection to the desire of man to be more animal-like.
The beginning of the furry community was actually the beginning of the "Funny Animal" community. The term "Funny Animal" was used to identify cartoons, which were the most popular form of anthropomorphic animals. The reason the term is not used as often today is because "Funny Animals" are misleading. While many furries are fans of cartoons, there are many that identify with animals in completely different ways. Still, the term "Funny Animal" is still used by some furries and the debate can get very heated between the two differing viewpoints.
From most of the interviews with furries, the definition of a furry is very loose. The most basic definition is any anthropomorphized animal. This can range from animals that talk, such as The Lion King or Watership Down, to more humanized versions, such as the ancient Kitsune of Japan or the modern "Mickey Mouse." However, this definition leaves out those furries who believe in normal animals that are their spirit guides, furries that believe in a spiritual connection to the animals around them, and furries that believe that they have been reincarnated and had a previous life as the animal they feel a connection to. Conflicts of who can call themselves a furry have also become more heated since the Internet allowed furries to contact one another easier. However, most furries don’t care how you interpret furriness so long as you understand that it is a connection of human and animal.
The amount of connection between these animals and the "furry" is dependent on the furry’s own beliefs. For some furries, there is no distinction between their human self and their furry self. They incorporate habits of the animal they feel has chosen them into their daily routine, often subconsciously. Other furries feel a separation from their furry self and their human self. Others believe that their furry self is actually a spiritual guide, much like the Native American cultures that believe that every being is born with an animal waiting to guide them throughout their lives. Some furries believe they remember their previous life where they were some sort of animal and felt they were the most balanced and happiest in that life, so the animal characteristics carry over into their current life. There are some that believe in were-creatures, or changeling ability. This is more comparable to the belief held by some Native American and African tribes that a person can take on the characteristics of a certain animal through some spiritual way. Still others are content only to admit that they like the artwork of furries and feel they have no true connection to furries. This last group is often the subject of debate as to whether they are actually furries or merely admirers of the culture. The only common connection between everyone is that there is more than an average admiration and connection to animals.
There are many different terms that the furry community uses in order to communicate among themselves. Terms like "furry", "furson" and "furs" identify furry individuals. The term "Furry" can be used to identify real people or the animal, in whatever forms the animal is that the person is connected to. "Fursuits" refer to the full body suits that furries wear for multiple reasons. "FurryMUCK" is a site that is popular among some of the more computer-oriented furries where role-play as their furry alter ego is common. Growling, "rr"ing, and many other animal sounds are considered normal in a group and social setting. Some sounds that animals make have taken on a greater meaning. "Yerf" is a common word that no one really knows where it came from, but is connected to an art community online and a fanzine offline. "Yiff" and "Yiffy" is another word that supposedly came from an animal sound and is considered to mean sex and sexy. An important part of the furry community is the renaming of people. Every furry typically has two names. One is their given name, and the other is the name of their furry persona. Sometimes a furry has more than one furry persona and so will have more than one name. These names are used online and offline. The language of the furry community can make meeting with a bunch of furs an interesting experience until you learn it.
The furry community is made up of many different types of beliefs and lifestyles. It’s impossible to say how many different beliefs there are. The one common theme among furries is that typically they are much more accepting of many different beliefs. The common theme is "As long as you don’t hurt other fursons by your actions, then you are welcome here." There are a great number of religious beliefs, but the most numerous are those beliefs that allow for a greater animal to man connection. Furries often feel free to explore Paganism and anti-theology because of the need for the freedom of interpretation of the man-animal connection. However, it seems that nearly every belief system is represented. Rarely will you hear furs discussing religion unless they know that other furs won’t be offended by their beliefs. There are also a number of alternative lifestyles in the furry community. Homosexuals and bisexuals make up a good portion of the furry community. On a whole, however, the furry community seems more accepting of these lifestyles and it’s not a real problem for the majority of furries to deal with.
Furries use several means to communicate. Before the Internet, fanzines and publications were the main tools to communicate with. A common magazine is "In-Fur_Nation", which gives current events, meeting information, and a sampling of art. Another magazine put out for the furry community is "Furrlough". The publication is monthly and focuses more on art with some communications. However, since the earliest computer connections, furries have been using the computer to communicate with one another. Typically, a furry will tell you that they have always had the inclinations to be a furry, but were unaware that anyone else out there might have the same feelings until they met someone online. Email chat groups, chat rooms and role-play are the most common ways that furries find and communicate with each other.
On the Internet, role-play for furries is very normal. The oldest role-play area is "FurryMUCK", an extensive role-playing community that allows you to adjust the role-play environment to suit the individual’s need. For instance, if someone views themselves as a fox and wants to make a den, then they can find an empty area and spend time programming the MUCK to have their den there. When other furries come through that area, then they will see what the furry fox has made. On a MUCK setting like this one, furries also communicate about real life issues ranging from schoolwork, furry acceptance and life-problems. These "Out of Character" communications help furries to create bonds while waiting for the all too infrequent real life gathering.
Off of the Internet, furries meet one another in a variety of places. Where there is more than one furry, expect a meeting to happen at one time or another. In the Colorado Springs area, there are only a few furries and only one furry club. The "Anime and Furry Art Appreciation" club on UCCS was created this year and met consistently throughout the year. Traditionally, it’s common for a furry club to ride on the skirts of an Anime club since Anime has a more common fan base. A far more active community is in Boulder, where furries meet for fursuiting, drawing, and any excuse they can find. "Howloween" is an annual dance that takes place around Halloween every year. There are also a variety of camping adventures, hikes, and other outdoor games. Much larger community gatherings are at Conventions.
Conventions happen at many different places around the world. Conventions are typically named for the area that they are happening or for fun. Because of the large furry community in Europe, there are a number of conventions that happen there every year with the largest being "Eurofurence". American conventions happen in every state. The largest furry conventions happen on the west and east coasts, because of the large furry community present there. There are also large furry conventions that move from state to state, trying to fill the need of furries without making them travel too far. There is talk among the Colorado Furs of hosting a furry convention, though that may take a little time to truly happen. A successful convention has furries come from all over the world to meet. No matter where they meet, furries are a very physical group as a whole. "Scritching", hugs, and other physical contact is considered very normal and a furry or person who doesn’t feel comfortable with physical contact usually has to make that known or risk a surprise pounce and hug attack. Once a furry knows that someone is uncomfortable with that, then they will respect those wishes. However, most furries enjoy the contact.
The way that a furry expresses himself is as varied as just enjoying looking at the art to being a part of it. Art is a large part of the furry community. Nearly every furry has tried to draw how they feel when they think of their furry self. Some artists are extremely good and published while others are only beginning in their expression. The traditional way for furries to exchange art is to go to a convention and draw something for someone while they draw something for you. The more common way is the selling of prints and online trading. Comic books are also a common way for furries to exchange art.
