This issue includes a few contributions on my part (besides the PDF layout and overall HTML finalization), namely a few reviews and part two of my conversation with Bernardo Alexander Attias on turntablism and controllerism. It is well worth reading part one if you’re intrigued, otherwise what we have to say doesn’t make much sense off the bat, truncated as it is from what was published previously.
DANCECULT | Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture
Volume 4 * Number 1 * 2012
SPECIAL ISSUE ON “THE EXODUS OF PSYTRANCE?”
with Guest Editor Graham St John
CONTENTS – DANCECULT 4(1)
## Feature Articles ##
Seasoned Exodus: The Exile Mosaic of Psyculture
— Graham St John
Full Penetration: The Integration of Psychedelic Electronic Dance Music and Culture into the Israeli Mainstream
— Joshua I. Schmidt
“What are we doing here?” Nostalgic Desires for a Cosmopolitan Sensory Aesthetic in the Amsterdam-based Psytrance Scene
— Eva-Maria Alexandra van Straaten
Spaces of Play: The Spatial Dimensions of Underground Club Culture and Locating the Subjunctive
— Alice O’Grady
## Conversations ##
Off the Record: Turntablism and Controllerism in the 21st Century, Part 2
— tobias c. van Veen and Bernardo Alexander Attias
## From the Floor ##
Unveiling the Secret: The Roots of Trance
— Dave Mothersole
Random Steps Through Boom Festival 2010
— Lisa Diotalevi
Aurora Festival and the Sacred Rituals of Samothraki: Past, Present… What Future?
— Chiara Baldini
Tribal Revival: West Coast Festival Culture (Kyer Wiltshire and Erik Davis)
— tobias c. van Veen
The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture (Steven T. Jones)
— Susan Luckman
Discombobulated: Dispatches from the Wrong Side (Simon A. Morrison)
— Bina Bhardwa
Frostbitten fingers not included—Paul Miller's The Book of Ice
In my hands now is Paul D. Miller’s latest project, theBook of Ice, a collage-work of manifestos, stories, photographs and texts on the southernmost point of this planet, that ice-bound and all-but uninhabited pole, Antarctica. This is something of an artist’s book, a kind of anti-book that collects exappropriated objects from elsewhere. In this context, by exappropriated I mean an act that samples without stealing, that takes part without taking away from the whole. So, like all of DJ Spooky’s work, images of Amundsen and Scott’s voyages are sampled much the same way that Spooky remixed D.W. Griffith’s founding racist myth of US history in Rebirth of a Nation. Though details of Antarctica’s history, discovery and exploration are provided, this beautifully designed and illustrated hardcover from Mark Batty Publishers is much more a meditation on ice through the sampling of Antarctica’s recorded history alongside Spooky’s exploration of design imagery in the melting/consumption of Antarctica.
The Book of Ice includes ”Osmotic Strategy Machine—The (Flawed) Unfolding of Afrofuturism,” an interview I conducted with Paul for my forthcoming edited volume on Afrofuturism (Wayne State UP). The version presented here is somewhat staccato, but to the point through its brevity (the volume will include a remixed exchange and sampladelic text). This interview presents insightful reading, as it is one of the few times in which Paul has openly reflected upon his involvement with the 1990s email list and website Afrofuturism.net, as well as situating his interpretation of Afrofuturism within historical, political and aesthetic contexts. I believe Paul includes this interview as part of the ethos explored elsewhere in the Book of Ice, where he talks about “thawing-out” the cold muthafucka’ aspects of black ice, as well as warming up the ice-cold brittleness of stark whiteness. Paul continues to forge a global aesthetic of remix culture that melts the divisions of colour, and in this respect, Paul remains an exemplary Afrofuturist—whatever he might say otherwise. Paul Miller is remarkable for creating bridges between disparate cultures, and in The Book of Ice Paul puts into perspective the greater forces at work in the melting of Antarctic ice, reminding us that the collapse of our polar regions also calls for the thawing of cold hearts and cultural antagonisms. We are like penguins caught in the flow of the impending great melt, and to move outwards, upward to the stars, we need to begin with swimming together through the thaw….
