“The gag doesn’t go much deeper than that unfortunately,” writes M.E.S.H., aka James Whipple, about the pun of the title ‘Elevator Piece,’ a work inspired by the auditory illusion of a rising pitch without ever shifting, called the Shepard tone. It’s showing as part of Berlin’s 3hd FestivalWhatever You Thought, Think Again group exhibition, running November 22 to 25. It’s unclear what the work will be but if his second album, HESAITIX, released via PAN on November 10, is anything to go by, it’ll surely be impressive.
Whipple’s production is special because it possesses an incredible subtlety and attention to detail that not a lot of other music that you’d also probably describe as noisy, post-industrial dance, has. A resident DJ of the trendsetting Berlin-based, American expat club collective (and also label) Janus, the California-born producer’s sound aligns itself with the high-tech intensity of affiliated artists like Lotic and Kablam, while at the same time differentiating himself by care and intricacy. That balance – of soft contrasts and dappled hues – comes across most succinctly in HESAITIX, where Whipple creates a cinematic narrative around a kind of technological Arcadia. Despite being recorded entirely on a digital audio workstation – for the most part in the picturesque surroundings of Umbria, no less – the music is so delicately put together that it sounds almost completely organic. The rhythm, clatter and animal calls come alive.
In communicating with Whipple via email, his conversation is equally understated and no less profound. Raised on occult interests and revisionist feminist anthropology, while coming out of a carried exploration of deep ecology and anti-humanism into the Utopian promise of Prometheanism, M.E.S.H. talks us through his fascination with nature and how we relate to it.
** There’s very much an element of film soundtrack to the album, and with the project you’re doing for 3hd, you mention being inspired by the Shepard tone that Hollywood film director Hans Zimmer often uses. What led you in this direction and do you imagine the record as a sort of sonic cinema?
James Whipple: I guess it comes from an interest in sonic manipulation. I also am curious about the way Hollywood works, the way all these three-and-a-half -hour films that are impossible to follow are churned out, but also how if you ignore the fundamental issues that make these films both hyper-lucrative and borderline unwatchable. There are all these artisans and technical people pushing things forward from a craft perspective. I think it’s important to increase the fidelity of our imaginative power and seize these tools from the pigs who control these industries.
**I think what I like most about your music is that it’s almost as if it doesn’t sound electronic at all, that it could be performed with live instruments. How do you come up with these percussive elements?
JW: This might not be a very exciting answer. But I like to work at a pretty low volume. I find it really jarring and uncomfortable to be blasting music all the time. So this somehow causes me to make sounds that are more ‘worked-on.’ Because if you work loud the sounds literally feel real, if you are working quietly they are more like a picture of a sound and require something more.
** With the titling and the use of these nature samples in the music, there’s very much this Arcadian quality to HESAITIX, at the same time as being repeatedly intruded on by more industrial electronic elements, what are you getting at with that?
JW: I don’t think I’m consciously trying to juxtapose these elements. But I definitely have a longing for wilderness, while also pretty much believing in a kind of Prometheanism. I would love to see the human race using about 10 times more energy, while protecting and expanding all wilderness areas on earth.
When I was younger, I was really attracted to deep ecology and anti-humanism because of the leftist bubble I grew up and was educated in. It was really powerful for me to be able to experience, for example, old-growth forests in Oregon, these types of places where an ecosystem is at its peak of complexity and resilience that feel almost psychedelic to stand in because they are exploding with life. I think humans that are deprived of these types of experiences are at more risk of psychosis. At the same time, we need to intensify human activity and technological progress to eventually end all suffering.
**From my position, I think it’s perfectly in keeping with this ‘organic simulation’ element to your work, which has been developing through earlier releases, is that something you’d agree with and is there something about this nature/technology, science/mythology nexus that attracts you?
JW: Yes and no. I don’t combine these elements because I want to make some kind of critique or set up a binary. I literally just want to live in paradise. When my music is harsh and grating, I feel ashamed and sorry. I think there is a moral imperative to increase the resolution of our dreams.