Another way that furries express themselves is through their sewing skills. The wearing of tails and ears in public is a way of showing pride in their furry self, as well as a way of feeling more connected to their furry side in real life. Less common are the full fursuits that can be as simple or complicated as the furry inside of them. These are like mascot suits, some so complicated that they have cooling units inside of them. These cooling units are often needed as the temperature inside of a fursuit can reach unbearable heights. The reasons for wearing a fursuit are mostly to feel a greater connection to their furry self and to entertain others. Fursuiters usually like to perform in plays, fashion shows, or in other ways.
Writing stories is a less popular way that furries express themselves in comparison to drawing. Still, there are thousands of stories written by furries on the Internet. Every magazine published by furries contains furry stories. These stories can be in comic book form or in normal novel or short-story form. Since the furry community isn’t very mainstream, furry novels that are enjoyed by furries aren’t always exclusively from the furry community. The "Redwall" series by Brian Jacques is an extremely popular novel series for furries. Movies also typically come from non-furry sources. Disney’s Robin Hood, Balto, The Lion King, Never Cry Wolf, The Secret of N.I.M.H and Watership Down are a few movies that furries enjoy as expressing furry thoughts or feelings.
Another way that furries express themselves is through puppets and puppeteering skills. A debatable furry expression is the "Funday Pawpet Show" that is shown online every Sunday. The Pawpet show is a puppet show using animals and a variety of props in a variety of situations. Even though the Funday Pawpet sets are available for purchase on Furbid, it generally advertises itself as not being furry. Other puppet shows are more common at conventions and gatherings. It’s just another fun way for a furry to express what they feel without actually having to wear a full fursuit
A less common way for furries to express themselves is through music. In talking with furries, most were unaware that there was a "furry music scene." Still, every furry could tell about music that they felt was furry. The most extensive furry music collection on the Internet was found at The Furry Music Foundation that is based in Europe. While the majority of furry musicians connected with the Foundation were Europeans, some are in America. The Furry Music Foundation also gives a listing of music that is considered furry, though it’s not necessarily from a furry source. Soundtracks to favorite movies like The Lion King, or other songs that were obviously talking about furry animals make up this list. There are songs from rock groups and punk groups that are generally considered furry as well. This music is debatable as to whether it’s truly furry, however. The argument is that if the artist didn’t write it intentionally for a furry audience, then it may not be considered furry. However, this music is enjoyed by the community as a whole and should be considered a part of the furry community.
The most efficient way for furries to exchange music is over the Foundation’s website, where there are many songs available for download. There are also three CD’s connected to the website that can be bought. The first CD released was called "Furry Fantasies" and was mostly computer-generated music. "Silky Fur", the next CD released, has an even greater variety of music from vocals and traditional to completely computer-generated. "Furry Fantasies II: The Soundtrack" was released most recently with more traditional musical expression, though computer generated was still a part of it. The connection to stories and music is seen most clearly in the title of "Furry Fantasies II: The Soundtrack" in that the artists decided to identify it as a soundtrack. The reason given was that each of the songs was written with a story in mind. The trend is that every CD released by these independent producers increases in quality. These CDs are enjoyed by furries the world over.
Public playing of furry music happens most often at conventions. Furry concerts are sometimes organized at conventions. Usually these concerts give artists a chance to show their music and share old favorites. These concerts range from organized performances to less organized jam sessions. Another way that furries publicly exchange their music is by meeting in smaller groups during conventions. These impromptu jam sessions are a fun way to share music. There also usually is a dance at conventions and this is another place that music is integral. Not all of this music is furry, but a majority of it is. This need to dance may account for the high amount of techno music that furries seem to produce.
Furry music comes in a variety of styles. Everything from Classical to modern Techno is found on the Foundation’s website. The only style not seen was country, but it’s only a matter of time before a "cow"boy makes his way on the site. Some songs aren’t really categorized in any type of style. "For a Sqrrl", or a squirrel furry, is a parody written by Chama from a ballad called "For a Cat" written by Jumpy. Another interesting song to listen to is "Mizarian Porcupine Overture" by Thyromanes, which is the overture to the Mizarian Porcupine Opera "Têka ï së rrakî". This song is written not using diatonical scales. A song not found on the Furry Music Foundation’s website is "The Raccoon Song" that no one quite knows who wrote it. This song is reportedly played at nearly every convention at some point.
As a whole, the furry community is accepting of others but often has trouble being accepted by others. Young adults just discovering the furry culture often find their families object. The most common misunderstandings in the past have been worries about bestiality. Even though furries may feel a connection to animals, bestiality is not common and is typically unaccepted. On a whole, sex with an animal is viewed along the same lines as rape because the animal isn’t sapient and can’t express its views.
There are also a lot of misunderstandings created by the media. Most recently a report given by MTV painted furry as a popular fetish, especially showing fursuiters. This connection of fursuiters to sexual fetishes worried a lot of fursuiters because many fursuiters are simply entertainers, like clowns. A connection like this makes parents and other potential job providers think twice before hiring a furry fursuiter. Typically magazines and television reports focus on the more sexual and fantastical parts of the furry community rather than the regular and typically boring everyday furry. This is frustrating to furries who find that they have to explain what a furry is and argue what they believe and what they’ve seen to people who have only been exposed to the media depictions. "The Wolf In You" by Chama is a very popular song among furries because it expresses the frustration at the feelings of dealing with people who are unaware of what a furry is and the feelings of isolation that furries often have. Another concern to the furry community as a whole is the mistreatment of any person or individual. "Prayer for Danny" by Hali is a very touching song "about a young man abandoned by his family and friends" with the hope of encouraging him to hang on through those tough times.
Most furs will agree that the furry community needs to be more known so that people will understand furries and not react violently towards the community. How this will be handled in the future is uncertain. Because of past exposure, it’s generally felt that in order for the furry community to be accurately portrayed it needs to come from Furries. Like most smaller controversial communities, furries are too prone to be portrayed as crazy or depraved in some way because of the differences that are embraced. This is similar to the "Riot Grrl" movement of the 90’s having problems with media coverage forgetting about the message of women’s rights and focusing mostly on the sensational parts of the culture. Some of the ways that furries are trying to come out in the community has been through service projects for causes that most furries support. Animal welfare and environmental issues top the list.
The furry community has been around since the 1970’s and has spread all over the world. The culture has developed from smaller gatherings and continues to grow thanks in part to the Internet. Conventions increase in attendance and sites like Furbid where furry material is auctioned back and forth between furries is increasing in popularity. Online communities are also increasing in population and art is increasing exponentially. It’s doubtful that the community will disappear because there is always a new generation joining the old in the appreciation of the connection between man and animal.
The Anthrofurry Infocenter – Information about Furry Fandom, anthropomorphic animals. (2002)
Colorado Furs Group. (2002)
The Furry Music Foundation. (2002).
Furbid. (2002).
Chama. The Wolf In You, For a Sqrrl
Hali. Prayer For Danny
Jumpy. For a Cat
Thyromanes. Têka ï së rrakî
Unknown. Raccoon Song
Also special thanks to the many furs who donated time to explaining their view of the furry community, the music scene of the furry community, and the many different aspects. Special thanks to Chama for helping me find the furry musicians that I needed to for more information, and to the Furry Music Foundation for the music and contacts to the artists.