Osmotic Interview Strategies
In 2008, Paul Miller spent four weeks in Antarctica, conducting sound recordings for his compositional work Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica. It is unfortunate that this book does not include a DVD of the multimedia work (understandably, it was probably not cost feasible for a book already colour printed on quality stock). Miller’s first book for MIT Press, Rhythm Science, included a CD mix which reflected his ideas through his DJ mix—I wrote a lengthy treatise on that book over on EBR. In any case, as Terra Nova is a full-fledged multimedia work that interrelates many of the cold concepts explored in The Book of Ice, here’s an insight:
What I like about The Book of Ice is how it rethinks what this cold space could be otherwise—a place, perhaps, of unclaimed exodus. What then, when it melts? When its resources will undoubtedly become exploited by competing interests, corporate and nation-state? Miller explores the dream of a “People’s Republic of Antarctica” through a series of campaign posters that alternate between early 20th century revolutionary modernism and monochromatic symbolism awash in blue penguins. The print posters call for a manifesto of Antarctica in different languages and national iconographies, from the Arabic half moon to the Chinese Communist red star.
Manifestos of a people's icepublic
The compositional method of Terra Nova is also explored here with a visualization of the score. Miller turns the elements of traditional sheet music into bubbles of chaos complexity, with the notation juxtaposed and carved into circular objects, as if spattered with the geometric shapes of water droplets from Antarctica’s melting ice caps.
Sheet music for snow & ice
Questions of climate change arise throughout the text, as Miller explores the economic, emotional and data landscapes of Antarctica through cartographic mappings of ice flows to dataflows. Aspects of this territorial mapping are reminiscent of Situationist détournement. Along this line, the visual icons of sell-by capitalism are explored in the juxtaposition of consumer-packaging barcodes and the increasingly ubiquitous QR squares with various linguistic scripts. Implicit among these image mixes is Miller’s interrogation of “hyperconsumerism:” is Antarctica for sale? If it can be mapped, can it be scanned and sold?
Antarctica 4 Sale
Ice maps and Antarctic cartographies
The closing section of the book is filled with full-bleed, full-colour images from expeditions mapping the great unknown ice, with double-page spreads of mountains and icebergs, explorers in ice-encrusted parkas and numerous penguins. Black-and-white imagery is contrasted with the subtle blues and grays of monochromatic colour. Night photography of modern research stations revels in the similitude between the neon-lit lighting of science and the southern aurora borealis.
Ice routes abound...
Yet why this obsession with Antarctica? As Miller writes, ever playing the trickster, ice resonates with black culture. As Paul puts it,
Black culture loves ice. We name ourselves after it: Ice-berg Slim, Ice-T, Ice Cube. . . . So, yeah, there’s a long history in black culture of being a “cold muthafucka.” It’s about being a “frigid” person: the ice grill, bling bling, bounce off the light of diamonds in your teeth. Yeah, that’s ice (Book of Ice 10).
If urban black culture tends toward ice, then DJ Spooky aims to thaw it out with sinfonic soundwaves capable of collapsing cultural ice into global flows. If climate change is melting Antarctica, then the melting of ice presents an intersection between the geosphere and the sonosphere, between the axes of black and white ice, cityscape and icescape. Two compositional tools guided Spooky’s process in creating the Terra Nova sinfonia: repetition, on the one channel, and R. Murray Schaefer’s soundscape, on the other.
My concern here is how do we make music out of it, how do we thaw the process, thaw people out, and see the paradox of hyperconsumerism that this kind of stuff celebrates, while at the same time tying the conceptual issues of sound and contemporary art. It’s a Sisphyean task, but considering there’s not much more going on this planet than the ecosystem, I thought it was a worthwhile one. Hip-hop is always considered the soundtrack of the city’s geometric landscape. The grid of most American cities carries what I like to call an “orthogonal” logic. I wanted to take the “urban” concept of repetition and apply it to a different landscape, and see what would pop out of the collision. After all, music is patterns. And so is landscape. The common denominator here is pattern recognition.
And that’s what brings me to Antarctica (Book of Ice 10).
Without too much further ado I would like to point you toward issue 1.2 of Dancecult, which features – among other gonzo academic explorations of soniculture and the rave underground – “Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture.” This piece of mine, under works in various forms for approximately a decade, explores rave culture from the perspective of political theory of autonomia, the political economy of contemporary labour, and philosophy of technology, proposing that rave culture – which I consider deceased as of 2000 – be considered one of the 20th century’s greater movements of exodus from the constraints of consumer capitalist monoculture, by way of precarity of labour and the technics of its soniculture. Undoubtedly this thesis requires all the more exegesis. La lutte continue.
In The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom, Stephen Hahn makes the case for insurrection – if not a rethinking of rebellion – among Southern slaves during the American Civil War. The title of chapter two places this claim within the context of American history on the subject: “Did We Miss the Greatest Slave Rebellion in Modern History?” Hahn’s casually inclusive “we” invokes the primarily white American scholars who have sculpted something of a glorious history of the Civil War as America’s struggle against slavery. In this narrative – somewhat whitewashed – the Union North took up arms against the slave-owning Confederacy South, if not at first over slavery, then at least by the end of the war broadly claiming emancipation as its raison d’être.