**You use some Latin (‘Nemorum Incola,’ ‘Diana Triplex’), as well as words that look like they could be Latin but appear made up (‘Ihnaemiauimx,’ HESAITIX), what’s going on there and why?
ICA Live and PAN are presenting an audio-visual programme of lectures, live performances and screenings at the ICA on October 4.
Coinciding with Frieze 2016 and part of the week-long ICA Live programme, the evening includes talks, installations, screenings, and live performances from artists and ends with DJ sets in the ICA Bar hosted by Bala Club.
Multi-disciplinary label PAN has been building a network of international artists since 2008. It’s emphasis is on the “adaption to the rapidly changing cultural and material conditions of contemporary musicians and sound artists today”.
The inaugural fair will see international musicians and record labels, artists and arts publishers, and fashion and tech companies presenting (and selling) some of their latest products. Things you can expect to see: 3D printed music totems, exclusive vinyl pressings, fabrics patterned by sonic algorithms.
Mat Dryhurst is an artist. He releases music on PAN records, collaborates on audiovisual projects with his partner (and RVNG Intl-signed producer/composer/vocalist) Holly Herndon under the name Kairo, and last year started a graduate program at UCLA. He has lived in Salwa, London, Berlin, LA and Oakland – where he has been since 2008. Recently, he’s been listening to Black Ocean artists Soda Plains and M.E.S.H.. He’s feeling the new Jam City material, too. On January 26 he dined at Napa Farms Market restaurant in Terminal 2 of San Francisco airport before taking a $70 Virgin flight. Sometimes, he goes hiking. These aren’t things Dryhurst had to tell me during our email correspondence throughout late 2014 and early 2015. It’s all public. We’ve all dug around inside our acquaintances’ online profiles to discover things about them that we didn’t necessarily need to know, and we’ve all had the same done to us. In our online glass house, we’re constantly, painfully aware of being observed, and yet at the same time flippant about – maybe sometimes obsessed with – revealing fragments of ourselves anyway. It’s that prism of narcissism and curiosity, that unquestioned compulsion to keep posting, that Dryhurst peers into with his work as a solo artist, a researcher and as one half of the Kairo project.
Alone and in collaboration with Herndon, Dryhurst has led performances that hinge on his sourcing information about audience members and relaying it back to them; he’s even been known to make compositions from their personal data. The effect is unnerving and shocking, despite the fact that this is all information that was willingly made public. He calls it “boomerang-ing data back into the world,” explaining over email, “[We’re] presenting people with the information that they freely share online, however are usually uncomfortable with seeing presented in front of their faces – which will begin to become more of a feature of our daily physical lives. We’ve learned that people will sacrifice privacy for convenience… I find it really interesting to think of what a performance or art space will look like in 15 years time, when the room knows who you are, and the artist can anticipate your attendance.”.
As well as bringing digital data into physical spaces, Dryhurst and Herndon have collaborated with philosopher and writer Reza Negarestani on disrupting performance spaces with technology. Last year, he worked on bringing electronic sounds and harmonic utopian ideals to the sound design of actual cities on the Sonic Movement project (with Fernando Ocana, James Brooks, and E2Sound of Semcon). Most recently, he and Herndon debuted a brutal track named ‘Recruit’, its press release stating: “Wires emerge from the earth. What intelligence brought us here? What did we sign up for?” In anticipation of new music from both, including Dryhurst’s White Hat LP (a reference to white hat hacking, of course), here are some things he actually did tell me directly about his practice.