Tripping On Wires: The Wireless Body: Who is Improvising?
Pauline Oliveros, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
“A transhuman is a person who seeks to become a posthuman by striving to enhance themselves [sic] physically, mentally and spiritually using technological means” (More, qtd. in Sandberg).
We are in the transhuman age.
“[A] posthuman [is a person] of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity, self-programming, self-constituting, [a] potentially immortal, unlimited individual” (More, qtd. in Sandberg).
We are observing and participating in the hybridization of humans and computers: the merger of humans and computers, or what is referred to in scientific circles as the singularity, predicted to arrive by the end of the 21st century.
“By the time machines make a case for themselves in a convincing way and have all the subtle cues indicative of emotional reaction, there won't be a clear distinction between machine and human” (Kurzweil, qtd. in Baard).
How has this situation come to pass? What is the underlying theme that drives humans toward this merger or singularity? What will our music be like in the later twenty-first century? Who will be creating this music and performing it, and who will be listening? How will it function and in what kind of society? How wide is the digital divide? Who will be left behind?
I have been tripping on wires on stage and off stage for half a century of this now rapidly accelerating technological change in music instrumentation. The body is an instrument of choice for directly making music with voice, hands, feet, and body resonance. This has not essentially changed. However, the distancing of the body in making music began with the first discovered technology for making musical sound as an extension of the body, such as blowing air through a hollow bird bone as a simple flute or whistle. The bird bone whistle is one of the oldest instruments found so far, dating to the upper Paleolithic period (Toth and Schick). Through the millennia, the distancing of the body by instrumentation has increased exponentially until, with the inventions of recording technology and radio broadcasting, music could be completely disembodied.
I have lived for sixty-eight percent of the twentieth century and four percent of the twenty-first century. At this juncture I have the perspective of seventy-two years experience with technological change - particularly with music technology. I have attempted over the years to enhance my musical understanding, abilities, and performance as a human by using the musical tools that are available to me as an extension of my body. As I continue to adopt new technologies as tools, I am participating in transhuman activity. Will I live to enter the posthuman age?
Little did I realize in 1942 that my fascination with the accordion at age nine would continue to this day and that I would re-tune and use the accordion with recording and electronics as I do now. It is humbling to realize how a simple technology, such as a small metal reed that vibrates freely when air flows through it in my accordion, has had a very lengthy presence in music history. The free reed vibrates in all the Asian mouth organs beginning with the Chinese Sheng at least 4000 years ago (“Eastern Free Reed Instruments”). The free reed appeared in more modern Western instruments such as the accordion, harmonica, bandoneon, and concertina in the mid-nineteenth century (“A Brief History”). These instruments, unlike the Asian mouth organs, all distance the performer from his or her own breath. The bellows replace the lungs; the fingers that touch buttons and keys replace lips, tongue, and windpipe.
I was born into a time of disembodied music that I heard on the radio and phonograph. Recording had already existed since the late nineteenth century. Radio broadcast in America was only about twenty-five years old when I was born in 1932. Radio and recording grew rapidly and continue to be primary sources for exposure to wider and wider ranges of music than have ever been possible before. I took that music in my childhood for granted as I did the live piano music that I heard in my home each day. I did not realize how the wire recorder we owned by 1946 would evolve and be so important in my career and in the evolution of musicianship in general.
I have noticed how accomplished musicians are today compared with musicians of forty years ago or even twenty years ago. The young musicians that I encounter today can perform almost anything and are often adventurous and open to new work. Younger audiences are more adventurous and open too. This capacity and openness was not so true in the past. I attribute this development to the availability of audio and video recording of performances, and of immediate playback for the performers and their teachers. Human musicians may compare performances, improvisations of their own, and of all manner of musical repertoire to enhance their abilities, techniques, and understanding through this technology.
When you play back a recording of your own playing you listen to what you thought you heard and you begin to perceive what you did not hear consciously; thus, there is interactivity, stimulation of memory, and consciousness. (This was true of the introduction of the alphabet and writing as well in the history of consciousness – technologies support memory.) Humans plus technology equal transhuman activity. We are experiencing a new wave of consciousness because of our relationship with technology.
The first tool of my trade that had a wire to plug in (and trip on) was my Eico tape recorder that I received from my mother for my birthday in 1953. My first impulse was to put the microphone on the windowsill of my San Francisco apartment and record whatever was sounding outside. I learned that the microphone was hearing sounds that I missed while listening during the recording. The challenge of this perception caused me to vow to listen to everything all the time and to remind myself when I was not listening. I have been tripping on listening ever since and minding the reminders. My life and listening were expanded and changed.
The story of my early relationship with the tape recorder is the beginning of my more conscious relationship with technology and the body. Tape recorders were not common in 1953 and had just become available for consumers after their German origin in World War Two.1 My understanding of listening was changed by my experience even though my ears were physically the same. The microphone and tape recorder became extensions of my body and amplified my hearing. The tape recorder became an essential tool in my development as a composer, performer, and improvisor. The tape recorder enabled me to more deeply access body consciousness through improvisation. From the moment I recorded my practice sessions, for me or for my students, the immediate feedback improved the speed of error correction for performance. I incorporated improvisation and recording as part of my composing. I notated what I liked from recorded improvisations.
By 1959 I had made my first tape piece to be included on the initial concert of what was to become the San Francisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC). There were no electronic music studios available to me at the time. My friend Ramon Sender Barayon started a studio in the attic at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I made my piece at home using only the tape recorder at seven-and-a-half and three-and-three-quarters ips plus a special feature that allowed me to hand wind the tape in record mode so that I had manual variable speed.2 I discovered this feature through experimentation, as it was not a documented use of the machine. I was improvising with sounds and with the uses of the recorder. I imagined how an improvised passage recorded at high speed would sound at low speed and vice versa. Thus my real-time improvisation added a new layer that involved projecting future modification and manipulation of the tape recorder as an instrument. Since I had no other electronic equipment I recorded through cardboard tubes for filters, put the microphone in the bathtub for reverberation and amplified small vibrating objects on an apple box with a contact microphone. The resulting four-channel piece was called Time Perspectives. The synch was done with two stereo tape recorders. (There were no four channel tape recorders at the time.) Ramon and I lined up the tape in the long halls of the San Francisco Conservatory to get the starting points. This piece is now forty-five years old.
*** listen to a sample (4:06 min.) of Time Perspectives ***mp3 (7.5 MB) WAV (41 MB)
From the beginning, my work in electronic music proceeded from a performance relationship with sounds and the characteristics of the workings of the tape recorder. For Time Perspectives I improvised long sections of the piece for each channel and avoided cutting and splicing as much as possible. I had improvised a rudimentary home electronic music studio and improvised the music. My later electronic pieces such as I of IV and Bye Bye Butterfly were entirely improvised in real time in a studio with hardwired equipment that was hardly convenient to move onto a stage. The classical electronic music studio was monolithic! Thus my studio improvisations had to be presented on tape. Throughout the 1960s I made a lot of music on tape. I also performed live as much as possible. We always included group improvisation in our SFTMC concerts with acoustic instruments as well as tape and sometimes a long tape loop.
