HorizonZero & Rhythm Science

Montreal's stifling humidity has been in steady decline since the forecast market rushed the season and reminded us what it means for the temperature to drastically dip. I awakened to a towering grey front outside. Last night dreams mixed with half-frozen reveries as my summer fan blissfully zeroed ice across my shivering body.

But it's still "summer," so everyone is taking it easy (playing Strongbad's Peasantry). There's a huge body of dead water off the Gulf of Mexico and sharks are eating up bathing Texans. A high terror alert is on again. Stormtroopers greet senators. BoingBoing is still fascinating. The internet is a seasonal phenomenon, and blows in with the cooler weather (unless you happen to be blogging the DNC/RNC).

++ I don't think I've posted this here yet--so here's a piece I wrote for the Banff Centre for the Art's online journal, HorizonZero. As part of issue 15, "new movements in digital music," it's called:

Sound Tracks and Data Footprints
Stalking the footfalls and echoes of the wireless invisible

[english version] [version francais] [flash version - not a direct link]

The latest issue, 16, is called "wear" and is on wearable technologies and computing.

++ While everyone trades the terrasse for the heated sanctuary of strong malts, I'm engaged in a protracted reading of Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid's Rhythm Science (Cambridge: MIT Mediawork, 2004). It started out as a review for EBR, it will probably be cut at its current length, and I'm not sure if this kind of energy is worthwhile. Here's a few ruminations that shouldn't be taken as conclusions or steadfast positions...

Miller is all about the pop-culture appeal and the hype (check the website link above). Arguing against it is kind of self-defeating, and I take Miller's claims as a conceptual artist seriously (at least, I respect them). But what I find unusual about Rhythm Science is just how evasive Miller has even become with himself.

Perhaps a quieter approach would just be to accede to Peter Halley's interactive web remix, Hypnotext. It's fun, and has this early '90s hypertext kitsch to it, but with more style and design panache (click on a word like "dance," get a quote or two from the book--hardly a remix, more like a basic index). Yet, like Hypnotext's banality, Miller still pegs that deep, sinking feeling I've always felt when reading his work, or hearing him speak: is it anything other than just an addictive ride through jetsetting vertigo? What is there to remix culture other than a carnivorous situation where, not only can "any sound be you," but the basic law is one of Machiavellian combat, a dog-eat-dog world where, if any Dj is only as good as his or her archive, then all that counts is getting one's hands on the most stuff to play around with? That's a cynical view of the sample: steal the best thing to make the most of your own brand/name. Get there first before someone else does. Where is the place of skill here? How can one review an art that precludes any basis for judgment? What is the difference between sample culture and aggressive capitalism?

Obviously there's more to remix culture, which is where the review is going: in trying to broaden that thought, get out of that junkie habit of losing yourself in the loop & repetition. It's not all flow, and a Dj is more than his or her archive: a Dj has to do with skill, too. Critically, Miller is not a Dj. As he repeats over and over in Rhythm Science, he started djing as a conceptual art project (Dj Spooky). Thus, skill is of little importance to him: what matters is the image, not the sound. Advertising and appearance.

posted. Thu - August 5, 2004 @ 01:37 PM           |