What is Kairo? Mat Dryhurst: Occasionally projects come through where it makes sense for Holly and I to share the work 50/50, and so Kairo was born as a means to recognise that, and also allow for us to experiment with projects that we wouldn’t be able to do alone. I’m a little OCD when it comes to naming things, and Kairo hit all the right buttons. To start, Kairo is one of our favorite films, a really artful and harrowing Japanese horror film about ghosts that lurk on the internet, beckoning the lonely. The kanji for the word – 回路 – also has this incredible balance to it, with the first character resembling a screen, which seems pretty relevant given Holly’s interest in the laptop and my own interest with networks and design. Kairo also translates to ‘circuit’, and there is an amazing and haunting game made by Richard Perrin that uses the name, and deals with monuments, destiny and archaic machinery. Cairo was also the first city that Holly and I visited together, and has been a fascination of mine since I was a child. The clincher was also that Kairos is an ancient Greek term for “the opportune moment”, which seems appropriate given both of our interests in concepts of pragmatism, or this notion of making decisions while moving, and constantly revising your approach.
I anticipate we may kill the Kairo name this year. It has been an experiment and people just end up using our own names anyway. 🙂
Your practice brings your artistic experience and ideas into ‘non-art’ realms, particularly the Sonic Movement project. Are you interested in doing more work on sound design for future cities? MD: Absolutely, although to actually get anywhere with that project will take a lot more work – car companies are classically quite conservative, and have a huge bottom line to consider, however we were really enthused by the response the project received. I think that project is fairly totemic of a desire to take our ideas into the world, and was equally educational about how difficult it is to actually deliver on something of that scale and scope. The guys in Sweden just installed it into a real car, which is really exciting.
What can you tell me about the upcoming White Hat LP?
MD: I started to record all of my intimate interactions/browsing back in 2012 while I was making the ‘net concrete’ software – and so White Hat is basically a very transparent collation of that material. At the time I also started speaking in public fairly regularly, and started to basically spy on Facebook pages of events in advance so that I could tailor my argument for the specific people in the room – often quoting from individuals in the audience to make my argument, and almost always using sampled material from audience members in any sound pieces I presented.
So yeah, the title White Hat is a reference to white hat hacking, which basically is a philosophy where one exploits vulnerabilities in order to let the victim know of the ways in which they might be compromised. We are so eager to share all this intimate information about ourselves, so why not use that as raw material when creating a work, and present it back to you? It led to a couple of funny moments, like congratulating someone on the job they got that morning on a massive projection on the walls of Berghain.
How are you exploring the untapped potential for this intimate information on White Hat ?
MD: Well, there is a lot of personal information in there. Like me singing into my phone, me just ranting unfiltered ideas at Ableton. I’m really interested in attaining a kind of radical candour, and to really deliver on that thesis I need to be as candid as I can be – more human than a set of ‘interesting’ data points. A brilliant collaborator Brian Rogers and I are super interested in improv comedy for this component, just the danger and brutal transparency of it. Live improv comedy feels way ‘live-er’ than performance art or even improv music as the stakes are so high, and I feel like it is high time that people dropped the role-playing schtick and actually attempted to communicate with each other – the ability to do so easily is the gift of our time.
A lot of art and music seems divided between people who are delusional about their actual power in the world, doggedly pursuing old forms of expression and analysis (sadly, a lot of people operating in the club and the political left succumb to this temptation), or people who adopt this kind of clandestine, mercenary, libertarian game approach in order to get ahead – crystallised around a meticulously crafted online persona (producers in hoodies looking deep/artists in white spaces looking classy/artists at parties looking baller ad infinitum). Those both feel like defeats to me – a candid culture may offer an alternative, and would certainly bring a lot of bright people out of the shadows and raise discussions worth having. I tried to do it with a Transmediale project last year called ‘Anonymonth‘ but had a hard time getting enough people to contribute their unfiltered thoughts. It will happen though, it’s inevitable.
What else do you have coming up on the horizon?
MD: Well, we are both busy with solo stuff at the moment; Holly just finished a record and some commissions, I’m finishing my record and starting some commissions, and am also collaborating on a few things to do with her record coming up. It’s all very involved. We are definitely both becoming more political and focused, at a time when the things we are both interested in are becoming increasingly politicised.