When I left San Francisco to teach and establish the electronic music program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), I had a twelve-hour farewell concert in an Embarcadero loft in San Francisco and played all the tape music that I had made so far. (Morton Feldman attended that concert and later introduced me at a party in New York as the foremost lady composer in the USA I appreciated his validation; however, I corrected his language then and there in front of all telling him that “lady” was not necessarily the ID of choice since it was used to belittle women so often in those times.) Until recently the only music available of mine on record from that period was I of IV and Bye Bye Butterfly. I still have hours of unrecognized, unreleased electronic music.
My first job was the directorship of the Tape Music Center at Mills College from 1966 to 1967 (now The Center for Contemporary Music – CCM). The SFTMC was moved there from San Francisco in 1966. There I combined my tape techniques with the newly invented Buchla Modular Synthesizer and developed what was to become the Expanded Instrument System – EIS, an improvisational environment that I use today for solo performances and with the Deep Listening Band.3
I left Mills for UCSD in 1967 where I was invited to establish the electronic music program for the graduate students. UCSD was a great window of opportunity for me. The atmosphere of the department was open for experimentation and the mission was to educate the students to new music and ideas about music. In addition to electronic music courses, I taught The Nature of Music – a large service course that included making tape pieces by cut and splice editing from pre-recorded sounds, group improvisation with found instruments, and graphic scoring.
In 1970, I began composing my Sonic Meditations and studying the structure of human consciousness. I formed a women’s group that met at my house in Leucadia once a week. We did body and dream work together along with improvisations and Sonic Meditations.
Sonic Meditations were explorations on my part concerning how attention is directed in creative work and spontaneous performance. I needed to find a way into how the mind works to make music. Electronic music had expanded me. The electricity in my own body seemed to be flowing differently than before my exposure to electronic sound. However, there were no answers for me other than my own experiences. There were no guidebooks concerning the effects of improvisation and new sounds on the body. I had to find my own way.
I continued to compose, and insisted on live electronic performance rather than producing pieces in a studio. I had devised a way to use tape delay as a performance tool and extension of my accordion. I think of delay systems as time machines. I play a sound in the present that will come back in the future. When it comes back it is a part of the past. Thus time is expanded to past, present, and future as performance continuum.
Tape delay was cumbersome with large tape decks to lug around when touring. Nevertheless I and others persisted. I wrote an article in 1969 about the future of delay systems (Oliveros). I had hit some limitations and wished for more flexibility for adjustable timings and modifications of the delayed sounds in real time as I improvised. The built-in limitations of technologies provoke alternative ways to use them, just as the hand winding of tape during recording had provided me with variable speed with my second tape recorder. The distance between the record head and the playback head of a tape recorder had not been intended or engineered for a delay loop but musicians soon discovered the potential and used it.
After I left UCSD, I acquired a couple of Lexicon PCM 42 delay processors in 1983, one for each hand of my accordion (bass and treble). For a time I enjoyed the performance aspects available with these instruments: modulation, pedal controlled VCO for pitch bending, looping, and feedback. I realized that I wanted numerous multiple delay processors and a way to control them simultaneously and instantaneously during performance. I had challenged myself as a performer by entering the expanded time domain with my EIS to deal not only with what I was playing in the present but with the result in a later time, or times, in counterpoint with the present. Actually, I had begun this work with Time Perspectives by integrating recorded passages improvised for later speed modification. Complexity in my improvisations was evolving from a very simple idea - feedback through time delays. It was exciting! Both hands and feet were busy performing.
I experienced a new kind of performance frustration - how could I control multiple performance parameters spontaneously during improvisation when my hands and feet were too busy to access other controls? Interactive software is the answer for now, of course.
Performance algorithms in Max/MSP provided some relief.4 I composed algorithms that improvise using material that I generate with my accordion or voice yet the interface using computer keyboard and mouse, pedal board and faders is still necessary and unsatisfactory.
My body is yearning to participate in dealing with the more than eighty-five performance parameters in the interface in an integral way. Once the perception through listening indicates a response, the parameter change needs to be available spontaneously in the interface in a multi-dimensional way. The physical performance motions need to be accomplished smoothly, without breaking attention from the music. Additionally, I need a monitoring system that gives me the ability to hear the spatialized performance from any perspective in the performance space - I need to always be in the field of sound displayed by the performance. What if my ears could detach and fly around the space, merge with any other ears in the audience? I want to listen from the perspective of audience members as well as from my own point-of-source perspective.
Returning to recording, distancing the body and disembodied music: why the intense desire on the part of humans to record? To clone? Why the millennial evolution of technology that increasingly distances the body in music-making, and what is the meaning of disembodied music?
All humans (so far as I know) are confronted with mortality and the desire to overcome mortality. Recording and cloning represent a kind of permanence. (Even so, media impermanence is also a threat.) The headlong thrust in research all over the world to move towards the singularity, or merger, of humans and technology in a posthuman future is a way to overcome the “weakness of the flesh” – to avoid impermanence – to delay or eliminate death. What, then, about birth?
In order to resolve my increasing performance frustration – how to access and control more than eighty-five parameters instantaneously – what if the technology was all on board a posthuman body? No wires to trip on – new world - new frontiers - new trip - no return. Software obviously has to have sentience, intercommunication, and memory; in other words, consciousness. At this point, who is improvising?
This paper was first presented as the keynote address for the conference “Powering Up/Powering Down” at the University of California, San Diego, January 30, 2004 as “Tripping over Wires: The Wireless Body.”
1 Since I began my work with tape recorders soon after World War Two, I am reminded that this tool was used primarily by the Nazis for gathering intelligence and propaganda. The Nazis did have portable magnetic tape recorders that were of lesser quality than the studio models. For more information about the history of tape recording see Mullin.
2 Reel to reel tape is measured according to the speed at which it travels from the feed reel to the take-up reel in inches per second, or ips.
3 For more information on Pauline Oliveros’ work see
4 Created by Miller Puckette at IRCAM and further developed by David Zicarelli, “Max/MSP is a graphical programming environment, which means you create your own software using a visual toolkit of objects, and connect them together with patch cords. The basic environment that includes MIDI, control, user interface, and timing objects is called Max.[. . .] MSP, [is] a set of audio processing objects that do everything from interactive filter design to hard disk recording” (“AMax/MSP Overview”).
Works Cited
Baard, Erik. “Inside the Movement for Posthuman Rights Cyborg Liberation Front.” Village Voice. 30 July-5 Aug 2003. 30 July 2004.
“Max/MSP Overview.” Cycling '74. 30 July 2004.
Missin, Pat. “A Brief History of Mouth Blown Free Reed Instruments.” 2002. 30 July 2004.
---. “Eastern Free Reed Instruments: Mouth Organs with Circular Arrangement of Pipes.” 2003. 30 July 2004.
Mullin, John. “John (Jack) T. Mullin (1913-99) Recalls the American Development of the Tape Recorder.” Bing Crosby Internet Museum. Steven Lewis. June 1996. 30 July 2004.
Oliveros, Pauline. “Tape Delay Techniques for Electronic Music Composers.” Software for People: Collected essays 1962-1981. Baltimore, MD: Smith Publications, 1984.
Sandberg, Anders. “Transhuman Terminology Subpage, P.” 11 March 2000. 30 July 2004.
Toth, Nicholas, and Kathy Schick. “Stone Age.” Microsoft7 Encarta7 Online Encyclopedia. 4 August 2004.

