Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I.C.R.N. Paper 3: Heinrich Deisl "Off-Key Continuities: Audiovisual Interventions by the Video Groups Metamkine and Granular Synthesis"

I.C.R.N.'s Vienna correspondent Heinrich Deisl presents a text dealing with the status of sound/video within (post)-industrialised media culture:

Off-Key Continuities: Audiovisual Interventions by the Video Groups Metamkine and Granular Synthesis

"If you close your eyes, you lose your sense of abstraction.
Michel Serres"

Even after years of terminological presence it remains difficult to pin down what a VJ does, what makes one a VJ, what legitimises a VJ, what a VJ is all about. Depending on the context, the terms «VJ» and «VJing» are used in such heterogeneous frameworks and are associated with such an array of different fields of activities that it would take several chapters merely to explain the term «VJing» and its nature. This text, however, attempts to create an audiovisual dispositive which departs from common designations for VJs, and instead takes a detour around so-called video groups to display the many possibilities for novel audiovisual live art. This will be exemplified by Metamkine from France and Granular Synthesis from Austria.

Strictly speaking, VJing has been an empty phrase from the very beginning, an auxiliary neology.i In clubs and discotheques, crowds had realised that «shaking it up» could be experienced more intensely with additional visual feeds. Moreover, since the mid-1990s, software applications for sound and video have gradually come to resemble each other, and can now be controlled by using the same user interface. Because club culture is DJ-driven, it was obvious to call video artists «VJs». Yet how can this optical stimulus at a techno party develop into a style of its own when the moving images mostly act as mere supplements? Maybe the «true» VJs are the ones presenting video clips on music television. This is precisely what the first British radio DJs did in the 1930s. DJs began emerging as professionals, aided by the gradual social legitimisation of popular culture, and in the process, not only did the turntable become an instrument, but also the DJ was (deservedly) raised to the status of musician. Turntable groups, such as Invisibl Skratch Pickles or particularly The X-Ecutioners, elevated the collagist usage of prefabricated music to an art form. Clearly, such experiments go back as far as the time of John Cage in the early 1960s (and even earlier). Wide-scale integration of the visual medium, however, only came about in techno clubs, and was pressed forward by groups such as Hexstatic and Coldcut in the mid-1990s, using their self-developed software «VJamm». This application was so pioneering that it was accorded a permanent place at the «Interactive Games Room» of the American Museum of Moving Images.

The increasingly similar interfaces presented to us for the control of computers make the previously very different tasks of organising and transforming text, static and moving visual images and sound into experientially ever more similar processes. The new electronic technologies therefore form a seductive potential meeting point for many previously separate art practices. Such interfaces make use of identical concepts – frame, freeze, copy, paste, loop – as controlling strategies.ii

The Audiovisual Dispositive

This text, however, is not about tracking down synaesthetic strategies in club culture. Rather, it tries to provide, with the aid of several audiovisual manifestations, a historical and an aesthetic frame of reference for live-generated sound and image art which reaches beyond the ongoing discussions caught up in questions of technical details. This is why, owing to the prevailing difficulty in assigning the term «VJ» to a specific field of work, the term is being extended to the realm of live video art. It can be explained by one of the prerequisites of the considerations made herein, namely that VJing is considered a two-channel transfer of information, in which the channels not only complement each other synaesthetically, but also exist side by side in parity, conditioning each other. In his book «The Time-Image», Gilles Deleuze supported the hypothesis that the audiovisual image was a result of the 'collapse of the sensory-motor schema' without referring to a 'whole'.iii Yet he spoke of film. As narrative, dramaturgical and space-time constellations of film organise themselves in a way that differs from live interacting media or forms of presentation, the following aims at patching up the collapse of the sensory-motor schema by way of video groups. Even though Deleuze (p. 268) admonishes that the audiovisual image «is not a whole, it is a 'fusion of the tear'», one must keep in mind the different production and processing logics of the output of video groups. On the one hand, this acts as a mirror for the transformation of film-historical connotations, while on the other – given the rather un-dogmatic approach towards this canon – a pop-cultural evaluation takes place. Inherently avant-garde, Granular Synthesis and Metamkine play with avant-garde material, thereby identifying the respective ruptures – clearly in the sense of Jacques Attali's concept of «Noise» as a musical anticipation of socio-political structures[i] – in the popular realm. The translation of the audiovisual material into rhythm, as well as the haptic physicality of their live shows, evoke a sensory-motor confrontation which is cinematographically grounded only to a certain extent, but above all, performatively rooted. Although both formations refer to historical connections pointing towards experimental cinema and 'expanded cinema', we can observe the overcoming of cinematographic code systems that contribute to a relocation of audiovisual perception by the fixed implementation of musical practices. This type of cinema may take place in film theatres, but it is usually shown in galleries, clubs or concert halls. While the music is made to sound 'cinephile' in order to evoke a 'cinema pour l'oreille', on the image track a 'kinaesthetic' approximation of the performance venue takes place, which at the same time is being stridden across acoustically. Sound and image, however, plainly serve as surface plateaus in rhizomatic destabilisation practices, leading to a setting which makes rehearsed parameters of space and time perception crash. Stroboscopic flashes of light from the rear regions of memory flare up for split seconds as figures that change from organic to abstract, connect with others, rotate and dislocate themselves, fuse with the layers of sound, and form a cerebral data stream, the impulses of which, as if leaking from electric cables, directly penetrate those regions which turn abstract images of reality into concrete dream images; the data processing brain is put into REM phase, the body converts to a big vibrating resonance box.iv