I just started a grad program at UCLA and have been mostly developing a piece of software I’m calling SAGA. We’ve both been super interested in infrastructure for a while, and I’m getting to this point where I’m pretty convinced that many of the frustrating things about art and music can be traced back to elemental aspects of the culture, like tools, schools, venues, antiquated industry practices/myths. I talked about this a little bit in a PAN talk I did a few years ago, called ‘Dispatch‘, and now I guess I’m trying to make a piece of software to put forward an alternative. That shit takes time.
I’ve been researching an ascendent trend in technology, often referred to as ‘anticipatory computing,’ where applications like Google Now utilize information they have collected about you in order to provide more convenient/tailored services. Another aspect to this practice involves large companies, such as Axciom, who collect and sell nuanced profiles of us as individuals to companies so that they may target us directly, and anticipate our needs in a time and context-specific fashion. I’m interested in the implications that has for people who produce art work. This idea of ‘the audience’ that we have in the arts is so abstracted, rarely challenged, and far too vague for private industries, who have developed sophisticated methods to get inside each of our heads and effortlessly slot themselves into our daily lives. This is problematic for a number of reasons, but it does make you wonder how an artist with radical ambitions will be able to compete for attention in 20 years with the kind of sentimental/universal/unchallenged gestures we are used to making, when the alternative will be surgically tailored experiences provided by companies who know so much about us as individuals. SAGA provides some tools to play in that field.
It feels like this politicisation of your work you mention is inevitable, as our very private inner lives become politicised through the internet. You can see this most obviously in Holly’s latest videos, namely ‘Home‘ and ‘Chorus‘, as an act as private as being alone at home on the computer becomes political.
MD: The private is more political than it ever has been, and we certainly aren’t the only artists (or the first, for that matter) acknowledging that. I think what is most exciting about that observation though, is that once we reach consensus about that fact we can then try and determine what power we have to steer things in a preferable direction.
If our data, attention and participation is the fundamental value, then we have a seat at the table – which becomes a very powerful and political proposition so long as we find ways to work collectively and not trample over each other, or create these weird suicide pacts where we delude ourselves about the actual state of affairs. If you read Bratton, Malik, Metahaven, Negarestani, Easterling, Singleton, Wark, Negarestani, Ptak, Jurgenson and Dockray you get this sense of a radical re-configuration taking place, and that is cause for great optimism. I remember Adam Harper talking about the ‘new DIY‘ in music, which I thought was quite a cool point to make, but I think the scope of that is much bigger than a welcome new culture of new bedroom producers. I think that a continuum between the bedroom producer and those concerned with infrastructure, strategy and utility – the architects, developers and designers of the world – is taking shape, and that is a cause for remarkable optimism if we can all get on the same page and be ambitious and candid with our projects.
The best thing about the impending collapse of these industries is the collapse of divisions of focus and access, but making the most of that opportunity begins with personal decisions; personal conduct. I’m revisiting Fugazi and Crass – the old DIY was implicitly about infrastructure, establishing communication channels and networks, and personal liability and accountability. The mistake would be to fetishise the artificial/stylistic affects of older DIY/independent cultures, and not learn from what made them powerful – an adroit and candid ethos of collective action. **
2.07 San Francisco – Slate
2.12 The Empty Bottle
2.13 St. Louis – William A Kerr Foundation
2.14 New York – Issue Project Room
2.15 Boston – Goethe Institute
2.16 Philadelphia- Kung fu Necktie
2.21 Portland- Reed University
2.22 Los Angeles – Private Island
Label-owner of Berlin’s PAN, Bill Kouligas is curating the next Harmonic Series at London Southbank Centre, on February 7.
Like all things good in contemporary art, the experimental electronic music label is taking its roster in an audiovisual direction, after five years as a rather successful brand. They’ll be showcasing live performances by visual and sound artists including Mark Leckey, Florian Hecker, Lee Gamble, Dave Gaskarth, Jar Moff and Rene Hell but most interestingly, K回IRO collaborator and artist Mat Dryhurst will be presenting an overview of his work.
