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James Ferraro interviewed in The Quietus

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1 James Ferraro interviewed in The Quietus on Wed May 23, 2018 12:29 am

The electronic musician and theorist/adventurer of the online world discusses the atmosphere in which he finds himself and the sounds which comprise his compositions.

"TQ: Do you think it's possible to avoid making art that doesn't reflect the intenseness of the internet's involvement in modern society?

JF: If by chance somebody does achieve this they are truly avant garde."


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2 Re: James Ferraro interviewed in The Quietus on Thu May 24, 2018 8:40 am

I think this is great, and also so so true. This music is also a struggle for me. I enjoy it (I have a soft-spot for 8-bit) and feel like it's enlightening (edgy), but I find myself wanting to engage less and less with art that is representative of a capitalist ideology or futurist aesthetics. I do not think our man, James, is trying to do so, but how do you create art reflective of a culture without perpetuating that culture?

"The space felt so online."

I have been wanting and thinking about music/art/architecture that does not reflect technology so overtly -- I think it's the next episteme to topple really.

"Far Side Virtual was birthed out of my own obsession with end-of-culture culture"

Is this just an mise-en-abyme? The music is almost a direct reflection of it's influences (and I think Ferraro owns this), but how do we elevate past this, to create the "truly avant garde". If this is still possible, the creation of an avant garde, is it possible to elevate past the end-of-culture culture? If so, what would that look like?

"...the introduction of the internet is said to constitute a condition, the marker of an evolutionary threshold. In this “Logan’s Run”-like logic, the concept of digital natives masks a sociopolitical loss (the rapid decline in living standards) as an evolutionary gain (millennials have an adaptive advantage). Hence the shiny, glossy surfaces that post-internet leans heavily into: these slippery, liquid surfaces are a cypher for the way finance imposes its mode of being, deterritorializing and liquefying everything. Precariousness, however, is not challenged or addressed politically; rather, it is infused with survivalist energy and recuperated into a libidinal economy. Because we can hardly afford to live, we hallucinate that life itself will wither: the Singularity is a social anxiety elevated to the status of theory." Ana Teixeira Pinto on Artwashing

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3 Re: James Ferraro interviewed in The Quietus on Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:16 pm

I think you are asking all the right questions, and I definitely need to read the text from which you are quoting.

While I am intrigued by Ferraro's perspective and appreciate the way in which he relates his inspirations and intentions, I ultimately agree with you that he seems trapped in the modes he wants to critique or comment upon. The progression of his music over the last five years shows a descent into a sort of nihilism, in my opinion. It is interesting to watch his vacillations between two modes: hollow, deadened sounds of decay and pain (NYC HELL 3AM), and disturbingly polished, sleek compositions reflecting the impossible perfection promised by technology (Human Story 3). Given his skill in traversing both angles and putting them in conversation with each other, he strikes me as an important artist.

How, though, to elevate past the mise-en-abyme you identify into the "truly avant garde"? I have no specific or certain answers* for such a daunting question, but I wanted to offer an interesting perspective from another discipline which I hope will have some degree of relevance or helpfulness (it feels somehow connected in my mind).

The philosopher François Laruelle has spent his entire career developing a practice of 'non-philosophy' which offers a unique perspective on how to 'topple' a dominant episteme (in your case, technology; in his case, philosophical thinking). For Laruelle, the history of philosophy is a history of scission; it can only live by generating categories and applying them to reality (relative vs. absolute, transcendence vs. immanence, etc.). All 'progress' in thought proceeds by either arguing for the opposite category than is currently dominant, or by splitting reality into new categories and arguing for a higher level of precision in analysis. In contrast to this infinite and pointless cycle, Laruelle proposes a new usage of philosophy rather than offering a new philosophy itself. To make this possible, we must understand the use of philosophy rather than the content of its ideas. Laruelle proposes that the central purpose of philosophy is to describe and understand human existence and the reality in which it takes place. Thus, the kernel underlying all philosophies is the belief** that philosophy itself can be used as a sufficient and capable means of describing the real – Laruelle terms this belief the Principle of Sufficient Philosophy (PSP), and decides to make the study and analysis of this principle his exclusive focus. Rather than attempting to disprove this thesis, he argues for a suspension of the PSP which offers the possibility of detaching philosophy from its own presumption to authority so that its results and concepts can face the world anew, standing on their own for the first time. It is crucial to note that this is not seen as a negation of philosophical authority, but a hypothetical suspension of it for the sake of an experiment – this is not anti-philosophy, but non-philosophy (in the sense that non-Euclidean geometries offer us insights on space which are positive in their own right, not denying traditional geometries but still incompatible with them). This assertion of a suspension of authority deposes philosophy of its power and makes it inert, a raw material which we can pick up and put to use in service of non-philosophical thought. And what is non-philosophical thought? There is a long answer which has been unwinding through this thinker's career and takes many forms in his writings, and indeed this question is being addressed at every point in the lived reality of all human beings. Unfortunately, my time is up for now and I must conclude this exposition which I hope has been somewhat comprehensible. If this diversion has been pointless, forgive me.

So, my question for you: what is the central principle of technology which must be suspended in order for non-technology to emerge as a distinct practice?

*Interesting, though, that Ferraro's answer invokes the element of chance and accident – whoever lucks their way into this unimaginable breakthrough will have merely 'happened' to become the messianic vanguard of art's new epoch by chance. The implication: an exit from technological thinking cannot be designed and planned intentionally, perhaps because such strategies constitute the essence of technological thinking itself.

**This term is technical, for Laruelle believes that the PSP can only be accepted via faith rather than rational proof. All philosophical argument works with this principle as an a priori assumption, which has never been demonstrated as valid (and perhaps never could be).

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