The mode that was thus to become exemplary during the seventies was performance – and not only that narrowly defined activity called performance art, but all those works that were constituted in a situation and for a duration by the artist or the spectator or both together. It can be said quite literally that 'you had to be there'. [video and sound installations] not only required the presence of the spectator to become activated, but were fundamentally concerned with the registration of presence as a means toward establishing meaning.v

My approach in this text with regard to VJing is an audiovisual dispositive which, because of the interdependence of visual and acoustic information and the resulting synaesthetic interaction, may only be applied to the model of band or group. This dispositive is not determined by a specific technology. In this context, VJing does not equate to related algorithmic programming, but acts as a counterbalance for the expansion of performative practices which are genealogically most likely derived from performance and media art. This way, an only seemingly paradoxical acousmatic representation may be defined in which the actual sources of reference of both channels are reciprocally present in each other, virtually off-screen (acousmatic). The respective complementation in the spectrum of reception is, however, placed in an exterior space, i.e. represented. As a consequence, the performance space becomes an integral part of the intervention where the architectonic space, by way of enormous sound systems, is being disclosed acoustically and visually by performative means (Metamkine) or through large projection screens (Granular Synthesis). It is almost like in a 360-degree cinema where one may, and even ought to, walk about. This strategy, however, goes back to concert and film logics that demand rather undivided attention. As the viewer is being taken possession of, this surely represents one of the most virulent oppositions to club VJing.vi Roughly put, the dispositive might be localised at a point where one no longer knows whether s/he should listen to the images or look at the music. This relates to the different perception speeds and distraction mechanisms of music and image. In this context, the German film music theoretician Norbert Schneider (p. 65) writes, «Watching informs us about the constitution and 'condition' of the environment. Listening informs us primarily about the interior life of fellow human beings, about their thoughts and moods.… Thus, listening corresponds to feeling (as an unconscious understanding of the world) whereas watching corresponds to thinking (the conscious understanding of the world).»vii This leads to certain 'off-key continuities' in perception, prevalent in film editing or musical cut-ups. Virtually all video groups produce momentous interactive art, since they, much like music groups, generate an art event in real time. As a result, we obtain four interdependent variables which map out the dispositive:

Image D Interaction D Sound

Be it in a performance, an installation, or a club context, the groups work in all three segments – some times more and some times less – with prefabricated settings from their own audiovisual data archive and either interact in an improvising manner (Metamkine) or according to a formulated compositional plan (Granular Synthesis). From this, two statements may be deduced:

1) The auditory and optical information is presented in parity as multi-channel manifestations.
2) These manifestations take place in a live context. They exist like a concert or a temporary installation for the moment.

The exponential increase in the number of performance artists in almost every continent, the numerous new books and academic courses on the subject, and the many contemporary art museum opening their doors to live media, are clear indications that in the opening of the twenty-first century, performance art is as much as a driving force as it was when the Italian Futurists used it to capture the speed and energy of the new twentieth century. Performance art today reflects the fast-paced sensibility of the communications industry, but it is also an essential antidote to the distancing effects of technology. For it is the very presence of the performance artist in real time, of live performers 'stopping time', that gives the medium its central position.viii