From Qualitative Sociology Review, a special issue on animals and people, including Leslie Irvine (Colorado): The question of animal selves: Implications for sociological knowledge and practice; Pru Hobson-West (Nottingham): Beasts and boundaries: An introduction to animals in sociology, science and society; Krzysztof T. Konecki (Lodz): Pets of Konrad Lorenz: Theorizing in the social world of pet owners. How baboons think:

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


"Anders Morgenthaler’s Princess is an unusual beast: an anti-exploitation exploitation film, a virulently anti-porn treatise that is itself sexually graphic and more than a little bloody. It is a rape revenge picture in which the raped is a five year old girl armed with a crowbar being encouraged to exact her retribution by a retired priest plagued with guilt and shame. It is surprisingly serious minded, deeply argumentative, entirely heartfelt and completely unlike anything else you have ever seen. It’s also animated.

"Princess is the story of August - a missionary priest who has given up his vocation - and Mia, his five year old niece, who August has taken custody of following the death of his sister of unspecified causes. August’s sister Christina is better known as The Princess, a porn starlet whose only surviving friends are prostitutes who were raising Mia in the back room of their brothel until August came to claim her. Mia herself is bruised all over her body, old beyond her years, and shows all the signs of having been sexually abused. Plagued with guilt at not having taken Mia away from the pornographers and prostitutes who ruined his sister’s life years before - not to mention the guilt at his own possible complicity in Christina’s having turned to pornography in the first place - and not wanting Mia to ever have to see her mother in that context ever again, August sets out on a mission to have all pornographic materials featuring his sister destroyed, by whatever means necessary which ultimately leads him on a bloody, violent rampage."

TIFF Report: Princess Review - Todd Brown

"Existing in a disturbing crevice between live-action and animation, children's and adult entertainment, pop and exploitation, Anders Morgenthaler's animated opus Princess understands the darkest impulses that drive holier-than-thou crusades. With his porn-queen sister (Stine Fischer Christensen) dead and her sexually-abused daughter Mia (Mira Hilli Møller Hallund) now in his care, missionary priest August (Thure Lindhardt) goes on a one-man war against the sex industry, starting things off by beating the shit out of a random john and planning a firebomb campaign against video-rental joints. It all reeks of catharsis for the moral majority as a man, righteous in his anger and desire for revenge, metes out justice against the scum of the earth. But as August breaks the arm of a sexually aggressive little boy and invites young Mia to pound one thug's crotch into powder with a crowbar, the exhilaration dies and we are forced to contemplate our own destructive itch. (File it alongside Tony Scott's Déjà Vu as a wish-fulfillment fantasy constantly haunted by reality.) Shortly before having his ear forcibly removed, another man comments that August's sister was a small piece in a much larger puzzle; similarly, August's quest can only exist in an infinitesimally small scope: there are too many people to kill and there's too much smut to burn to fully clean up the streets, and it will never erase the fact of any of it. (Furthermore, there's a strong indication that not everyone implicated in this sleazy world deserves to die.) Princess is a film rife with visual and thematic contradictions--with lumpy, Klasky-Czupo-esque characters often placed against lush, Miyazakian backgrounds (while taking irony-free sentimental breaks between murderous rampages) and grainy live-action VHS presentations occasionally popping in to fill in a few narrative gaps. It can only be seen as a means to search every corner, every possibility available to this world of ours--the eternal, ultimately futile attempt to find peace of mind when both the mind and the world are irrevocably tainted."

Film Freak Central

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The Beast that Shouted "I" at the Heart of the World

Shinji: What? The world with nothing. The world with nobody.

Shinji: The world of freedom.

Shinji: Freedom?

Shinji: The world of freedom that would never be restrained by anybody.

Shinji: Is this Freedom?

Shinji: Yes. The world of freedom.

Rei: As the result, there's nothing.

Shinji: unless I think.

Misato: Yes, unless you think.

Shinji: What's the hell! I don't know what I should do.

Rei: You are uneasy.

Asuka: You don't have your own image.

Shinji: Too vague.

Misato: Everything is vague.That's freedom.

Ryouji: The world that you can do anything you like.

Misato: Yet, you are uneasy.

Fuyutsuki: Don't you know what you should do.

Shinji: What shall I do?

Gendou: I give you an unfreedom.

Asuka: Now that you have top and bottom.

Rei: Now that you lost one degree of freedom.

