all images are screenshots from Romain Gravas’ fim: Jay Z & Kanye West “No church in the wild” (2012)
The new videoclip of Jay Z and Kanye West, No Church in the Wild, directed by Romain Gavras is problematic to many extents. During 5 very aesthetic minutes of film, a slowmotion of a scene involving a violent fight between an angry mob (composed strictly of men) and a less angry -yet much more methodical in its violence- group of suppressive geared policemen. The scene is recognizably occurring in Prague and Paris, thus offering us a modern version of the various European revolutions and insurrections of the 19th century. The ‘aesthetization’ of violence is optimal in order to directly to address our testosterone which then helps us to identify to this hyper-male insurrectional standard which correspond in nothing to the various 2011 Arab revolutions or civic movements in various countries in the world. The society of spectacle is not interested in long pacific democratic construction and, through its various media (including the most serious and so called ‘liberal’ of them like the perfidious New York Times), prefers to capitalize on the violent side of the revolt imaginary in order to both discredit and co-opt a movement that was originally anti-capitalist. In this regard, it is not innocent that the rioters, in this video, do not seem to seek anything else than a simple fight with the police force (almost like a sport). It is Capitalism’s great strength to be able to include within itself its own antagonism, and furthermore to be able to capitalize on the latter. Jay Z and Kanye West are the perfect example of such phenomena as they represent the nec plus ultra of the anti-pro system components of a hip-hop music that was originally invented as a pure form of resistance against this very same system.
However, this short film is still interesting to look at, as it might touch a line of risk that capitalism is taking against itself. Capitalist’s cinema has been aesthetizing violence for quite a long time now; nevertheless when doing so, it is always careful to subject this violence against a tangible and specific form of otherness, whether the latter is embodied by aliens, enemy armies, gangsters, cops (but always corrupted and individualized in one way or another) or any other instance characterized by its binary mode of existence -it is either alive or dead, victorious or defeated. What a film like No Church in the Wild participates to, is the construction of an imaginary in which an intangible yet ubiquitous system is being fought against. Of course, the society of spectacle is still strongly present and the policemen are contributing to the anthropomorphism of an antagonism; nevertheless, it is clear that something outside of this visible fight is engaged and is therefore developed in our imaginary.
May Day 2012 at Wall Street / Photograph by the author
Small Flowers Crack Concrete
by Sonic Youth NYC Ghosts & Flowers (2000)
Small flowers crack concrete
Narcotic squads sweep thru poet dens
Spilling coffe grabbing 15 yr old runaway girls
By frazzled ponytailed hair and tossing them
Into backseats of cop cars
The narcs beat the bearded oracles
Replacing tantric love with
The Funambulist’s readers would have probably noticed that I like series articles which brings a specific interest within the frame of a larger research. I am therefore particularly sensitive to the Mixtape series published by Domus and curated by Daniel Perlin. This collection of sound and music, mixed by talented djs and artists, proposes an audio interpretation of a given city. Some attempts to catch the global atmosphere of a city (like for Rio de Janeiro), others chooses to focus on one aspect of the city’s music scene (like for Beijing).
I have been listening to almost all of them and particularly recommend Rio’s, Johannesburg’s and Harlem’s. The latter introduces a precise and local aspect of the extremely specific sound coming from New York, this sound that refuses perfection and assume its dirtiness from the Velvet Underground to the Wu-Tan Clan, from Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion to Mos Def, from Sonic Youth to the Nervous Cabaret… This article allows me to open a new category on the blog: MUSIC.
Here is the list of the existing mixtapes:
- 01/ Mexico
- 02/ Harlem
- 03/ Buenos Aires
- 04/ Melbourne
- 05/ Milan
- 06/ London
- 07/ Johannesburg
- 08/ Moscow
- 09/ Las Vegas
- 10/ Tel Aviv
- 11/ Beijing
- 12/ Rio de Janeiro
Perry Hall: Tidal Empire (Coral Painting), 2011. Oil, acrylic and custom paints filmed live using a RED Epic digital cinema camera.
