I had a crazy interesting time in my head last week at the FutureEverything festival in Manchester.
I played a show there on the Thursday – my first with live visuals, supporting Dieter Moebius who was doing a re-score of Metropolis.
His show was great, but the highlight of the festival for me came the day after when I managed to sneak in to the conference side of things to watch Birgitta Jónsdóttir give a keynote talk (Thanks, Dave). Jónsdóttir is the Icelandic M.P who recently successfully sued the U.S government because of their National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – an Orwellian, arrogant policy in which the United States gives itself permission to militarily detain anybody, anywhere on the planet. Jónsdóttir was concerned that because she had already been targeted by the United States because of her association with Wikileaks, the NDAA would enable them to take action against her (or, indeed, anybody they chose to) no matter where she was in the world.
It was an inspiring hour and the fact that this hour listening to her talk was more exciting than any live music I have seen this year is something I’ve been thinking about ever since.
There is something else happening too. For the past couple of months I keep stumbling across more and more essays, journalism, images, conversations and now keynotes that all seem to be pointed in the same direction. I’m sure I’m not the only one making these links – I try and stay away from those algorithmic news aggregators but I don’t think my sources are that esoteric. There must be a million people in the world who have the same RSS feeds, Twitter streams and Instapaper libraries, right? And it feels like there are A LOT of people out there on the internet all slowly clawing their way towards this as-yet-unarticulated idea. It’s really exciting. As my friend Caspar Newbolt said to me the other day, after failing to find the words to explain to him what I’m trying to explain again now,
“I think the internet hive mind of awareness is feeding a bomb of an idea about a lot of stuff that is about to explode in many people’s minds”.
I think he’s right. One of the things that’s confusing me though is that out of all these voices I’m hearing, none of them seem to be making music. There’s authors, activists, journalists, filmmakers and designers, but where’s the noise? Maybe somebody can point me in the right direction.
Anyway. I’m not going to try and join the dots. I’m just going to lay them out here. If there’s anyone else that shares these suspicions, these links might be interesting, if you’ve not found them already yourself.
An Essay on the New Aesthetic – Bruce Sterling.
I was and still mostly am completely ignorant regards the specifics of what The New Aesthetic really stands for, but I was taken with Bruce Sterling’s comment on it – specifically the point that although what this new aesthetic defined itself as was, in part, ‘seeing how machines see’, the art and imagery that has been tumbling (and tumbrling) out of this beginnings of a movement were glitches, pixels and artifacts. This isn’t what a machine sees. These are the mistakes, the imperfections, the data errors. This is what we look for, as humans.
There seemed to be parallels with the music of ten years ago – the rise of labels like Tigerbeat6 and a new generation of laptop kids that could make noise sound noisy again. Today though, noise kinda sounds warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? Our ears and brains have done too good a job of reclaiming it. Once you’ve normalised the noise of raw digital binary noise, where do you go from there? (Jazz maybe?)
Anyway. Perhaps it is the sense of taking digital art and placing it in back in the real world that is making me connect this Sterling essay to articles/pamphlets like these:
Plutonomy and the Precariat – Noam Chomsky
which are about where the Occupy movement is heading and why it’s so incredibly important to the future. I don’t want to generalise, but it seems to be that this is where the real punk rock is these days. And whilst the talk I saw immediately after Jónsdóttir was Sanaz Raji giving a short presentation that was basically an academic way of saying, ‘Hey digital dudes, don’t get too carried away. Social media is doing amazing things but it isn’t solely responsible for changing the world’, it’s certainly changing my world in the sense that I am able to see, in my twitter stream, protests and reporting from around the globe in real time. When juxtaposed with what’s hot on Pitchfork any particular day, it kind of brings what’s actually important into sharp focus.
Then somehow (I think probably Boing Boing), I found my way to this:
Welcome to the Future Nauseous – Venkatesh Rao
Rao argues that we are actually living some time in the 15th century, (it makes more sense in context), because for hundreds of years society has stretched its language to filter the effects of the future through what he calls ‘The Manufactured Normalcy Field’.
In turn, in ways I can’t remember, this eventually brought me to this:
A Gonzo Futurist Manifesto, by Justin Pickard
which is a really good summation of (I think), what it means to live in ‘post-normal’ times. Finally, this led me back to one of its sources, a quite dry but really interesting essay called:
I’ve fallen into some kind of Futurist Wormhole and it’s fascinating.
As Birgitta Jónsdóttir said in her keynote,
“We have to embrace this century. It’s a time when real change can be affected by the masses…Changemakers, sleepers of all ages, wake up”.
This is what it’s all coming back to. The historical events of 2011 were unparalleled. So far in 2012, it feels like everybody is still reeling. At the same though, if there really are building blocks of some new kind of movement which is at once both creative and actual – in the air and on the streets, slowly being put together, then perhaps we’re not going to go out without a fight after all.
In conclusion, I think it’s about time I read Snow Crash again.