Like Granular Synthesis, Metamkine deal with a rudimentary, even archaeological understanding of cinema and music in order to arrive at the essence of the respective medium, and from there deduct an associative-physical stream of information which leaves behind the technically well-armed VJ scene via an intermedial approach (Metamkine) or an oversized hearing and viewing box (Granular Synthesis). The musical rhythm loops, which are at times perceived as pulsating, and at other times below the perception threshold, do not fall into the trance-like, repetitive machine beat of techno music. Metamkine and Granular Synthesis view rhythm as layers of sound, sound colouration, drones or sequencing which, apart from intensely territorialising the body, at the same time also capture the largest human hearing organ, the skin, by making use of the entire frequency range. Due to these complex parameters, they have in mind rather the concept of sitting in a cinema instead of dancing in a club. One can be quite occupied with not being occupied with these groups. After all, both aim to amplify the habits of hearing and seeing by using a radical and fervent audiovisual attack. Both video groups work in a performance context that is commonly frowned upon as being 'high culture' or 'elitist', which takes place in art galleries, museums or theatres. Such a designation rather indicates that the perception of images and sounds seems to be of a divergent nature, since the images could easily work in more 'low-culture' spaces, such as clubs or other locations atypical for staging art performances, even though the music would most likely be rejected in these spaces. In the last few years, however, much like in the areas of film, music, etc., the formerly rigid societal segments have become permeable and fluctuating, gradually coming closer to each other. This fusion of social and aesthetic positions pervades traditional designations against the backdrop of an ever increasing image and information overload. In this respect, Metamkine and Granular Synthesis may be seen as audiovisual pioneers, since their artistic 'high culture' works, via club space, have helped to blur these boundaries and have made live video art compatible for the pop context.

Formed Light, Concrete Sounds – Metamkine

Since 1987 the French artists Jérôme Noetinger, Christophe Auger und Xavier Quérel have been working together as Celulle d'Intervention Metamkine. Their performances have a rather haptic air about them, since they exclusively use various Super8- and 16mm-films and vintage synthesisers. What makes them different from other formations is simply that Auger and Quérel, by manually controlling projectors, convert them practically into visual instruments which enter into spontaneous interaction with the analogue music and by doing so, significantly determine the overall composition. These audiovisual interventions are committed to the cinephile qualities of French Musique Concrète. It could be argued that such practices appear regressive in the fully digitalised era. In this regard Noetinger, who also runs the Metamkine label, pointed out in an interview in 2004, «Not long ago, everybody dreamt of having a Revox! It was the Rolls Royce! Today there's this spurious idea of 'progress', this imposition of new technology by the market. There's something totalitarian about it. It's like asking a violinist why he doesn't play a computer.»ix Operational sounds such as the clattering of projectors blend in with partially crude analogue layers of sound or sound fragments of the prefabricated magnetic tapes; at times the smell of (un)intentionally burnt filmstrips fills the air. The filmstrips, which are edited as loops, are self-produced or found footage, and through the choreographies which are evaluated in extensive rehearsals, they generate a performative image space in which the depicted transforms into a sculptural replica. Adding to this, Metamkine work with a set of mirrors, so that through extra deflections and refractions the projections are ad infinitum expanded, fragmented, bent – beyond recognition. With the visual aspect of Musique Concrète in mind, the sense of space thus formed may be traced back to choreographies of Oskar Schlemmer in the late 1920s which he had developed for the Bauhaus school.x Here, artists perform relatively simple geometric figures that live off their expressive gestures. These are conceptualised into the audience and made to appear as ornamental bodies in the best manner of the silent film tradition. This directness in expanding the stage into the audience was especially pushed forward in the performance art of the 1960sxi and has lost much of its attraction (or 'aura') with the successive separation between performer and performance.xii Therefore, the latest developments are inclined towards the concept of musicians and video artists virtually backing out from the visual spectrum of the audience, and in a 'retrograde' step see themselves as newly constructivist machinists, who expose the inner processing logics of the machine and transfer them into public space.xiii Metamkine's performers are most of the time clearly discernible, whereas the performers in Granular Synthesis are not visible at all. While Metamkine operate in a relatively classic performative stage setting, Granular Synthesis present a kind of audio film where only the oversized, approximately 4 x 3 m high projection screens are visible.