Carla Leitão dedicated her monthly contribution to the Huffington Post to a short conversation with American artist Perry Hall who brought to painting as well as other mediums, a whole new materialist approach that confuse mean and content in a fascinating expression of paint for its physical property and behavior. By doing so, he makes visible the invisible forces that animate the physical world and the cosmos in a literal application of Paul Klee’s definition of art. Perry and I are in contact to perhaps do something on this blog soon and this interview is a perfect mean to enter his work before this happens.
I copy here the article for the blog’s archive but it can (and probably should as it also includes a digital gallery of Perry Hall’s work) be read on the Huffington Post’s website itself.
Perry Hall: Sonified, Synesthesia and Livepaintings
By Carla Leitão
Contemporary discourse in architecture and design reflects upon the increasing ability to engage the lively part of matter and train this sensibility as not only a broader search for tools as much as an agenda of exploration — that expands realms of thought on the concepts of information exchange, nature and construction, environment and interaction or collaboration. My own interest in it has been temporarily focused on the flickering merging of the concepts of matter and media through the lens of seeing information as currency in the natural world.
The human swarm in Dante’s Divine Comedy by Gustave Doré
Regular readers of the Funambulist have read about Eugene Thacker at least for the Cyclonopedia symposium he organized at the New School with Ed Keller and Nicola Masciandaro and the lecture he gave to it, Black Infinity; or, Oil Discovers Humans. In the following essay published by Culture Machine in 2007, he explores the notion of swarm, not only to the behavioral level that fascinates many artists and scientists (and architects… see the swarm interviews in the sidebar), he attempts to distinguish behind this collective entity, a presence of the non-human, i.e. demons. The example of the New Testament and its famous phrase “I am legion” as well as the swarm described by Dante in his Divine Comedy (beautifully illustrated by Gustave Doré) are exemplary in this regard, but E.Thacker goes beyond those paradigmatic narratives. In fact, he starts from the Sanskrit etymology of the swarm itself as meaning ‘to resound’ in order to investigate this collective unified sound (dramatized in horror movies) as carrying a hidden meaning that can be explored in a form of counter-Kaballah like in Xenakis or Dumitrescu’s music for example.
This week’s guest writer’s essay brings us about four hundreds years ago around an architecture treatise written by Jacques Perret of Chambéry during the French Renaissance. This essay’s author is my friend Morgan Ng who gives us a preview of his research he is currently overtaking for his PhD at Harvard. Beyond his scholar rigor, Morgan interprets J.Perret’s work in a very poetic attempt to mix religion/politics, space and sound. The Textual-Sonic Landscapes that he evokes are in fact a construction based on the political context J.Perret, as a Calvinist was experiencing at his time, and his mysterious drawings of citadels in which a layer of fortification is composed by nothing else than the words of a psalm (see the picture above). This confusion of signified, signifier and mysticism has something that intuitively makes me think of another religion, Judaism, and more specifically to the Kaballah. However, since Morgan attaches more importance to the sort of incantation of the psalm as a sound -the psalm being a song- than its written version, it also makes me relate to an episode of the Bible (which I wrote about a long time ago): the battle of Jericho. In fact, in this story the sound was not what protected the city but rather what destroyed its fortifications. This apparent contradiction appears to me for what words are, weapons that can be used defensively or offensively.
I am now doing what I do best, digressions but Morgan introduces himself his text in the following text, and is even kind enough to compare his work with mine for their similarity of envisioning architecture as inherently political, if not militarized. If this thesis is accurate, it is thus not surprising that we are able to observe it for any historical era.
The Textual-Sonic Landscapes of Jacques Perret’s Des Fortifications et Artifices
By Morgan Ng
It’s exciting to contribute to the dialogue here because—despite our divergent historical interests—I feel a strong intellectual kinship with the editor of this blog. Rendered in striking graphic form and rife with modernist literary references, the editor’s recent design research on architecture in the West Bank explores the full range of oppressive and emancipatory potentials in an aesthetics of militarization. We must of course heed the warning (pace Baudrillard) that an aestheticization of war runs the risk of dulling the senses to the reality of violence. Yet it’s equally disempowering—especially for the disempowered—to reduce this violence to the mechanics of technical reason. War from the beginning is aesthetic: for the complicit it’s mediated by political propaganda; for the traumatized victim, it’s fought on a psychological, as well as a physical, battlefield. If our poetic relation to war forms our escapist habits, I believe it also bears the potential to catalyze emancipatory action.