As Hahn is at delicate pains to point out, what this narrative presupposes is the passivity of the slave class (58; 160-161). Slaves have little or no agency in regards to their emancipation. While Northern African-Americans as well as freed southern slaves fought in the Civil War, southern slave plantations did not rise up against their white masters en masse. Why was this? Of course, Confederate mythology, exemplified in films such as D.W. Griffith’sBirth of a Nation, depicts a rose-tinted relationship between benevolent white masters and singin’ & dancin’ black slaves, both who view the Civil War as an invasion. Even among centrist, Abolitionist or integrationist accounts of the War, slaves were often praised for not rising up against the South. In their passivity, the Southern slaves demonstrated civility in this “white man’s war” — a war which was nothing less than a struggle over the fate of black labour.
Hahn poses an alternative reading to the simplism in which passivity marked black patriotism. By contrast, Southern slaves were knowledgeable enough of the conditions of the War, as well as the tricky political terrain in which the War was fought – in short, aware of the ideological role of emancipation, and suspicious of the North’s apparent “freedom” – to carefully navigate between full-scale rebellion and widespread insurrection:
Together, the evidence suggests that slaves could be acutely aware of conflicts that erupted between white people and nations ruled by white people; that slaves often imagined a set of possible allies and enemies; that slaves could be cognizant of the national and international struggle over slavery and the slave trade and, depending on where they resided, of momentous emancipations; that slaves often became conversant with institutions and issues of local and national politics and might develop sophisticated understandings of how the American political system operated; and that slaves fashioned interpretations of what seemed to be afoot, at times in ways that moved well beyond the intentions of the political actors. (Political Worlds 75)
the terrible community of financial capital (spiral formation)
As post-authoritarian formations, the corporations of the “new economy” constitute terrible communities in the fullest sense. And no one should see any contradiction in the similarity between capitalism’s avant-gardes and the avant-gardes of its opposition: they are both prisoners of the same economic principle, the same need for efficiency and organization, even if they set themselves up on different terrain. They in fact serve the same modalities of the circulation of power, and in that sense they are politically quite near one another. Tiqqun, Theses on the Terrible Community
In Tiqqun’sTheses on the Terrible Community [translation / French original], what is the terrible community? The community is an illusive circulation of isolated dividuals — subjects struck through with the schizophrenia of capital. Sacrifice holds it together, to an ideology or cause, be it for profit or for the people, and every terrible community revolves around a Leader. The terrible community can take many forms: a corporation is a terrible community, as is any workforce. In particular, Tiqqun seems to have in mind the activist community, or any anarchist squat, insofar as it projects itself as outside to, or at least resisting against, what Tiqqun calls democratic biopower. Yet the activist community just like the business community are both terrible communities, beholden to rituals of sacrifice, isolated existences, vertical hierarchies, and even worse, self-policing and self-censorship. I would like to ask Tiqqun (if they can be addressed) as to what they think of the branding of communities – the Muslim community, the gay community, etc. – in terms of their alleged coherency, unity and collective responsibility within the mediasphere of Spectacle.
Tiqqun flattens all communities to the relations of their form.
These texts should not be taken lightly – or rather, these texts weigh heavily on the paranoia of the French state. In France, the alleged author(s) of The Coming Insurrection were violently arrested under “preemptive” measures that identified them as “pre-terrorists”. What is striking – and frightening – is that the Tarnac 9 by all accounts were not a revolutionary cell, but a small alternative commune living off the grid. Apparently such existence, outside of a few norms, is enough to invite the living nightmare of State hostility. Whether Julien Coupat wrote The Coming Insurrection is irrelevant. The text resonates with the zeitgeist that exploded in the banlieu riots of 2005. It is rightly anonymous as its claims are that of a world. Tiqqun’s Introduction to Civil War suggests the experience of the Tarnac 9:
Spectacle’s genius is to have acquired a monopoly over qualifications, over the act of naming. With this in hand, it can then smuggle in its metaphysics and pass of the products of its fraudulent interpretations as facts. Some act of social war gets called a “terrorist act,” while a major intervention by NATO, initiated through the most arbitrary process, is deemed a “peacekeeping operation.” Mass poisonings are described as epidemics, while the “High Security Wing” is the technical term used in our democracies’ prisons for the legal practice of torture. Tiqqun is, to the contrary, the action that restores to each fact its how, of holding this how to be the only real there is. (Civil War §82: 189).