Performative Disclosure of the Audiovisual Space

By insisting on a historicity of one's own, Metamkine join in an already quite canonised video art exemplified by the early works of Nam June Paik. Instead of discussing Paik's TV experiments, I want here to point to his Music Studies and his early audiotape experiments. «Paik brought his knowledge of a more highfalutin' art form, namely the electronic music of Stockhausen and Cage, to bear on a brand-new media. Structurally, Paik's videotapes derive from the audio-taped musique concret sound collages he was making in Europe before Cage deflected him towards performance.»xiv Following the audio tape sound experiments conducted prior to World War II, this medium turned out to be one of the first and most promising post-war developments in exploring new worlds of sound. Such as with the case of French Musique Concrète by Pierre Schaeffer, later Pierre Henry or Vladimir Ussachevsky in the U.S., however, Musique Concrète itself alluded to such groundbreaking pieces as the acousmatic collage 'Wochenende' (1930)xv by Walter Ruttmann or Viking Eggeling's spatial figures set in motion in 'Diagonal Symphonie' (1921/25). Unlike many digital music video filmmakers who have geometric figures spurring across the images to the sound of abstract electronic music, Metamkine's arsenal of images, quite directly quoting early medial development phases of interwar abstract film, had virtually always been fed by the concrete, processed and/or alienated via simple means such as pitching, splicing, colouring, fading or more or less traditional editing. In this connection we not only deal with the replacement of central perspective in painting and cinema by physically marking out the performative space; Metamkine's visual element may rather be seen in a framework that refers to the inner materiality of the medium. Concrete image content is purged until nothing but formed light remains which, as a projection screen, entirely occupies the performance venue.

Sonic Layers of Time, Optical Shattering – Granular Synthesis

All sound is an integration of grains, of elementary sonic particles, of sonic quanta.
Iannis Xenakis (1971)

Increasingly specific software applications have turned computers into interactive and intermedial interfaces par excellence. For the 'black box' it no longer makes much of a difference whether the algorithm fed in generates an optical or acoustic output. Improved processor performance has made it possible to produce highly complex compositional methods such as granular synthesis. Founded in Vienna in 1991 by Kurt Hentschläger and Ulf Langheinrich, Granular Synthesis derive their name from this method. To date, the duo has executed around 15 fully set-up installations. Compared with Metamkine's approach, Granular Synthesis are basically located on the opposite side of the audiovisual dispositive. Granular Synthesis allow the semantic codes of the digital machine free play and generate a human-machine interface which toils on the fringes of cutting-edge computer technology. Each micro structure, each millisecond grain is aimed at making the tactile quality of the sound and the image be experienced. While Metamkine still leave open perceptive slots by way of their theatrical gestures and allow organic physicality, Granular Synthesis confront us with the full impact of machine-controlled logics. Consequently, by extreme fragmentation of the images, the performers' heads, filmed in glass cubes in the early works of the band, become grimaces, the contours of which remain organic, even in the moments of highest affect. By its intensely accelerated serial split-up, the physical image's content is distilled into some kind of pure object, completely bereft of voyeuristic sexual connotations, and lets the potentially desiring gaze go blank. Instead, these images herald the industrial degeneration of present social forms of communication, for example, when in 'Model5' (1994/96) the head of performer Akemi Takeya, under the impression of speed, «gives birth to an electronic Medusa image oscillating between the poles of sensual ecstasy and agony.»xvi The recipient is caught up in the dichotomy between voyeurism and the auto-destructive projection on the protagonist, who is trapped in this glass construction as if under a cake dome; the glass resembles a transparent data helmet imposed on the performer, but also a morbid incubator.xvii

Compressed Emptiness of the Audiovisual Bodies

Granular Synthesis dealt with precisely this loss of control and correlation primarily in the phase between 1991 and 1999. In the second phase an almost complete emptying of the image space takes place in which solely monochrome surfaces and 'psychedelic' flicker effectsxviii are employed. In the works of Granular Synthesis the eye is successively deprived of information while ever-increasing sub-basses and cascades of rhythm, synchronised to up to 200 bpm, roll over the sound plane. An experiential space opens up, the experience of which becomes more intense the more it is cleared of signs.

The grain is a unit of sonic energy possessing any waveform, and with a typical duration of a few milliseconds, near the threshold of human hearing. It is the continuous control of these small sonic events (which are discerned as one large sonic mass) that gives granular synthesis its power and flexibility. The typical duration of a grain is somewhere between 5 and 100 milliseconds. The most musically important aspect of an individual grain is its waveform. A vast amount of processing power is required to perform granular synthesis. A simple granular 'cloud' may consist of only a handful of particles, but a sophisticated 'cloud' may be comprised of a thousand or more.xix

