Thursday, April 16, 2015

retro rave

press release -

"As part of BritWeek’s 2015 celebration, Novation and dublab are partnering to present Second Summer of Love, a special event Upstairs at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles on thursday April 30th. This happening will be dedicated to the rise of Acid House in the UK during what became known as the Second Summer of Love. This music movement, which spanned the unusually hot British Summers of 1988 and ’89, changed the state of music worldwide. dublab DJs will be playing classic songs from this period amidst projected, archival artwork and photographs. The Second Summer of Love event will pay tribute to influential clubs like Shoom, Trip and The Haçienda while celebrating the legacy of the scene’s producers and DJs whose work influenced contemporary dance music.

"DJ sets by:  Heidi Lawden -  Lovefingers (ESP Institute) - Daddy Differently - Jimi Hey

"Guest of honor (non-performing): Paul Oakenfold

"Upstairs at Ace Hotel Downtown LA -  929 South Broadway - Los Angeles, CA 90015
9pm - 2am - 21+ 

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

collect yourself

At The New Inquiry, Rob Horning muses on collecting, triggered by the trauma of packing up his record collection for a move.

A well-masticated subject, between Benjamin and Baudrillard, both of whom  get quoted. And I've given it a good chew myself in the relevant chapter in Retromania. But Horning nonetheless manages to come up with some  interesting thoughts: 

"... The collection’s bulk makes it incredibly inconvenient, though therein may lie its actual appeal. The inconvenience enchants the act of listening, enchants my labor in assembling the collection.... 

"The cumbersome nature of putting on a record and then flipping it over conjures all sorts of other lost experiences — dialing rotary phones, looking things up in books, etc....  

"But is that nostalgia enough to justify all the moving boxes?...  The collection has become a physical manifestation of sunk costs; it makes me feel like I have come too far to stop now."

Know that feeling well!

Switching topic to the dematerialized forms of collection (e.g. image-hoarding and image-bingeing  as social display via the internet and social media), Horning writes: 
"On your own Tumblr, you get to be a taste tyrant; each new post supports the fantasy that you are dictating the rules of style by fiat, beyond the encroachment of cultural-capital anxieties. The mere process of adding another image... can be the means by which you push aside the fear that your choices may be governed by a social logic beyond your control. "
One strategy for fortifying one's sense of uniqueness and idiosyncracy is to play the game of what Matt Woebot once called "Good Bad Taste":

Horning writes that "when I go to record stores, I get caught up in games of aesthetic arbitrage. When I go record shopping I tend to only look in bargain bins....  To me, these records represent a cultural opportunity to buy low, a chance for me to assert myself in a territory revealed by the receding tide of fashion.... 

"By finding “good” records among the refuse, I get to assert a taste I know is highly idiosyncratic.... And even if what I buy never becomes popular again, I can console myself with proof of my unique interest in something. Only in the bargain bins can I shop comfortably, knowing that I am not coattail-riding on someone else’s cultural capital, not following someone else’s fashion. Instead I can pretend both that I am both exercising my sovereign judgment and am indifferent to the whole game of taste, and also fully invested in the game and taking a savvy position within it, letting my taste be wholly guided by tactical positionality within it.

Older readers of my blogs might remember the UBERHIPSTERS UNITED INFLUENCES INDEX  jest (but a serious jest) of 2003, in which I canvassed readers for their stock market tips in terms of which influences were going to be hot for bands to construct their identities around in the near-future and which shares should be jettisoned ASAP.  The original post throwing down the gauntlet to the Blissblog readership is here and the tabulated results are here.  It might be an interesting excercise to do an updated version. 

Alongside Benjamin, Baudrillard, and the great Will Straw, another theorist Horning bring into the discussion is Boris Groys (On The New, etc), who, according to RH, believes that "such salvage missions are the essence of cultural innovation, the hallmark of the artist’s function since the time of Duchamp’s ready-mades. Art..., stems not from the creative unconscious or from the technical ability to represent objective beauty or truth but from redrawing the boundary between art and not-art. It comes from understanding “cultural-economic logic” and fashion cycles, and having the social wherewithal to affect them. Craft is more or less discarded, and art becomes indistinguishable from curation, collecting. Once the ubiquity of reproduction (mechanical and now digital) makes technical skill superfluous, a kind of mystified ornament, the only significant artistic medium is the cultural archive itself, and the ability to shift things in and out of it."

Doesn't sound like a terribly new idea, Groys's,  to be honest -  recreativity / curativity. A/k/a record collection rock. Just another redescription of the same old, same old.  (See also Nicky Bourriaud's postproduction art). But perhaps there's more that gets unravelled in the book itself, which is sitting on my shelf, alongside another 110 books awaiting my attention. See, in addition to records, I'm also a chronic collector of books... 


