Posts for June 2012

Introducing Wavelength


Wavelength is a new series for Rhizome’s blog that will examine sound art and music, with some attention towards the technologies that enable them. One significant aspect of Wavelength will be thematic guest curated mixes, which will appear on the blog monthly.


Wavelength: "Japanese Noise: A Reminder" by C. Spencer Yeh


This post is part of a new monthly series of guest curated mixes for the Rhizome blog, entitled Wavelength.



Compiled Summer 2012 by C. Spencer Yeh

Back when I was an undergraduate and involved with college radio, we would hold educational meetings covering a wide variety of music by genre, artist, and geography. I was very much in thrall of the Japanese musical underground at the time, so I developed a presentation and this was the handout I made as an accompaniment. [See above.]

I’ve noticed the term ‘noise’ thrown around quite a bit lately, to encompass particular variations of form, ideology, and even affect, within organized sound culture.  I generally have no qualms with what 'noise' can now mean and manifest.  With that said, Japanese noise is my preeminent definition of 'noise'–my first and most formative experience.  The birth and development of Japanese noise is singular, defined by its relation to time and place, to culture and aesthetic.  Japanese noise taught me about freedom, fetish, listening, autodidactism, self-mythology, self-publishing, senzuri.

The selections for this mix date from the mid-'80s to the early '00s, are edited for length, and intentionally eschew the array of strategies in the scene (often deployed under the same project name) to focus on NOISE.  Big parties can be a blast, but once in a while, a long visit with an old friend is incredibly fulfilling and necessary.

(note: all tracks are edited for the purposes of this mix)
01. Violent Onsen Geisha 'Heavy Introduction'
02. Government Alpha 'Anonym Slander'
03. The Gerogerigegege 'Nothing to Hear, Nothing to... 1985'
04. K2 'We Destroyed Barcelona Again'
05. Aube 'Aquatremble 2'
06. Merzbow 'Chant 2 (Part 1)'
07. Hedlah 'Proud Flesh'
08. Solmania 'Panic Bend Rock'
09. MSBR 'Psychic Blue'
10. Incapacitants 'Necrosis'
11. Masonna 'Spectrum Ripper (Part XVII/Part XII)'
12. Hanatarash 'We Are 0:00'
13. Killer Bug 'One-Eyed Nudist'
14. Monde Bruits 'Continuum'
15. Hijokaidan 'What A Nuisance!'
16. Masomania 'Burn Me Fast'
17. C.C.C.C. 'Loud Sounds Dopa (Part II)'
18. Gomikawa Fumio 'Satan's Tail, Santa's Head'
19. Niku-Zidousha 'Untitled'
20. Flying Testicle 'Testicle Rider'
21. Pain Jerk 'Crack n' Roll'
22. Kazumoto Endo 'Itabashi Girl'

 C. Spencer Yeh is an artist and musician in Brooklyn, New York. He will perform at the New Museum on June 22nd with Graham Lambkin.


Embedded Structures: An Interview with Shilpa Gupta



Untitled, photograph, 2006 

Turner Road, photographs with sound, 2008

Untitled, MS Gate which swings side to side and breaks the walls, 2009

Shilpa Gupta's work sometimes takes place outside of or leaves the gallery, and ranges from photographs and objects to websites and interactive video. I spoke with the Mumbai-based artist over email: 

Your pieces often weaponize subjects, drawing awareness to an underlying violence or militarization of mundane acts and objects (e.g., the tedium of house guards in Mumbai, a child with multiple arms making a gun with their fingers, a mechanical swinging gate). Could you expand on what you consider to be the political in the everyday?

What I am referring to are the embedded and often invisible structures that steer the way we think in daily life. Example: while we read newspapers and watch the 9 pm national news, it slips off our mind that the images we are seeing could be filtered in certain ways to generate certain opinions. Example: on the Untitled, MS Gate which swings from left to right and breaks the wall, there is an undefined form which, while much smaller in size, is far deeper than the rest of the gate. This could be an undefined geographical territory or it could be a hole in a brain of a housewife, both of which may have a desire to be free.





Michael Snow with the machine used for filming La Région Centrale

In 1971, Michael Snow spent five days atop a lonely mountain in North Quebec. He was making a film, or supervising a film that was being made by his robotic companion, depending on how you think about it. The film that robot made is called La Région Centrale: over the course of three hours, the machine runs through all its programmed motions, capturing every possible view of the barren mountain. Certainly, at least some of the images would have been overlooked by a human filmmaker.

Despite its lack of human warmth, Snow's film retains a mystical slant: the film is somehow purer for being supposedly unpolluted by the artist's direct physical control over the camera, and the machine bears witness to a primal landscape with nearly cosmic objectivity. The saintliness of La Région Centrale was possible not only because it played off of the machine's lack of learned perception (the machine couldn't find beauty in a landscape or respectably frame a shot), but also because the machine couldn't process the landscape as information.