The hyper-physicalised affirmation of the machine presented in the works of Granular Synthesis breaks down the boundaries between the humanoid and technoid body with its repetitive sequences of image and sound which, in some way, brings us closer to constructivist practices. The conscious display of the technological apparatus exhibits a human internalisation of the machine as it had already been presented for example in Detroit-Techno. Hence, the media theoretician Florian Rötzer writes, «The moving image, the image changeable in every pixel, the image that has become truly musical, is the condensation of speed.»xx In order to distil an intense sensual experience, it is necessary to build up an antipole of some sorts which consists of an upgraded environment and refers to the development of a software of one's own.xxi This software, which was produced between 1997 and 1999, is called VARP9. Just like a music sampler, it enables one to subject images and above all the direct connection of audiovisual data to granular synthesis: «It is a sample based MIDI software instrument that streams from RAM. It works in real-time in full PAL video resolution and frame rate. It allows accessing and allocating single frames at 25f/ sec. At this video grain rate it is capable of audiovisual granular synthesis».xxii

The flashes of consciousness produced by Granular Synthesis extract micro-range time snippets, which no longer represent caesurae but a permanently permuting flickering, become expansions, shiftings, rumples and fractalisations. The acts of acceleration and deceleration move parallel; the microtonal interferences in between generate trance effects, amplified by their (sub)sonic intensity. Misconnections in space and time collide with elliptic retardation and acceleration strategies which join – from the perspective of Austria’s film avant-garde – the works of Martin Arnold, Peter Tscherkassky and Peter Kubelka's 'Arnulf Rainer'. The award-winning duo (amongst others the Grandprix Artrec '95 in Nagoya, Japan) creates an industry-induced 'information overload unit' which makes no use of found footage, but instead samples itself so to speak as an 'alter ego image' and flickers across the screens in countless variations with a massive sound environment on top. While the processing inherent to the working method is quite laborious, the starting material is mostly easy to prepare: heads in glass boxes on huge multi-screens ('POL', 'NoiseGate', 'Model3'/ 'Model5'), video sequences of British dance artist Michael Ashcroft ('We Want God Now', 'Form', 'Sinken'), completely monochrome surfaces ('Reset'), predominantly black surfaces ('Minus') or the computer-generated transformation of a public building into a sculpture of light which evokes the illusion of a twinkling space ship ('Lichtwerk'). Stripping it down to the basics yields the focussing on an image which has come to appear so vacant that only basic geometric patterns remain. The emptiness is stored in the highest audiovisual data decompression. While in the 'Model'-series humans, in their gestural articulations, were important as concrete representations or images, the camera focus has gradually centred on the body itself until finally the lens reads the skin as the focal point of abstract geometric patterns and as the boundary to ways of representing humans.

Audio Visions Reloaded

By way of the two video bands Metamkine and Granular Synthesis, I have attempted to make the VJ-ing 'genre' discussable in a film and music historical context. Both bands, in their own ways, herald audiovisual prehistoric times, the sonic and filmic codes of which, via club culture, have, within the last ten years, grown to a mass-compatible phenomenon. The concept of an audiovisual dispositive outlined here is intended to contribute to getting a glimpse of the discussed bands' synaesthetic methods of working. While Metamkine consciously hold on to a musical and cinematographic tradition in order to provide new discourses on perception and the gaze, Granular Synthesis work with cutting-edge technology to expose the primal and submerged layers of human perception. As both bands use image and sound track as equal transmission matrices, this allows a concise, real-time experience which transfers live media art to a performance context where live interaction between the two media and the artists becomes the performative compositional premise.

Originally published on www.vjtheory.net

Selected Material:

Granular Synthesis (http://www.granularsynthesis.info/):

Index Edition, 2005. Remixes for Single Screen. [DVD]. Vienna: Index. http://www.index-dvd.at/
ZKM/ Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, digital arts edition, 2004. Immersive Works. [DVD]. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz. http://www.hatjecantz.de/

Metamkine – Cellule d'Intervention (http://metamkine.free.fr/)