I read Baudrillard's famous essay on collecting for Retromania,  but I don't remember it as being quite as bleak and negative as Horning's quotes on the same subject from  Jean B's The System of Objects

"[Collectors] invariably have something impoverished and inhuman about them.... never … get beyond a certain poverty and infantilism....  No matter how open a collection is, it will always harbor an irreducible element of non-relationship to the world." 

"What man gets from objects is not a guarantee of life after death but the possibility, from the present moment onwards, of continually experiencing the unfolding of his existence in a controlled, cyclical mode, symbolically transcending a real existence the irreversibility of whose progression he is powerless to affect....   [Collectors] recite themselves, as it were, outside time.....  What you really collect is always yourself.

hauntological poptimism

For reasons unknown both Ghost Box and Ariel Pink get namechecked in this retrodelic oddity

Don't remember Daphne & Celeste from the time except as a name on others lips. Before YouTube it was actually hard to check out chart hits from overseas (see also Girls Aloud) and although they were actually American in origin, they were a Shampoo-like mini-sensation in the UK. So living in NYC I'd not have heard them on the radio either.

Max Tundra has made a series of  influence-omnivorous albums that entertainingly mish-mash analogue, electric, electronic and digital sounds to MAXimalist-by-name, MAX-imalist by nature effect . Check out his stuff here.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"digital necromancy" and "Delebs"

Hannah Ellis-Petersen at The Guardian on how digitricknology is opening up new vistas of zombie afterlife for iconic actors and actresses, as movie corporations take steps to exploit their legendary charisma even though the physical source of it is long since decomposed....

"Death, once the finite end to a celebrity career, is now only a marker for the next stage, and digitally resurrected celebrities – be they Paul Walker or Audrey Hepburn – are now posthumously making their way back onto our screens....

"It was announced at the end of March that plans are in the works to digitally insert Bruce Lee, 42 years after his death, into Ip Man 3, the third film in a series about his former teacher. It’s not the first time computer graphics (CG) technology have been used to bring the martial arts star back to life on screen – his digitally reanimated figure recently starred in an advert for Johnnie Walker Blue whisky. However, the Bruce Lee estate is now seeking legal action to prevent his CG likeness appearing in the film, with their lawyer stating the family are “justifiably shocked” at the idea....

"While the practice has mainly been restricted to finishing off performances of actors who died midway through filming – such as Paul Walker in Fast and Furious 7 – it has also been utilised by advertisers, keen to attach famous faces to their brands. Most notable is the recent reanimation of Audrey Hepburn in an advert for Galaxy chocolate."

Digital necromancy? She could equally have written "digital necrophilia". Shudder! Either way, the kingdom of anecronosis extends itself....

"Mike McGee, the co-founder and creative director of Framestore... predicted the phenomenon of reviving dead celebrities was only just beginning.... 'It took Framestore four months of work to create the lifelike Audrey Hepburn, for just 60 seconds of advert, and managed it by using a combination of old photographs and a body double to build an accurate CG digital form of everything from her skin to her eyelashes – even going on location to get the lifelike light and shadow. We found that we could create a realistic still image of Hepburn quite quickly but as soon as she has to move, turn her head or open her mouth, that’s when things can start to look uncanny, when things don’t look 100% real.... The human eye can spot it because we’re so used to looking at our own reflection, so we subconsciously know all those tiny details and it’s that final 5% of realism that takes the most time to achieve. It’s all about getting the moisture in the eyes to look right, getting the eyelids to flutter correctly when someone blinks, the corner of someone’s lips to turn up a little just before they smile, because it’s those subtle signal and movements that make a great performance by any actor. And to ask an animator to copy that onto a computer model and capture a human performance is really challenging.'”

" '.... I see no reason that in the future we wouldn’t see a CG performance by a dead actor up for a Bafta or an Oscar'.

"McGee also predicted this technology trend would have serious implications in the image and ageing obsessed world of Hollywood, with it already increasingly common for actors to have their faces and bodies scanned while they are still young to 'cryogenically preserve the digital image of their youth in case they are able to sell or lease it in the future.'

“ 'If you are an ageing actress, and you want to take a role where you have to be 20 or 30 years younger, that can now be done digitally” he said. 'It is very possible studios like ours could even become digital make up artists, where on screen actors have their hands, or nose or anything that gives away signs of ageing, replaced with a CG version of their younger self. It’s what the technology now allows, so it’s just a case of seeing whether the film industry and actors will go down that path.'”

Of course postproduction bods digitally retouch and smooth-out the skin of performers already, don't they, in films and promo vidoes and TV....