Running under the theme Dis Continuity, from January 24 to February 2, 2014, the event’s focus is on “revealing hidden connections between past and present musical movements, reconstructing forgotten achievements, and strengthening exchanges between the worlds of DIY pop culture and academic research”.
Premiered on XLR8 and running along a similar aesthetic as ‘MIMOSA”s slightly skewed stock imagery for the home user, Reupke’s expanding and contracting tree bark and an endless stack of envelopes playfully echoes speculative realism’s fetishistic relationship with the material. As aid to the undulating one-minute instrumental named after what Heatsick calls “the smell of modernity“, ‘CLEAR CHANEL’ proposes a sight and a sound for it too.
A board of blinding lights, the metronomic click of a beat-up CASIO taps against an elastic keyboard loop that stretches and contracts, expands and compresses, across the ebbing tide of space and time. A tiny bottle of Chanel No. 5 materialises, Steven Warwick gingerly squirting its contents on a convulsing audience at the Berghain in Berlin. This is one of several times I’ve seen, felt and absorbed a Heatsick performance but the perfume’s a first.
At the time, I thought it was just another addition to the multi-sensory experience that Warwick strives towards; a bodily transcendence founded on a powerful conceptual bearing. By now I’ve figured otherwise. Said ‘feminine fine fragrance’ reappears, again and again, as a bootlegged ‘climate change’ sweatshirt and the “clear chanel” of his RE-ENGINEERING artist statement, a manifesto of sorts accompanying what he calls the “11 blobs” of his upcoming vinyl release, out through PAN on November 26. “It’s the smell of modernity”.
Warwick is as much a musician as he is an artist and intellectual, the distinction as imperceptible as his life view is malleable. A Berlin-based performer steeped in a visual culture orbiting but not limited to the city, his first full-length as Heatsick is littered with references to the contemporary art discourse and theory that he disrupts, dissects and often parodies, in the same cyclical way that RE-ENGINEERING ends as it begins, if not in a distant, degraded form.
Fellow artist Hanne Lippard’s colourless, disembodied voice preens, over measured exhalations and a crisp melody evoking a dial tone, as she robotically engages in a disintegrating loop of references; speaking, quoting, sloganeering, “black power”, “gay Google”, “what we do is secret”, “labour in the bodily mode”, “second annual trend report”, over a rhythm that is less a groove than a forward lurch. Warwick’s manifesto’s “relentless interconnectivity” carries on, across ideas and ideologies, philosophers and philosophies, even past recordings and present tracks, surfacing and disappearing across its track listing.
“I’ve just really thought about these things, they’re such concerns,” says Warwick through Skype and on tour in Australia, about the ideas and aesthetics that he often explicitly explores, sometimes abuses, on RE-ENGINEERING, “That’s the thing with a lot of network theory and circulation. I’m really trying to link a lot of ideas, or map my own ontology, or even some kind of mode, and I’m trying to think about why I think that. Sometimes, if I see people referencing certain philosophers or schools of thought, and it’s just a bit of a quick joke, you feel a bit short-changed, and not in a particularly subversive way.”
Jesse Garciapurrs, disjointedly in ‘DIAL AGAIN’ emulating the stilted automated voice, deliberately, poorly, over swaggering toms, while Warwick’s voice comes through a far-off megaphone, beneath the noise of a field recording, repeating Lippard’s words (“Modern life is still rubbish, you say. Modern rubbish is still life”) from the beginning, now at the end, as it links into album-closer, ‘ACCELERATIONISTA’ –a circular motion of movement ending up where it began, but different.
“With RE-ENGINEERING,it’s playing around with treating it more like a manual. It’s like, ‘let’s look at these options and maybe you can reprogram yourself to try and get around this dissatisfaction’, or you could just also remould something,” Warwick tells me, following up an email listing ten artists he thinks are doing just that.