i The international festival 'Netmage', founded in Bologna in 2000, may be regarded as one of the leading events in live media art in Central Europe. Already in 2005 its artistic director Andrea Lissoni considered the 'genre' VJing to be outdated. In: Deisl, H., 2005. Netmage 2005. Ray – Kinomagazin, April 2005, pp. 44-46.
ii Waters, S. Beyond the Acousmatic: Hybrid Tendencies in Electronic Music. In: S. Emmerson, ed. Music, Electronic Media and Culture. Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000, pp. 59-86.
iii Deleuze, G., 2001. The Time-Image. Cinema 2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 256-257. Later on in the book (p. 266) Deleuze recurs to Robert Bresson's automatic 'model' which «has no need of computing or cybernetic machines», however «the cinematographic image was already achieving effects which were not like those of electronics, but which had autonomous anticipatory functions in the time-image as will to art.»
[i] Compare: Attali, J., 1985. Noise. The Political Economy of Music. Vol. 16: Theory and History of Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
iv That is why Kittler writes: «That which is no longer imaginable happens because there where nothing may be imagined data processing takes place». Kittler, F., 1989: Die Nacht der Substanz. In: Pias C. et al., eds. Kursbuch Medienkultur. Die maßgeblichen Theorien von Brecht bis Baudrillard. Stuttgart: DVA, 1999, p. 507.
v Crimp, D. Pictures. In: Wallis, B.. ed. Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation. New York/ Boston: Museum of Contemporary Arts/ Godine Inc., 1995, pp. 177-180.
vi Actually it is quite dull to watch a DJ or laptop artist work while dancing, in a situation in which immediate auratic elements seem to be blinded out. Here, the dynamic VJ images are much more entertaining. These may not only be 'danced to' but one may also quite happily expose oneself to the continuous visual flow.
vii Schneider, N. J., 1990. Handbuch Filmmusik. Bd. 1, Musikdramaturgie. Konstanz: UVK.
viii Goldberg, R.L., 2001. Performance Art. From Futurism to the Present. London: Thames& Hudson, p. 225-230.
ix Warburton, D., 2004. Cinema for the Ears. The Wire. Adventures in Modern Music, 239, p. 24.
x Goldberg (2001, p. 106) mentions what was probably one of the earliest project descriptions of an audiovisual performance dating back to 1923 when the two Bauhaus- and O. Schlemmer-students Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack and Kurt Schwerdfeger staged their 'Reflected Light Compositions' «to multiply the sources of light, adding layers of coloured glass which were projected on the back of a transparent screen, producing kinetic, abstract designs. Sometimes the players followed intricate scores which indicated the light source and sequence of colours, rheostat settings, speed and direction of 'dissolves' and 'fade-outs'. These were 'played' on a specially constructed apparatus and accompanied by Hirschfeld-Mack’s piano playing».
xi Such ambitions are by no means new. Here, acting as representatives, I would like to recall the theatre space designs by Erwin Piscator or early theatre works such as 'The Mexican' (1920) or 'Gasmasks' (1923) by Sergei Eisenstein, in which the traditional situation encountered in the proscenium stage, as known from theatre and film, is being interrupted and extended by a so to speak third dimension.
xii The DJ desk equipped with DJ or laptop consoles has gradually moved toward the 'interior' of the stage. Compared to rock or pop bands, Club DJs or VJs are all but 'tangible', their production logics are separated from the performance location, which is mirrored in a techno-reactivated constructivist human-machine interface.
xiii Since the mid-90s it has become a common practice of work and aesthetics to make use of the 'error of the system', the 'glitch'. This is carried out by wilfully bringing about computer crashes or other machine-inherent errors or manipulations (interpolations, distortions, foreign data material). Comp. e.g.: Young, R., 2002. Worship the glitch. Digital music, electronic disturbance. In: The Wire/ Young, R., eds., ²2003. Undercurrents. The hidden wiring of modern music. London/ NY: Continuum, p. 45-58. As regards Austria, mention should be made of video bands such as Skot, reMI or epy.
xiv Hoberman, J. Paik’s Peak. In: Hoberman, J., 1991. Vulgar Modernism. Writings on Movies and Other Media. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, p. 138. Originally published in: The Village Voice, May 25, 1982.
xv Guy Mark Hinant writes in the liner notes of the CD-compilation a-chronology: An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music. [DCD]. Brussels: SubRosa: «'Wochenende' is unique of its kind. Twenty years later this editing technique will be improved, to form the basis of concrete music – even Pierre Schaeffer quickly abandoned what he called anecdotal sound for more concrete research. This work can be regarded as the first image-less film». (Italics by H.D.). The piece was republished by the label Metamkine in 1994, based on the original tapes which Ruttmann's daughter had handed over to Metamkine.
xvi Richard, B., Bath in the Resonance Chamber, and Blinding. In: ZKM/ Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, ed., 2004. Granular Synthesis: Immersive Works. [DVD-booklet]. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, digital arts edition, p. 19.
xvii Concerning the affect-image and the head (or face of a person) that symbolizes it, Deleuze writes: «The close-up does not tear away its object from a set of which it would form part, … but on the contrary it abstracts it from all spatio-temporal co-ordinates, that is to say it raises it to the state of Entity. … If it is true that the cinematic image is always deterritorialised, there is therefore a very special deterritorialisation which is specific to the affection-image». Deleuze, G., 1997. The Movement-Image. Cinema 1. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 96 et seq.
xviii The flicker effect and its 'consciousness-expanding' influence comes in numerous forms. It is quite popular in clubs where the flickering light/ dark situations recall Early Cinema. In the early 1960s, French artist Brion Gysin, together with Ian Summerville, went about constructing the 'Dreamachine': «… we started in a whole series of Dreamachines: from a very simply cylinder with a just regularly spaced slots producing therefore just one fixed rate of flicker, to these years later, the present machines with along the height of the column as you move your eye, your closed eyes up and down, you experience all the light interruptions between 8 and 13… External resonators, such as flicker, tune in with our internal rhythms and lead to their extension. … Elaborate geometric constructions of incredible intricacy build up from bright mosaic into living fireballs like the mandalas … in their act of growth». Summerville, I., 1962. Flicker. Olympia Magazine 2. Reprinted in: Wilson T./ Gysin B., ²2000. Here to go. Los Angeles: Creation, pp. 210 et seq. The works 'Reset' (2001) by Granular Synthesis and 'RGB' (2005) by Bas van Koolwijk/ Christian Toonk expand these configurations by using primary colour schemes.
xix Eric Kuehnel's Writing Pages. 2003. Available from: http://music.calarts.edu/~eric/gs.html, [cited 23 March 2006].
xx Rötzer, F., 1989. Technoimaginäres – Endes des Imaginären. In: Kunstforum International, 98, Ruppichteroth: Kunstforum Verlag, 1989, p. 55.
xxi Writing one's own software is virtually part of the etiquette of every well-versed video group. Here I again wish to refer to Hexstatic/ Coldcut. Their software programme VJamm enables them to sample concrete images possessing certain inherent sounds, and they deduce these into a set of repetitive beats with loops, which leads to the development of a techno track in the widest sense. In 1997 their video 'Timber' set new standards for club VJing. In 1998 the video won French Television's 'MCM Best Video Editing Award'. All in all it was remixed four times, entering the Guinness Book of Records as the single with the most video remixes.
xxii Description of VARP9 on the band's homepage.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I.C.R.N. Agenda Autumn 2006