Ellis-Petersen further reports that an academic called Denzer D’Rozario "coined the term ‘Delebs’ to describe the digitally resurrected icons". D'Rozario points out the ethical issues, e.g. Johnnie Walker Blue using a digi-sim of Bruce Lee in a commercial even though he never drank in real life.

Actually wrote about all this back in 1995 when interviewing John Oswald about Grayfolded , the Grateful Dead sampladelic project that involved the concoction of audio-ghosts of Jerry Garcia

Garcia's death does shine a peculiar light on the whole
project, in so far as it suggests that a kind of involuntary
immortality for artists may soon become widespread. Oswald
has shown that a sympathetic ear can 'play' another artist's
aesthetic like an instrument....  But what's to stop an unsympathetic,
money-motivated ear doing the same thing?  In the future,
will artists copyright their 'soul-signature' and then sell
it to the highest bidder to be exploited after their demise?
Fond of visual and filmic analogies, Oswald mentions that the
movie business has been trying to devise ways of taking dead
stars and creating simulations of them to play new parts.
The mind boggles....

However as Ellis-Petersen shows, Arthur C. Clarke got there first:

"In Arthur C Clarke’s July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century, his 1986 novel speculating what a day in the 21st century might look like, Clarke envisions a cinema listing of the future.

Still Gone with the Wind: The sequel picks up several years after where the 80-year-old original left off, with Rhett and Scarlett reuniting in their middle age, in 1880. Features the original cast (Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, and Vivien Leigh) and studio sets resurrected by computer graphic synthesis. Still Gone sets out to prove that they do make ‘em like they used to.”

Clarke’s book was pure science fiction, but almost 30 years later his predictions have proved prescient."

Friday, April 10, 2015

holding on to what's golden

Flicking through Albert Goldman' s collection of pop culture writings Freakshow: Misadventures in the Counterculture, 1959-1971 I was surprised to come across  - in the preface - an account of his sudden affliction by nostalgia for the music of his childhood. Surprised because this nostalgia eruption occurred in 1955 - when he was 28 -  and it was for the music of  the late Thirties and early Forties.

After years of taking studious (and studenty) interest in high culture, classical music, etc, some impulse draws him to "a couple of dusty old shellac records by Benny Goodman".  What interested me was that he characterises this fit of yearning for bygone simplicity and freshness not as limited to himself or a few others, but generation-wide:

Also interesting was the way this reverie about a bygone episode of nostalgitis then develops, over the next page or two, into a notion of pop's rejuvenating raw force as an alternative to the aridity of high culture (abstruse, absurdist, angst-burdened etc). What he calls rock 'n' roll's "lumpen-puerile" energy serves as a barbarian invasion that, while brutish and brainless, reinfuses an effetely over-civilised culture with savage vigour. This argument reminded me both of popism's "thrill-power" paeans and my own exaltation of the lumpen sectors of dance culture. It's also quite Nik Cohn-y.

However, contradictorily, in the magazine essays collected in Freakshow, Goldman is a High Rockist, taking the opposite of Cohn's anti-art, pro-pulp stance. Goldman, now edging into his forties, is someone who only takes rock seriously from about 1967 with the rise of psychedelia, concept albums, the emergence of rock theatre, Dionysian performers like Morrison and Hendrix etc etc. In part one senses because it's then that he can ladle his own academic, high culture learning onto the music.

What's more Goldman deplores and denounces the back-to-innocence-and-simplicity, back-to-the-raw-beginnings move when it occurs within rock culture itself as a form of weak, confidence-sapped nostalgia. Viz this 1970 New York Times piece:

Incidentally the whole diatribe culminates in a rant against The Band, which, while unfair does contain a grain of truth and even seems to predict the stifling all-grown-up cosiness and smugness of The Last Waltz fraternity. .

"Endearing, amusing, bouncy and bathetic by turns, packaged in homespun and hominy, peddled with homilies about integrity and respect for old folks, the Band, or the Bland, is a promo man's dream. They don't have to be edited, cooled, controlled or explained; they run no risks of offeding anyone; they fit in perfectly with the worship of mediocrity that is beginning to take the place of the old devil cults. With their twangy, rubbery, pogo-stick beat... the Band is ideal for the adult bubble-gum market"

Thursday, April 9, 2015


More information here -

earlier post on Curationism and the curatiorial moment (a bloody long moment too)

retro-quotes #549

retro-quotes: a series of germane remarks, by others, plucked from all over the place, and from all over the time #  549

"Exhaustion has no place in Western culture, and this is a problem right now, because exhaustion
needs to be understood and accepted as a new 
paradigm for social life. Only the cultural and
psychic elaboration of exhaustion will open the door to a new conception and perception of
wealth and happiness." -  
Bifo, a/k/a Franco Berardi