“Ed Lehan is known for his acerbic commentaries on participation and the public event. See his various shows where the opening will consist of a reconstruction of an empty charity box built by the artist, a case of beers, a barrel of mojito and the visitor(s). For the one at a gallery in Tallin [Error 404 at Temnikova & Kasela] he reconstructed an adizone that had been popping up in various parts of London for the Olympics.”
“In Loretta Fahrenholz’s film ‘Ditch Plains’, a street performance group contort in the early hours of a desolate area of East New York, various upscale hotel spaces and an apartment in Manhattan, post-Hurricane Sandy. It’s a strange post-apocalypse zombie HD afrofuturist hypercapitalistic ecological crisis; a networked virus of disconnect.”
“Georgie Nettell’s last show [2013 at Reena Spaulings]dealt with notions of recycling, circulation and eco branding. Local dirty dishes were picked up in restaurant bus trays and re-presented in the gallery, images found on the internet were downloaded, distressed and formatted onto raw linen canvases. Her musical group, Plug (with Sian Dorrer), also used a stock image as its cover, confusing the listener as to the public image of the group. “
“Katja Novitskova uses images found on the internet such as wildlife and prints them out, mounting them in physical space and opening up the notions of documentation, preservation, ecology and materiality. The digital image is itself fuelled by carbon materials and minerals extracted from the earth. Species on the verge of extinction are fed back into image circulation and, in turn, play with the neuro-chemical recognition mechanisms in the viewer’s brain.”
“Paul Kindersley’s thebritisharecumming YouTube channel is best viewed left running during a morning after with genuinely bizarre makeup tutorials, presumably also made the morning after (perhaps a satire of the MT genre themselves) at once absurd, daft, unnerving, hilarious and engaging. Current fave: Babes (correct usage).”
“Gili Tal presented REAL PAIN FOR REAL PEOPLE [at LimaZulu]as a wall text superimposed by four gestural paintings, evoking haptic gestures and waiting room paintings. The text consisted of the “goriest parts of Marx’s Capital” (itself full of references to Dracula and Frankenstein), written in languages from post-Communist countries and presented with the deceptively friendly aesthetic of an Innocent smoothie, one visitor was heard to have described the show as “Muji Expressionism”.”
“Sabine Reitmaier is a photographer and artist whose work blurs commercial and fine art contexts. Her show [Not comme les autres at Galerie Friedlaender] last year consisted of portraits of models staged in a similar method to how she would present them for the Psychologie Heute covers she also shoots for. In the exhibition, the large format photos confront us, provoking how we make neurological recognitions and associations, down to posing, body language or the coloured backgrounds that Reitmaier herself painted as per a photo shoot.”
“Hanne Lippard‘s vocal register evokes the automated hold tone of a service centre phonecall and plays with pre-existing imagery found online. Her videos such as ‘Beige’ deploy wordplay and humour to comment upon the hyperreal mundanity of part time work, lifestyles and (non) space.”
“Sarah MacKillop‘s Ex Library Bookis itself an artist book consisting of fragments of obsolete library books –withdrawn from circulation and sold off at a discounted price onto a discarded heap –presented as a shiny glossy catalogue. Her other artist book, New Stationary Department, consists of various materials found at various stationers, be it neon marker pens or corrective materials such as Tipp-Ex, found in the commercial office, highlighting and reworking notions of editing, work and commercial presentation.”
“Rachel Reupkedeals with HD stock images in videos that, when stripped of its conversations, penetrate an eerie and uncanny atmosphere of social relationships and catalogue-like objects. The warm emotional bond of social relation deployed by advertising is stripped and the viewer is suddenly presented with a cold flat image.In ‘Containing Matters of No Peaceable Colour’ from 2009, the hard gaze confronts the viewer with a series of HD towels while an automated voice proceeds to obsessively list a lifestyle specification quota with the delivery of a Robbe-Grillet novel.” **
Vinyl fetishist’s dream, PAN, has another banger out, this time from Hamburg-based producers Helena Hauff and F#X, performing as Black Sites. Transferring the label’s taste for tangibility to sound, ‘Prototype’ crunches and thumps across squeaking 303 rhythms before exploding into static and vanishing into a void.