Coming soon:

Features on Gerechtigkeits Liga and Sonic Correctness.

In development 2006-7:

Survey of key industrial releases.

Enhanced website.

Temporary Hegemonic Zones - I.C.R.N. seminars, performances and exhibitions... watch this space.

Current sounds:

Asmus Tietchens - Seuchengebiete and Geboren um zu dienen (Die Stadt)
Necropolis - Necrosphere (Cold Spring)


I.C.R.N. collaborators sought...

Friday, September 22, 2006

I.C.R.N. Review 2: Monochrome Visions

Miguel A. Ruiz - Grosor. (mv03)

Rafael Flores - Nubes, cometas, rumores y oregas (mv05)

h.h.t.p. and portable palace - Cavitation (mv04)

In a 2003 article for Contemporary Music Review on laptop music[1], I argued that electronic music has the capacity to represent what Deleuze and Guattari termed “the specific freezing point of the ideal.” Electronic and (post)-industrial sound is capable of transmitting a specific type of coldness which highlights the threatening aspect of technology but which can also act as an antidote to runaway cultural global warming caused by constant market-led demands to “chill out”, “go with the flow”, “take it easy” etc. “Cold” textures can create a sonic/conceptual space that can act as temporary autonomous zone or enclave within a superheated hyper-stimulated culture. In such a space it may be possible to effectively slow down the speed of the information flow and perhaps to think through some of the contradictions and possibilities of the present.

Making a very crude characterisation, we could say that there are two “poles” of the (post)-industrial sector/soundfield. One mode of industrial has always relied primarily on force and counter informational overload, violently annexing space within the listener’s consciousness and the wider culture. Another has gone “deeper” into the territories associated with industrial or dark ambient projects like T.A.G.C. or Coil. Of course, many, if not most groups oscillate between these extremes, even if one mode predominates. Yet there is another cluster of activity in between these two poles. In this mode force and percussive elements are still present, but there is also conceptual and sonic space (if not the vast abysses associated with Lustmord and others).

Of course, if we speak about global cultural warming, it has to be said that commodified Latin/Hispanic culture is a key “pollutant”. An insidious, clichéd, and unquestioned mode of musical and cultural “sexiness” is integral to the dominant pop cultural order. Therefore it’s always especially refreshing to encounter Spanish music that almost totally rejects this clichéd understanding of Spanishness in sound. Part of the Russian label Monochrome Vision’s mission is to unearth some hidden, obscure and unreleased material that helps to fill out the history of electronic music in the last few decades, as well as issuing more recent material situated in the grey areas between formal composition, sound art and the electronic underground.