Misato: Now that you have to stand on the bottom.

Ryouji: But you obtain a comfort.

Makoto: You get slightly easier in your mind.

Shigeru: And you walk.

Maya: That is your will.

Shinji: Is this my will?

Ritsuko: The world with the bottom is the world surrounding you.

Touji: Yet, you can move freely.

Kensuke: If you wish, you can change the position of the world.

Hikari: The position of the world does not keep the same position.

Ryouji: That changes through the time flow.

Fuyutsuki: You can also change.

Gendou: The things that forms you are your own mind and the world surrounding yourself.

Ritsuko: Since this is your own world.

Misato: The real figure that you conceive.That is the reality.

Shinji: This is the world with nothing, the space with nothing,the world with nothing.The world with nothing but me.I am getting less understand myself.I feel as if I am going to disappear.My existence is fading away.Why?

Misato: Because there's nobody but you.

Shinji: Nobody but me?

Misato: Because you have no existence but of yourself,You can't figure out your own shape.

Shinji: My shape?My image.

Misato: Yes. You are getting to know your own shape through seeing others' shape.

Asuka: Seeing others' wall, you imagine yourself.

Rei: You cannot see yourself unless there are others.

Shinji: Because there are others, I can exist.If alone, I am always alone at anywhere.The world is entirely by my ..

Misato: By cognizing the difference between you and others,you form the image of yourself.

Rei: The very first other person is your mother.

Asuka: Your mother is a different person from you.

Shinji: Yes. I am I. Yet, it's true that others form the shape of my mind.

Misato: That's right, Ikari Shinji-kun.

Asuka: Too slow to understand.

Do We Really Need Deleuze to Understand Electronic Music?