Snow's sketch of the machine

Timo Arnall's short film Robot Readable World investigates the exact opposite: how robot-eyes gather information from the cityscapes, mediascapes, and people. On display in the video are the brightly colored squares, rectangles, circles, and lines that recognize cars, faces, doors and everything else that robots see. In our contemporary security-obsessed climate, robots and computer vision are tasked with growing responsibilities to survey urban and rural environments. Instead of following Matt Jones' suggestion that "instead of designing computers and robots that relate to what we can see, we meet them half-way–covering our environment with markers, codes and RFIDs, making a robot-readable world,” these machines read a world without man-made markers permitting robo-legibility....



Taryn Simon | A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters (Artsy films)



Taryn Simon’s "A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I - XVIII" traces 18 bloodlines around the world, from test rabbits in Australia to the living dead in India. In this collaboration with Films, Simon explores the inherent ambiguities and challenges of tracing, recording, and describing lineages—what she calls “a collision of order and disorder.”


The Chameleonic Impulse


Camouflage by Andy Warhol (1986)

Camouflage is indeed a form of magic --it encompasses misdirection, illusion, the interrogation of issues of completion or incompletion of the object; but beyond these matters (that form the infrastructural support of magic), camouflage also asks us to participate in the psychology of the hunter and the hunted, to examine the structures of control and influence that pin down the prey, that show the hunted how being fascinated can renegotiate the system of authority from the posture of the unarmed. — Tony Conrad

Conrad has a personal connection to camouflage technology, as his father was involved in the design of the U.S. Navy’s dazzle camouflage technique. His point, to a certain extent, is that camouflage determines a relationship within the world: it creates a form of perception as much as it seeks to abolish the very possibility of perception. If camouflage is designed as a facilitator of invisibility, it also retains a contradictory status as something admirable, recognizable, and even bold. Far from generic or free of association, camouflage is loud, communicates multitudes, and is frequently invoked in discussions of art ranging from Cubism to Warhol. 

Still, camouflage is best known as a military technology of concealment, and it’s an effective one. From what or whom, though, does camouflage conceal? Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography, and the Media of Reconnaissance, Hanna Rose Shell’s recent book concerning the history of camouflage, traces the development of this recognizable form of hiding and reveals the expanse of impulses behind its development. As opposed to the social-psychological relationships created by camouflage, Shell focuses on camouflage’s relationship to popular and military technologies of reconnaissance and detection in the 20th century. While countless studies proliferate concerning the ontology of filmic and photographic images, Shell’s follows the specific thread of camouflage in tandem to those developments. Rather than focus only on camouflage as an attempt to blend into a physical environment, Shell emphasizes camouflage’s consciousness of visual technology since its emergence in World War I, when aircrafts were first widely used as reconnaissance tools and eventually refined as bombing machines. Previous wars had utilized human eyes to scout enemy positions, but as soldiers on the ground saw planes with affixed cameras flying overhead, camouflage became a nifty form of concealment within the frame of the photograph.

Embedded in this discussion is photography’s transformation of society’s understanding of temporality. Abbott Thayer, an early and controversial analyst of concealment strategies utilized by birds and other animals, focused his thinking on the crucial moment of hiding. Natural camouflage techniques, Thayer suggested, were not designed to keep animals constantly hidden, but rather allowed environmental blending during moments when an animal needed to be made invisible. Former President Teddy Roosevelt pointed to the flaws in Thayer’s thinking by suggesting that no Zebra stood still by their watering hole waiting to be unseen. While Thayer’s attitude towards the momentous may have been shortsighted for a discussion of the animal kingdom, it was undoubtedly prophetic for the development of military camouflage and it’s relationship to photographic technology, as illustrated by the similarity between Thayer’s crucial moment of concealment and Henri-Cartier Bresson’s influential photographic theory of the decisive moment.

Author Hanna Rose Shell in camouflage (source)

In World War Two, as photography took its rightful place as the ultimate intelligence-gathering tool, film was becoming increasingly popular as a means of training personnel, and the cinematic model of spectatorship itself became a training ground for pure, invisible perceptive practice.



adiZones and Lo-Lifes


This post originally appeared Spitzenprodukte.