Hauff and F#X both perform at iconic Hamburg Club ‘The Golden Pudel’, while the latter has a record coming out on its in house label Pudel Produkte, the former, about to release a record on Actress’ Ninja Tune imprint, Werkdiscs. Expect to hear more from the both of them.**
Frankly spoken Steve Warwick (aka Heatsick) doesn’t court controversy, he’s just being honest. The casio-wielding performer, who started in drone and ended in house music, might seem to some like he’s chasing the zeitgeist. But with his progressively sparer assemblages of frisky blowouts built for the dance floor -from PAN-released INTERSEX, through to Rush Hour’s Convergence -if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a clear, though complex, narrative through critical theory, from German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld’s idea of Zwischenstufe to Parisian architecture
Conversation with the English-born, Berlin-based artist and musician is just as in-depth as his concepts. His vast knowledge-base is equalled only by his willingness to dissect and deconstruct it, from the impact of computers and the internet on a generation, to the vapidity of what can most broadly be referred to as ‘Net Art’. That’s because Warwick’s hypercritical, slightly cynical, nature is mirrored by an evolving oeuvre of looping, self-devouring sound scapes, spiralling nowhere in particular. From his early beginnings as a film student, to Fine Artist, to a Berlin resident creating degenerating cassette tape loops, Warwick’s is a world shaped by experience, observation and erudition, which bizarrely makes from some fairly visceral beats. But then, just because something is of a physical realm doesn’t mean it’s not complex. After all, electronic music in itself is a composite medium bound to the body and Heatsick is its prime example.
Do you think being divisive as an artist is important for creating a discourse?
Steve Warwick: Yeah… but I do find that way of operating also a bit boring. Because if that’s actually the primary way that you operate…
Like M.I.A. or something.
SW: God, yeah.
I find her interesting because it’s like she’s the personification of this era; unedited self-expression through twitter and facebook.
SW: I think they are edited. I would actually say that it’s hyper-constructed and well thought out. But because of the age that we live, it’s actually become unconscious, while at the same time it’s so structured. It’s like a structured reality.
You were born in 1981, so you must still remember a time before the internet…
SW: Yep. I was actually on the precipice of that. I didn’t get an email until I was 19.
Do you feel like you come from a position of privilege? Where a younger generation that doesn’t have an alternative mode of operating from the virtual has no choice but to engage with these sites.
SW: It’s like when we were talking about Twitter. People have absorbed these neo-liberal forms of expression, through lifestyle marketing and advertising. It’s like they’ve become it. It’s not like the whole idea of Kraftwerk saying, ‘I’ve become the machine’ or whatever, it’s not even that. It’s taken to the next level of people absorbing this advertising structure without realising it.
Or people talking in terms of ‘branding’. You’re only calling it that because you’re working within a modern paradigm.
SW: Exactly, it’s the forms we have at our disposal and if you’re dissatisfied with something, you could try and remould something or change it. This is what’s interesting about all this hybridisation that’s going on; that’s the one thing I do like about it. It’s like that whole post-Donna Haraway kind of thing. I just feel like it always gets missed. Where you have people talking about internet art and this dis Magazine scene but that’s when you just take the form of something, without actually any content. So now you have a lot of work, which looks like critical theory but it’s actually just aestheticised; all this ‘Made in China’ bullshit that you see.
Like Item Idem or Shanzai Biennial?