In light of my previous post, thought it incumbent on me to provide further contextualisation. One of the reasons Jones's article appealed to me was that I thought it offered some means for critically responding to some forms of writing on electronic music that I not particularly enamoured of (Deleuzian criticism in Australian electronic music circles is becoming more dominant, just check Fibre Culture for proof!). To flesh out some of what is at stake in such instances, I've reproduced here, in anonymous form, an exchange I had earlier this year on a listserv with a chap known to be enraptured by Kode9, (these two are in continual dialogue, I have it on good authority), hence the continual references to Deleuzian "war machines", and the like, in their respective writings. I think some of the problems with this approach are masterfully set out on the Radical Philosophy website, which reviews a conference where Kode9 previewed material from his forthcoming book. In the piece I've pasted below, Deleuze lurks in the background, in the sense that the author toggles inconsistently between ideological critique and an identification of a "non representational" musicological thematic. The problem I had with this strategy was its failure to consider the Gramscian moment within cultural studies, that has attempted to do justice to "the best of both worlds" i.e. simultaneously "the popular" in Deleuzian terms. Figures such as Lawrence Grossberg come to mind here. The artefacts of popular culture cannot be reduced to the model of a "text", instead, Grossberg proposes the more useful model of "a billboard". Any number of activities can be performed around such sites, which do not necessarily have to do with the transmission of "meaning". The interesting questions have to do with unconvering the articulation of such affective sites to larger frameworks of power, "further down the road", so to speak, such as factories, prisons, and indeed, the mobile privatisation Williams identified in the symbiosis of popular culture and technological forms at the most common mundane everyday site: the home.
It seems to me that it is only such forms of thinking that can break the infernal deadlocks that have been with us for some time now, which have the unfortunate effect of making so much theoretical work resemble a dull party trick, a trick that is not ony repetitive, but remarkably inattentive to formulating adequate prescriptions of use. Reading between the lines, some of these issues were anticipated in my response [below]:
Hi Acheron LV-426,
That's great to hear about yr research .. I have a love/hate affair with industrial culture, so please forgive the following. What do you mean by "isolationist" ?If anything the industrial scene / music movement / disculture might give someone like Williams something to think about, or at least introduce a gap between the (self)representation of a culture that disses "culture" and its strategies of organisation. The industrial scene, like punk, was hand-in-hand with the DiY movement of 'zines, global independentdistribution, pressing, recording and DiY culture-in-general. "Bands" likeThrobbing Gristle existed as communes, with principles of free-love andidentity deconstruction and radical performance.It's also hard to imagine industrial culture as "new conformism" -- though Throbbing Gristle, NSK and Laibach's ambiguous relations to fascist imagery and ideology is complex, I tend to see it as a magnification of existing conditions (Maggie Thatcher's Britain) and a _covert operation_ of demonstrating already existing fascist tendencies at the time (such as TG'sperformances of "Discipline" wherein the entire audience was drawn intomarching and chanting à la a neoNazi parade -- an experiment ordemonstration in how easy it is, how easy it is...). Then there's"industrial" groups like Test Dept. that created and produced and recordedtheir entire work by working with miners and other working class groups (see their album _Terra Firma_) -- here industrial music is, in sound and praxis,a collective process, and even a self-determined Marxist one at that.Thus all of this would have to be contrasted with the "themes" of the music as you say, but reading these themes is certainly complexified -- to whom might such themeatics (themeatics which are often wordless, electronic, nonrepresentational, areferential, alien, "cold," mechanical -- industrial) appear as isolationist? To the dominant culture, perhaps, the "bourgeoisie"?To others, such sounds might ring out a clarion call, a rally oftogetherness over the vast distances expressed in the wasteland ofindustrial capital, wherein industrial music becomes the dark light, the newdark romanticism...Much intrigued to hear where your research draws you..
I thank you for your thoughtful response and general characterisation of industrial culture, many aspects of which I find myself in substantial agreement. In particular, I was taken by the critical acuity of your remarks about the “wasteland of industrial capital”. By means of a rejoinder, partly for the sake of manageability, given the fact that I don’t have all of my sources here with me as I write this (i.e. I’m not home in Sydney town at the moment), I will attempt to respond in a way that can only begin to explore some of the territory that I sketched out in my posting on the dancecultures listserv.
If there are differences then in our respective approaches to this material, I wonder they may prove to be more of degree than of kind (?). When I write of a “new conformism” with reference to one wing of modernism, and by extension, industrial music culture and the isolationist genre following in its wake, I am contextualizing my argument in respect to the object of critique. i.e. artists such as Throbbing Gristle, were, as you say, responding, in no small part, to the Thatcherist restructuring of the United Kingdom. As I understand it, this was a period in which the “organized” nature of “modern” Britain, with its central characteristic of a social contract predicated upon a planned economy/lifelong [male] employment, protected by a unionized workforce and safety welfare net, was beginning to fracture. Nation building functions of the state were being handed over to private industry. Yet at the same time the state was becoming increasingly centralized and authoritarian, in the eyes of the disenfranchised, in the manner in which it sought to implement this radical program, by force as was deemed necessary, through police agencies and the judicial system.
In combination with this centralized governmental authoritarianism, critics of Thatcherism came to increasingly focus on the complicity of mass culture as a propaganda tool designed to foster the illusions of a monoculture promoting social consensus and moral certainty. Thus, “countercultural” workers came to, by and large, critically deploy “alienation” as a distancing device from large scale bureaucracy.
Working at the same time, Williams came to view this strategy as an over adaptation. What I might say about industrial music culture as embodying a “new conformism” therefore runs interestingly parallel to Williams’s critique of his fellow cultural studies traveler, Stuart Hall, who wrote an influential piece on the authoritarian populism of Thatcherism, “the toad in the garden”. Williams asks, “Will there be no end to petit bourgeois intellectuals making long term adjustments to short term situations?” In this way Williams demonstrably anticipated the recuperation of the artistic critique of bureaucratic capitalism that is explicitly foregrounded in the culture of industrial music. Likewise, in their compelling study The New Spirit of Capitalism, Boltanski and Chiapello present the (anti) systematic features of contemporary capitalism in terms of a regime of flexible accumulation able to absorb critique and hence attain higher degrees of “network complexity”. According to these authors, this is accomplished by recuperating the critiques of the preceeding era. Whereas the critique of exploitation is traditionally associated with the worker’s movement, a more “artistic critique” came to prominence with the mass cultural education provided by state universities. Concentrating then on the major social groups in France following the turmoil of May 1968, Boltanski and Chiapello demonstrate how the labour force became beneficiaries of hitherto unseen economic gains, while at the same time production was gradually reorganized so that it would take place outside union control and state regulation. Meanwhile, an aspiring managerial class proved receptive to the artistic critique, which had targeted large-scale organized systems for producing alienation
Williams had also in some ways anticipated these developments by noting the recuperation of much of the culture of modernism by the advertising industry. He therefore regarded postmodernists as reifying one element of a complex formation through their emphasis on alienation. But it would seem that Boltanski and Chiapello are going much further in this regard than Williams. For their point rather appears to be that alienation, or “fragmentation” in postmodern terms, is no longer reified as a dominant “structure of feeling”, once the new flexible organization of work blurs with the experience of leisure activities. Fluidity, mobility, reflexivity, absence of direct supervision and control: Boltanski and Chiapello suggest that these imperatives are more subtly coercive than their opposite predecessors, because they strive to transform work from a mode of alienation into a creative activity, as the worker learns to self-manage. But rather than proving that Williams somehow completely missed the mark, his concept of a “selective tradition” could be used to demonstrate instead how the recuperation of the aesthetic critique of alienation aided the culture of the networked enterprise, by legitimating exclusion of the workers’ movement and the destruction of many social programs.
In the example you provide, Test Dept, I wonder if it needs to be established how representative were their activities, if it can be assumed that they continued to hold onto the critique of exploitation, thereby not reifying the more artistic critique of alienation? Before going on to discuss the ambient genre of “isolationism” itself though, I wonder if in relation to Test Dept. some comparable critical questions might still be asked. Might it be legitimate to speak of “isolationism” in the sense, not so much with reference to a failure to achieve any grass roots coalition building in the manner you so convincingly describe, but rather in the manner of a failure to develop an even wider populist strategy in relation to a (one dimensional) reading of “mass culture”? This seems to be the perennial problem faced by avant garde formations: if popular culture was believed to be so important in maintaining a false consensus, then why choose such extreme Brechtian techniques of artistic expression with little chance of attaining popularity/widespread airplay to disseminate the message? It was not only an electronica act such as Heaven 17, for example, who had an intuitive foothold on this potential problem [which they then attempted to overcome], with their smash hit, “We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang”, but also the collective “Red Wedge”, featuring Billy Bragg et al, who united through the common bond of their pop music in their effort to have the Labour Party reelected. By extension, did more cinema goers learn about the depredations of capitalism by sitting through the works of Jean Luc Godard, or by reading between the lines in other films that mobilised popular genres, such as science fiction ,say, Blade Runner or Alien, for instance?