But in reality, it is the inherent failure of representation, both in the visual and the political sense, that continually leads activist-artists to abandon their works and their familiar skills, and to dissolve once again into the intersubjective processes of society’s self-transformation.
This moment of dissolution is where one could locate exodus, not as a concept, but as a power or a myth of resistance. On the one hand, exodus is a pragmatic response to the society of control, in which any widespread political opposition becomes an object of exacting analysis for those who can afford to invest major resources in the identification, segmentation and manipulation of what we naively call the public. In the face of these strategies, exodus is a power of willful metamorphosis: the capacity for a movement to appear, to intervene and to disappear again, before changing names and recommencing the same struggle in a different way. (Brian Holmes, Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Imagineering @ 185)
Exodus is a movement — defection from the State, exit from the state of things, toward the formation of a “new republic” (as Paolo Virno puts it). While Virno and other Italian-based theorists of the Autonomia/Operaismo movement have traced exodus as a response to the factory regime of Fordist labour that saw its dismantling in the ’70s and ’80s, Brian Holmes has placed exodus within the artistic lineage of interventions and occupations, in which the fluidity of art, and of art as an occupation or role offers an exit strategy from institutionalized engagement. Holmes’ historical references are those of the alterglobalization movement, notably the public sonic occupations of Reclaim the Streets and the deployment of carnivale tactics in general, but also in specific art projects such as Nikeground. Here, art (and the artist) move through an interzone of activism and art, a zone in which intervention and representation are no longer distinct sides or sites of the work.
in the darkness the shapes of the light (thx to JBurke for this photo)
Excerpt from an unpublished missive — the mythus of the underground.
The outsider, insubordinate, and risk-laden character of dance, legitimated in this sense through its criminalization, provides participants with an outlaw or rebel identity forged in an ambiguous relationship with the law. — Graham St John, Technomad@20
The underground resonates with flights from the drudgery of everyday life into realms of secrecy and substance, where liberated encampments of rebel fugitives revel in the immediatism of autonomous existence…
Voilà.! Some 5 years in the making, Circulation & the City.
With appropriate fanfare & deep bows, Will Straw & Alexandra Boutro’s edited volume entitled Circulation and the City: Essays on Urban Culture (McGill Queen’s UP, 2010) now graces the shelves. This book has been quite a few years in the works. The earliest drafts I have of work for the volume date back to 2005, and by the time we went to press, the final chapter I submitted on Henri Lefebre, rhythm, and revolution in the city had been transformed entirely from the words originally writ on rave culture and rhythm (funny thing: the new article I am finishing for Dancecult picks up on these earlier themes – sometimes work must encounter different sets of theoretical concepts, and years of reflection, for the excavation of the intellect to yield its bounty). The book forms the third in a trilogy of publications from the Culture of Cities Project, a multi-university research endeavour that sought to unearth “the mix of universal and local influences in the everyday life of cities,” with research concentrated in Toronto, Berlin, Dublin and Montréal, and with researchers across Canada and the Continent. So, with the intent of lurking y’all into picking this up (or perhaps unwittingly scaring you off), I offer the introduction to my chapter “Cities of Rhythm & Revolution.”
Yet another bloodsucker dressing-up to play the Glamour game.
I think the motto of recent living for me could be DOWN WITH THE TROLLS & GREY VAMPIRES, BUT ABOVE ALL, DOWN WITH THE PSYCHODRAMA DEMONS. What’s these here Grey Vampires and Trolls? K-punk outlines the concepts:
Grey Vampires are creatures who disguise their moth-greyness in iridescent brightness, all the colours of attractive sociability. Like moths, they are drawn by the light of energetic commitment, but unable to themselves commit. Unlike the Toll, the Grey Vampire’s mode is not aggressive, at least not actively so; the Grey Vampire is a moth-like only on the inside. On the outside, they are bright, humorous, positive – everyone likes them. But they are possessed by a a deep, implacable sadness. They feed on the energy of those who are devoted, but they cannot devote themselves to anything. (K-Punk)
Psychodrama Demons are somewhere in-between a Grey Vampire and a Troll. A Grey Vampire appears somewhat romantic at times, caught in a melancholia, only able to live vicariously through others, even as their mode-of-being sucks away at the marrow of life, draining those around them. A Troll is more outright aggressive. As K-Punk writes, a Troll “above all wants to waste time, its libido involves a banal sadism, the dull malice of snatching people’s toys away from them” (K-Punk).