Sunday, February 21, 2010
While the writer and critic Douglas Coupland is not ordinarily a name I find on my literary itinerary, I must acknowledge here the strong effect I felt when reading this comment by Coupland in a recent Times interview:
"I’m starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days, because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the words they want to read and the music they listen to. You don’t have the broader trends like you used to....They're not great cultural megatrends like disco, which involved absolutely everyone in the culture. Now, everyone basically is their own microculture, their own nanoculture, their own generation."
Coupland, the father of the term "Generation X," here offhandedly offers a nice way of conceiving the flows and fluxs of digital media - as a ocean, let's say, of nanocultures. While Coupland's remark has an air of flippant exaggeration to it (broad trends still exist), it's worth reflecting on what a nanoculture might be, and how its rise also indexes the downfall of a popular culture based on broad trends.
The individual and his close circle of friends, his email buddies, those who comment often on his FB posts, ("Zzzzzz"? is that some kind of hockey-team dis?) comprise a nanoculture - their independent and collective abilities to seek out cultural data, to filter and process it, have increased their strength exponentially since the rise of digital media.
Today the ability to filter information is paramount. If you say each of us is a nanoculture, howver, you're under-emphasizing a key fact: that we're always sending our signals out to others, through email, social media, text messages, even meeting face to face.
This recalls a recent lecture I attended by the excellent art critic Boris Groys.
After a knowledgeable, detailed foray into the history of twentieth-century avant-garde art practices, Groys turned to use the concepts of these art movements in order to address the phenomenon of social media. "Nowadays we have twitter, google, myface..." Yes, he actually said 'myface,' which caused me to do a mental spit take. "Now on myface, we are all artists," went Groys' argument. This shows that Groys has probably never signed on to myface in his life, or he would know that 'art' is a pretty inappropriate term to describe the insistent traffic of images and memes on sites like facebook. Yes, self-expression and self-customization has reached a kind of historical apotheosis, but artistic creativity it's not.
Why is facebooking not an appropriate example of "we are all artists now?" Because artistic practice is not about instantaneous narcissism, it's about labor, and the transformative effacement of the self that occurs after the result of creative work. Also, damn, Boris, would you just take a look at facebook? That shit ain't art. But so what?
We're not all artists, rather each of us is a one-person broadcast network. A monad radio. Beaming images, sounds, video and text at one another. FWD FWD FWD.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
If AC ran the world, all remixes would be by Hercules and Love Affair. See their insanely syncopated afro-futurisms on their remix of Goldfrapp's "A&E", their slick shiny Chicago bonk on their version of "Whispers" by Aeroplane, the list goes on and on. Above all, it's H&LA's ability to thread any song through perfectly tailored first-wave house that's equally mellow and infectious, never overbearing, always addictive, that renders them peerless. Here "Bad Romance" gets toned down, from a cannonball blast of pop to a light Chicago jack, neatly balancing mainstream hooks and underground bump & grind. SO FUCKING GOOD.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I came across this old article from the NYT about the glorious Fort Tilden out in the Rockaways. As we dig our selves out from this weeks snowstorm, I find myself dreaming of sand and sun. Nothing beats the feeling of driving over the Marine Park Bridge and rolling down the windows. While the occasional dirty tampon or hipster gang blasting MGMT may deter some...I stay loyal.
Posted by zade at 9:35 AM
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
In case you didn't feel like showing up, here's a link to the archived EVR stream. Thanks again for Still Life for allowing brutes and fools like us to cause trouble live on the internet. And special thanks to NP official hype man DJ Loud Noises. stay tuned for Loud's forthcoming mixtape, "God Hypes Those Who Hype Themselves."
DJ Still Life - Rebel Rap: A Mix of Haitian Rap Kreyol (courtesy of Mad Decent)
A good friend of mine is, like myself, a graduate student in literature. Over the past several years, her regard for the academic world has visibly waned, replaced by a growing fascination for creative expression and Eastern religion. Her waning regard turned into open disgust, however, in a recent Facebook post, in which she bemoaned the university conferences on Haiti that were being organized in the wake of the island's recent earthquake disaster. Look at these sad academics, my friend opined, all they can do is organize conferences instead of really helping, really changing, really acting. To her this only underscored the stuffy pointlessness of the university.
It must be said here that action is never the point of the university. Conferences and papers and peer-reviewed journals can never take the place of, say, an immense international rescue effort designed to minimize the ravages of a nationwide disaster. The university can't be criticized for being itself, it is responding to the news of the day in its own language, that's exactly its task. So is the task of the DJ in this situation. Will a mix of Haitian rap save a life? Maybe, actually, if listening to it reminds you that you should donate to the relief effort. Is the point of the mix to save a life? No. the point of the mix is to respond to the events in Haiti in its own language, in music language.
Props to our friend Still Life for assembling some nasty-ass tracks. Enjoy.
Monday, February 8, 2010
This first-time ever compilation of producer Bob Blank's work from his legendary Blank Tapes studios showcase a wildly diverse sonic menagerie - you got everything from underground disco like "Over Like a Fat Rat" and the Arthur Russell-helmed "Wax the Van" to Sun Ra's cosmic free-jazz to gritty no-wave skronk from Lydia Lunch and James Blood Ulmer. A collab from two venerable institutions, Strut records and DJHistory.com, it's a glorious insight in the fast, cheap and out-of-control realm of underground music in New York City.
for more visit Strut Records, where accounts by Blank of his time behind the board are in abundance. for example, here's Bob talking about recording the disco classic "Go Bang!" with Arthur. It's a fine example of Arthur's application of the Zen precept "First Thought Best Thought" to music composition - they rolled tape as soon as the musicians sat down, although they thought they were merely jamming it out and warming up.
"First Thought Best Thought" underscores a valuable lesson in creativity - that will is the opposite of grace. It's a theme most exemplarily explored by Kleist's brilliant short text, "On the Marionett Theater" which stages a number of scenes that circle around the problem of the first thought. Like, for example, a handsome young man who notices the grace of his accidental pose in the mirror, and then struggles in vain to repeat it. If only Bob had the tape running.