In other words, it may be easier to admire, rather than actually like, the works produced in accordance with the more avant garde position. Not having read a manifesto by Test Dept., I cannot say if their avant garde credentials extended to a desire to assume the vanguard (leadership) role in a socialist movement. If it did, it would be interesting to ascertain whether this extended to a modeling of cooperatives compatible in any sense with the fluidity described by Bolatanski and Chiapello, or was it more hierarchical by design? This latter point leads me to consideration of how the abandonment long ago of the model of the Leninist vanguard as the template for intellectual politics had opened a power vacuum, which could be filled by an avant-garde, “leadership by experimental example”. This has meant more though than reacting to the dominant class within which these avant-gardes are formed and against which they rebel, (thereby prefiguring developments within this class), to the extent that it also entails emulating aesthetic avant-gardes at the level of intellectual content. The important distinction in comparison with Williams’s position, is how often this insight has been used in the avant-garde sense of keeping ahead of the popular, [more often described as “the mass”], usage of contested signifiers. Williams therefore preferred to speak of “multiple serial production” rather than “mass production” or “the mass media”, on the basis that the latter terms are unable to distinguish between the meaning of large numbers, (“within certain assumed social relationships”), “rather than any physical or social aggregate”. Moreover, Williams notes how the very term “mass communication” evokes the public listening groups that were organized by fascist regimes, rather than the specificity of “broadcasting” – where it is more appropriate to describe many people receiving communications by means of individual sets, or listening to recorded music at home. However, if one prefers to retain a more nominalist position, it becomes difficult to not only distinguish between the particular and the general, but also between bourgeois propaganda and a bourgeois public sphere.
Perhaps the conflation of these categories into a notion of a dominant bourgeois explains the avant garde failure to develop a populist strategy. Hence one finds, here referencing the web document called “a pre-history of industrial music”, the failure of Genessis P.Orridge post Throbbing Gristle to move beyond the contradictions of the collective he was involved in, the so-called Temple of Psychic Youth. While in the United States, on the even more extreme avant garde fringe, Boyd Rice’s Abraxia Foundation (hope I’ve got the name right, I’m relying on memory here), to this day organizes itself, without any apparent irony, around the principles of the occult, social Darwinism and National Socialism. How easily it seems “leadership by experimental example” can become twisted into meaning the defence of a minority culture against the barbarism of the “masses” [sic]. Of course, this need not imply “isolationism” in the sense of an insularity from the fan network of zines etc that you reference. On the contrary, once you have become fluent in the roundabout speech and deep reading required by gatekeepers to gain admittance, this sense of being an insider can be wielded as a form of symbolic power to police the actions of others, both inside and outside of the group. Sadly, it seems that the recuperation of the artistic critique, into small groupings, can also in the context of fan cultures easily translate into niche marketing, indeed, perhaps more than it does to coalition building outside of the primary group.
When I speak then of isolationism with references to developments post classic industrial music, I am thinking of artists such as Lustmord, Thomas Koner, Biosphere etc, who are oftentimes also tagged with labels such as minimalist techno, dark ambient etc. Whilst the leadership principles of the avant garde can prove themselves to be ideological wildcards (they may be “ambivalent” as you put it), I read this more recent genre of music as pushing beyond the transcendental ambitions of [some] of its predecessors, in that it appears to abandon the pathos industrialism acknowledged by its foregrounding the social relationship between meaning producing listeners i.e. composers, interpreters, listeners were all creatively involved in that music should mediate feeling and thinking about human existence. By contrast, the machines talking to each other, in combination with the natural sound environments explored in isolationism, prominently featuring caves, abandoned buildings etc, what is more humanly spatially inaccessible, lead me to wonder about the aptness of Ferrara’s remarks:
That is, the society which once found its ultimate frame of reference in the religious ideal of an orderly life devoted to the carrying out of one’s calling is now split into the two opposing camps of the “specialists without spirit,” devoted to work only as a means for securing consumption, and the “sensualists without heart,” who dedicate their lives to aesthetic cultivation but remain insensitive to all sense of duty or communal purpose. The choice of this vantagepoint reveals its infecundity when the theorists of postmodernity combine it with Weber’s dichotomy of asceticism and mysticism. When these two notions are superimposed over the distinction of specialists and sensualists we obtain, as a result, the gist of the neoconservative interpretation of modernity. Asceticism, which in a broader sense stands for vita activa, for a sense of moral purpose, for taking interest in the external world….for believing in progress, for the desire to grow more in control of our collective destiny, and for the desire to free ourselves from all man made yet unintentional constraints, is seen as losing ground. Mysticism, which is associated with vita contemplativa, with intellectualism without ethical commitment, with immobility and self-inspired stagnation, with withdrawal from the world and therefore with losing control over it, is seen as gaining the favor of the “sensualists without heart” and as threatening to become the dominant outlook”.
Might isolationism as a genre indicate something of how one genre of music defines itself against the culture of industrial music, playing “ascetism” against the latter’s “vita active”? or might it be rather the logic culmination of the exhaustion of leadership by experimental example? I agree with you that it can become an issue in “isolating” in such cases for whom, and why any particular group interprets the “non representational” typifies such tendencies. I might suggest that one possible indicator is for the artists themselves, if one is willing to consider the explicit Deleuzian references evident in their recording for the Mille Plateau label, replete with detailed theoretical sleeve notes (see for example the double set, “In Memorandum: Gilles Deleuze”). This appears (or is intended to) to encompass both the “non representational” affective charge of listening to these recordings, as well as evoking a much wider societal disorientation of the sensorium flowing from the disorganized creativity characterizing the form of capitalism which we are currently living under; a form of commodification more radical than envisaged in the emphasis on centralized control generally found in the industrial music that preceded it.
So, to answer your question I guess involves building a model for determining the feedback loops between producers/listeners. How specialized, or how much cultural capital does one require to partake in this process? By this means one might be able to develop a criterion for determining degrees of “isolationism”, from populist strategies/appeal, across fan bases etc. Returning to your emphasis on “non representational” musical characteristics, my guess is that context of artistic “discovery”, or creativity, remains an open question, although one can trace some of its conditions of emergence as being dependent upon the artist’s position in a wider network of likeminded individuals. What I would suggest at this stage though is that the size of this “bandwith” is one of the relevant factors that leads me to identify a general (non critical) assumption that there is some sense of ‘knowledge’ that can be pursued in a way that doesn’t force us to raise these politico-legal questions, perhaps because the ‘real’ objects of art draw us to their essences (whatever….). I believe that this presumption is an artefact of the alienation of epistemology/aesthetics from the rest of philosophy, especially the other normative disciplines like ethics, politics, and law.
In light of all this, I would conclude that the turn to “the social” in aethetics should not be in the business of replacing one dogmatism (say, of Cartesian certainty) with another vulgar sociologism(say, of learned consensus) but revealing the conditions under which it is possible to pursue alternative forms of knowledge/musical/social practice.
Finally, I’ll concede that at least some of my prejudice (although it’s really more like, as you describe your own view, “a love hate” thing), against certain “industrial” artists has to do with my personal preference for the electro/synth pop which emerged at the same time (due to time and space constraints, in this email I have not even touched on pathbreaking developments from Germany from this same period), such as John Foxx, Gary Numan, The Human League et al. I’ve wondered if The Human League song “Empire State Human” (from the “Reproduction” album) could almost be read in my terms as a critique of this group’s more avant garde electronic cousins, in the manner I’ve tried to describe here. Just for fun, I’ve reproduced the lyrics below as if written from the perspective of such an avant garde performer interested in leadership by experimental example.
Best wishes,
Acheron LV-426
Since I was very young I realised
I never wanted to be human size
So I avoid the crowds and traffic jams
They just remind me of how small I am
Because of this longing in my heart
Im going to start the growing up
Im going to grow now and never stop
Think like a mountain, grow to the top
Tall, tall, tall, I want to be tall, tall, tall
As big as a wall, wall, wall, as big as a wall, wall, wall
And if Im not tall, tall, tall, then I will grow, grow, grow
Because Im not tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall
Tall, tall, tall, I want to be tall, tall, tall
As big as a wall, wall, wall, as big as a wall, wall, wall
And if Im not tall, tall, tall, then I will grow, grow, grow
Because Im not tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall
With concentration
My size increased
And now Im fourteen stories high
At least!!
Empire state human
Just a bored kid
Ill go to egypt to be
A pyramid
Tall, tall, tall, I want to be tall, tall, tall
As big as a wall, wall, wall, as big as a wall, wall, wall
And if Im not tall, tall, tall, then I will grow, grow, grow
Because Im not tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall
Tall, tall, tall, I want to be tall, tall, tall
As big as a wall, wall, wall, as big as a wall, wall, wall
And if Im not tall, tall, tall, then I will grow, grow, grow
Because Im not tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall
Brick by brick
Stone by stone
Growing till hes fully grown
Brick by brick
Stone by stone
Growing till hes fully grown
Fetch more water
Fetch more sand
Biggest person in the land
Fetch more water
Fetch more sand
Biggest person in the land