SW: I’m talking about Timur Si-Qin and Aids-3d; all these people in Berlin. I know where they’re coming from but I still think it’s incredibly boring. You’ve got something like Bernadette Corporation. They were a very interesting group I think but we’re living in a time now where what they were doing in the mid-90s has now become incredibly formalised. It’s very relevant to what’s happening now but the sad irony is that we’ve got people who are just taking bits of it, and not in a kind of queer or hybridisation kind of way. It’s just, ‘look at the flat surface of this’.
I sometimes find that form a bit problematic. There’s an incredible foundation for proper discourse but it doesn’t always explore that. It’s like ‘post-post-irony’ with little justification.
SW: Absolutely. It’s just very outdated, it’s retro in a way; playing around with this Andy Warhol idea. It’s so fucking conservative and that’s what makes me really angry. All of this shit is completely conservative and neo liberal and they don’t even realise it. They just think they’re being clever and it’s not clever. It’s completely the opposite. It’s retrogressive, counterproductive and boring [laughs].
It’s interesting, the range of fairly complex ideas, from across media, that influence your music.
SW: Well, I’m trained as a fine artist. I studied film and video initially until the faculty closed and I was working with eight and 16 millimetre loops. I just see it as a natural extension of what I’m doing with this looping pedal that I have, where I can loop up to eight seconds of music.
After they closed our faculty, I started working in a fine art context. So I started playing around with more sculpture, installation and sound. It’s kind of still what I’m doing now. After I graduated, I didn’t have a computer or access to a film faculty for editing, so I literally stopped and was working with printed-matter collage but then also music. What I liked about music, and I still do, is that it’s very immediate.
What was the name of the visual art show you did in the summer?
SW: It’s called Sicherheitsdienst Im Auftrag der BVG. Even if you don’t understand German you get how oppressive it is, just by the title [laughs].It’s basically the title on the back of the jackets of the private security force, which is employed by the public transport authority. You know, they’re open barriers. Again, you have this idea of transparency and welcoming. It works on ‘trust’, you could say, but then people used to have plain-clothed officers…
So it’s basically an extension of Soviet occupation.
SW: Yes. And also it became visible, where they’re saying, ‘we are the force. We’re employed. We’re a private security force.’ So then the invisible becomes visible but it’s also, at the same time, a distance because it’s a gated community.
This is what I find interesting about social networks and things like Twitter. It’s all about this idea of engagement but actually it’s always privatised, controlled, regulated, in an unregulated market. That’s what I’m against and that’s what I’m referencing and talking about.
You could apply that to ideas of hauntology…
SW: That all comes from [Jacques] Derrida. Spectres of Marx.
These kids doing ‘hauntology’ within music seem to consciously disappear into their own online universes.
SW: It’s a bit like the internet; the word ‘blogosphere’ or something. It’s a structured reality and it does affect us, even though it’s virtual. It’s an invisible force.
It’s like that external compulsion to step in line with online social networking. It’s made very difficult to function outside of it.
SW: It’s like this dark smile: ‘you’re welcome’ but you’re not at all [laughs]. It gets a bit science fiction sometimes. What’s that John Carpenter film… They Live. It gets a bit like that or something.
You mentioned you didn’t have access to a computer after you graduated, do you have one now?
SW: Yeah, I have a computer and I’m involved in all of this. I’m not outside of it and that’s what I’m doing. I’m just commenting on it. I’m just saying that this is how we’re operating.
What drew me to your work in the first place was your PAN release INTERSEX because of those ideas of shifting gender constructs.
SW: It’s like this whole anti-genre thing, of shifting around. It’s basically applying everything you do from these expanded forms of sexuality. You have to acknowledge that it’s there but, it’s like Déviation for me. It’s also a play on ‘deviation’ or whatever, which I found less interesting but it’s also a bit of ‘smirk’; it’s more just this idea of a feedback loop for me. To move on from the field of sexuality, to city planning, the grid of the city, and then the grid of the internet with ‘Convergence’ –smartphones and apps and privatised experience. For me they make logical sense but I think I have to say it as well, because maybe it’s a bit misty.