(a thought in progress..)
Like many I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts about the writing of Mark Fisher, and his untimely death. As Nathan Jones put it, “Mark Fisher was a giant. Such a cruel irony that the man who so eloquently and honestly articulated the links between mental health, politics and economics would be taken from us like this, at this time.”
It’s OK to be unsatisfied with the way things are going, culturally, politically.
I’m starting to think about the next AlgoMech festival, and Peter Rollings got in touch about his Experimental Sonic Machines. He doesn’t have a website, but intrigued, I searched out this documentary someone had made about his machines and street performances:
I can’t really summarise this, it has to be watched. The work with found materials, the open, reflective approach to creativity, the machines, the self-deprecation against the startling, edgy music.. I love it.
There’s more videos on youtube, footage of some pretty amazing looking performances and constructions.. and also Rollings appearing on Britain’s got talent. From the start it’s stomach churning, childish playground bullying, mocking someone because they don’t fit with sickly, oppressive norms. After the previous video, it’s a miserable experience. Adds something to the classically-Guardian headline “Is Simon Cowell to blame for the end of western civilisation?”
How can we strip away this awful, retrogressive misery, and make space for genuinely new culture+ideas to emerge? On this tip, it’s good to hear that Alexandra Cardenas is taking her live coding to street performances, like Rollings, finding public space to try new things out.
I’ll leave you with this from Fisher:
I think the phrase “we are the people we have been waiting for” has never been more salient…
Regarding the Mark Fisher video, probably speaking completely out of turn, but I feel that it’s more the case that the ‘exciting new things’ happening simply don’t fit into his view of what culture is. I hear the voice of someone of a certain age, background, certain assumptions and values. Music may no longer be a relevant vehicle for cultural shifts in the same obvious way as it has in the past, but culture continues nonetheless.
One moment of realisation of this for me where when atari teenage riot opened the chaos computer congress in 2015 – the irrelevance of their pop music next to the talks on dieselgate, drone warefare and making art out of surveillance politics was stark.
I do agree that there is a risk of music becoming a less relevant progressive artform, especially when artistic progress is inextricably linked with technological progress. I think that’s more of a waxing and waning thing though because we’ve got used to there being sudden, unpredictable jumps in artistic possibilities whenever there is a big jump in technology. Fallow times can seem a bit dry.
However, I can’t imagine music has ever been a more effective vehicle for progress than direct action on hard issues like the ones you mention, so i’m not sure if it’s a fair juxtaposition.
Art out surveillance politics does sound pretty harrowing, but is it really capturing a mass zeitgeist? I think the right idea will come along eventually and capture everyone’s imagination organically. Music will inevitably be a part of that, whether it’s the primary vehicle or not. It’s in human nature.
Fear not, exciting and inclusive new artforms are always just around the corner. We just need to keep things going in the right direction and stay interested.