This week I attended Regeneration Games, a talk at FreeWord on the branding and aesthetic ideology of Olympic-driven regeneration. Alberto Duman organised the event and presented three 'artifacts' of regeneration: the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, a promotional PDF selling the regeneration of Newham to Chinese investors, and 'adiZones'. The author and critic Owen Hatherley was then invited to respond to 'adiZones', a small development project intended on delivering part of the “Olympic Legacy” in the form of better community sports provision

adiZones are “giant multi-sport outdoor venues” — essentially outdoor gyms — comprising “basketball, football and tennis areas, a climbing wall, an outdoor gym and an open area to encourage dance, aerobics and gymnastics” over a footprint of 625 sq m. They contain durable exercise apparatus and ‘quotations’ of team sports (for example, a short basketball court, a single football goal or a “climbing wall”). The footprint of each adiZone is in the shape of the 2012 Olympic Games logo, making the adiZone an example of “Google Earth Urbanism” — urban development conceived with one eye on the heavens and the omnipresent, panopticonic satellites that lurk there-in, guiding us to work and quietly reshaping our understanding of the urban environment. Significantly, each adiZone also has free wifi installed.


adiZone in Mile End Park, as seen on Google Maps


There are currently 5 adiZones within London, one in each of the “host boroughs”, located within municipal parks and specifically located with the intention to “renovate either disused or run down areas within the boroughs”. Nationwide there have been over 50 adiZones installed, built through a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) scheme with sportswear brand adidas (lower case theirs) contributing £1million, or 50% of the budget, with Sports England matching with funding allocated as part Sports England’s “Inspired Facilities” campaign ...


Pixel Paul


Study for Frozen Film Frame of "Frame Study 15" (1975)

Though experimental filmmaker Paul Sharits' incredibly detailed film scores depict plans for possible films, they have a manic beauty all their own. Some of his most fascinating studies, like the one above, served as plans for his Frozen Film Frame series, in which colored film strips are sandwiched between plexiglass and hung from the ceiling, allowing natural light to illuminte their multicolored frames.

From Frozen Film Frame series (1971-6)

Another example, below, was a study for his Specimen series.

Frame Study 15: Study for “Specimen II,” 1975

From Specimen

Undeniably alluring, Sharits' plans, which don't necessarily synchronize with a finished product, point towards his desire to bring cinema into a non-theatric mode of presentation. Viewed today, the images have endless, striking associations with pixels and glitches. Sharits' emphasis on the object of film in the Specimen and Frozen Film Frame series presages the materiality of blocky low-res aesthetic visibile in much contemporary electronic art.


Analog Film in a Digital World


Tacita Dean's FILM at Tate Turbine Hall

Joanne McNeil, editor of Rhizome, writes about Tacita Dean's work with and activism for analog film for the Paris Review Daily. An exhibition of Dean's work is currently on view at the New Museum.

As her very craft faces extinction, it fittingly became one of her subjects. Last year, Soho Film Laboratory, where she was a longtime customer, abruptly ended new orders of 16mm film prints due to new management. She was at the time preparing an installation for the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, as The New Yorker explained in a profile of Dean last autumn...

Nostalgia is not quite the right word to describe how Tacita Dean relates to celluloid film. She is firmly rooted in the present while considering what might pass. There’s no vaseline on the lens or sepia tone here. Her nostalgia is not for film itself, but film’s way to relate the experience time. A film projector measures out minutes and seconds relating to the speed that the footage was shot.

"Film is time made manifest: time as physical length - 24 frames per second, 16 frames in a 35mm foot,” she wrote in the accompanying wall text. “It is still images beguiled into movement by movement and is eternally magical. The time in my films is the time of film itself.”



Two poems by Caroline Contillo


3 Meryl Streep Moon via Buzzfeed





I'm just going to put this out there:

I love words, but I hate poetry.

There, I said it.

Who knew it was this serious?

I will never not hate it with a passion.


Here's why I hate poetry: If you have something to say,

Say it directly. There's no need for all of these boring words.




I want to drown it in metaphors, similes, etc.

I'm not reading this garbage.




What's the point of poetry?

It's not like I'm going to go around rhyming.

I hate reading it in English. I hate writing it in French.

My mind does not work this way.

Poetry is the only thing I don't actually like.


Don't get me started on that symbolism crap.

Why can't a tree just be a tree?

Where is my dumb poetry book.


Poems are literally the worst.

I hate them so much I might die.

Words can not even express how much I truly detest poetry.

It's useless. And why does it have to rhyme?

Go shove a hyperbole up your ass.





I am going to write a poem about using Meryl Streep's laugh as a ringtone.


I've bookmarked an LA Times article from 1989

in which her giggle eruptions are explored with great amazement.


I've tweeted extensively on the tone and timbre of

each particular laugh. Countless hours on Youtube have been spent

researching and cataloging her various chortles, cackles and rolling crack-ups.


Hers is an auditory knowing glance, vibrating the air with

sympathetic joy. To watch a supercut of her recorded laughter is

to change or enhance the trajectory of your day

for the ...