Whether or not we like Björk‘s music (I personally do a lot !), we are obliged to recognize that she always knows who to work with in order to continuously push the limits of the musical field. The last example of this great sense of collaboration is the conception of new instruments for her album Biophilia, and more specifically the design and realization of what she called Gravity Harps.
In order to achieve those giant musical pendulums, she worked with Andy Cavatorta who designed a what we could call a robotic string bell mixing something as simple as gravity with high technology of sensors and mechanical operators. In an interview for The Creators Project, A.Cavatorta explains:
There are four pendulums, each with a cylindrical harp on the end. As each pendulum swings through its lowest point, a single string on its harp gets plucked. The harp is cylindrical and can rotate, so any one of its eleven strings can be played by facing it to the plucker. There is also an ‘empty’ string position for playing rests.
picture extracted from Vollmond by Pina Bausch
The Ritournelle is a concept created by Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari for A Thousand Plateaus published in 1987. It is the subject of the 11th plateau which is entitled 1837: Of the refrain. It has been translated in fact in English by refrain but, within the extent of my English knowledge, it seems to me that this translation does not fully unfold the same meaning. In the Abécédaire, Deleuze, as we will see below, use an onomatopoeia in order to explain this word: “Tra la la” as a kid would hum.
This concept is a territorial one as Deleuze states:
When do I do Tralala ? When do I hum? I hum in three various occasions. I hum when I go around my territory…and that I clean up my furniture with a radiophonic background…meaning when I am at home. I also hum when I am not at home and that I am trying to reach back my home…when the night is falling, anxiety time…I look for my way and I give myself some courage by singing tralala. I go toward home. And, I hum when I say “Farewell, I am leaving and in my heart I will bring…”. That’s popular music “Farewell, I am leaving and in my heart I will bring…”. That’s when I leave my place to go somewhere else.
In other words, the ritournelle (refrain), for me, is absolutely linked to the problem of territory, and of processes of entrance or exit of the territory, meaning to the problem of deterritorialization. I enter in my territory, I try, or I deterritorialize myself, meaning I leave my territory.
Abécédaire. Gilles Deleuze. produced and directed by Pierre-André Boutang
This very short TED lecture (TED’s format is only 20 min) allows the musician David Byrne to establish a filiation between music and architecture. In an assumed provocative way, he claims that architecture creates music and not the other way around:
As his career grew, David Byrne went from playing CBGB to Carnegie Hall. He asks: Does the venue make the music? From outdoor drumming to Wagnerian operas to arena rock, he explores how context has pushed musical innovation. (TED)
The Thai multi-disciplinary design studio Supermachine Studio (founded by Pitupong Chaowakul in 2009) has designed and built the temporary installations for the Big Mountain Music Festival in Thailand. The architectural vocabulary used expresses its ephemerality in a similar way of what the French collective EXYZT is used to produce or, to stay in Asia, Kolkata’s Pandals during Durja Puja.
Thank you Camille
The biblical episode of the battle of Jericho has always fascinated me. The story from the book of Joshua (6:1-27) introduces the first battle the Israelites had to win in order to conquest the land promised by God after the Egyptian slavery period and the forty years spent in the desert. God gave Joshua instructions in order to take the city of Jericho: the Israelites had to march around the city’s walls once every day during six days. Then on the seventh day, they had to do the same but in addition to blow in their horns which would make the walls collapse and the city easily defeated.
It always pleases me to imagine a poetico-scientific explanation to this episode by thinking that the horns actually reached the resonance frequency of the walls; this same phenomena that explains why military manuals prevent troops to march on bridges not to risk to make them collapse. I find very compelling the potentiality of destroying whole buildings with only human means (or in that case, music instruments). This could in fact be considered as a metaphor of revolutions which make institutions collapsing…