Even if there weren’t so much genuine ‘lost’ or terminally obscure material from the 80s available for re-release, market forces would probably drive producers and labels to invent more in order to satisfy the current demand for it, and this may well happen once the archives are completely exhausted. Very few people could say with certainty that such and such a project hadn’t been released on a hyper-limited cassette release. The Monochrome Vision releases by Miguel A. Ruiz and Rafael Flores (a.k.a. Commando Bruno) are extremely valuable in increasing our understanding of Spanish electronic music, the perception of which is still largely dominated by the renowned and now highly collectible Esplendor Geometrico and more recent electro and minimal techno producers such as Reeko and others.

Miguel A. Ruiz was active on the industrial cassette network from 1986 and issued many recordings, using pseudonyms and his own name. The material presented on Grosor was recorded between 1989-91, a period during which many of the better know industrial groups began to dilute the “mechanicity” of their sounds and begin what was often a disastrous flirtation with rock (perhaps the value now placed on “re-discovered” and “lost” industrial material is that it symbolises the time when industrial still retained a genuine “apartness”, and hadn’t begun a process of self-normalisation and cultural adaptation). Grosor contains little beyond the name of its producer and a Spanish dialogue sample on Brain Velocity that suggests any Spanish connection. It exists in an idiosyncratic hinterland, and is neither exactly dark ambient nor percussive industrial. In some ways, the factory type sounds do already sound “historical” and yet they are very much needed and still keenly felt in our “post-industrial” present. Like many of the most skilful producers of this type, Ruiz is adept at suggesting and summoning a machinic unconscious or uncanny: the intangible but palpable excess that both actual technological/industrial processes and their (artistic) simulations can produce. In these simulated/created deserted spaces mechanisation and its traces are present as a spectre. Grosor alternates between (controlled) acceleration and near static passages within which the spectral elements surface. It is accompanied by a surreal/mystical Castilian poem which refers to the “post-industrial technosphere.” The album opens with what sounds like a factory process, whose cold, clanking elements build into an orchestra of echoing metallic sounds. By the start of the absurdly/frivolously titled Testicular Prawn, the process has “run out of steam” or radically decelerated. There are deeper clangs and reverberations, the metal orchestration remains but is now dragged out into subdued traces and rumbles. The process (or its aftermath) creates hovering clouds of metallic sound vapours. As the album/process proceeds, it further intensifies and smears into a series of ghostly chords, suggesting that this obviously esoteric technology has begun, either by design or by mutation/malfunction, to haunt itself. On Sin Apenas Coxis and elsewhere, quieter, and even graceful elements such as piano chords float to the surface, forming a film of gossamer toxicity. Mysterious, filmic, ethereal and sinister atmospheres drift in out of Ruiz’s sound pictures, which suggest numerous possible visions and associations, and challenge the common sense association between electronic coldness and unemotionality.

Rafael Flores’ Nubes, cometas, rumores y oregas presents more recent material, dating between 1994 and 2004 (tracks three to five, which are the most impressive of a very strong set). Like Grosor, Nubes immediately confronts the listener with a machinic process, an immense, fascinating grinding. Although first developed in relation to techno, electro and drum n’bass, Kodwo Eshun’s notion of sonic fiction[2] gives us a useful framework within which to understand this release. Applying a little poetic licence, we could even speculate that machines’ own fictions or fantasies might sound something like this, they certainly have a “starring role” in what are epics of the machine age. In Sanzoot a colossal but still detailed and textured sound gradually turns catastrophic and “orchestral” chords emerge from the dense sound field. The next track Sanzooot deploys a huge array of metallic sounds that become a focussed, sensual, looping rain of metal. This stands comparison with or even surpasses the best “metallic” tracks by Neubauten, Test Dept and other metal working groups. After this peak, Nubes slowly winds down into a series of desolate but still beguiling tone pieces, fading out with Luders, the sound of a “dying” machine performing its final operation.

Monochrome Vision’s fourth release, Cavitation by h.h.t.p. and portable palace sits in between the two Spanish releases in the catalogue. It is produced Dmitry Gelfand from New York and Andrey Savitsky and Kirill Domnich from Minsk (home to a surprisingly active musical underground). The three long pieces date from 2002 and while also “cold” in feel, they are more formal in their tone, and are closer to the electro-acoustic than the industrial context. However, the sounds are at least partly (post)-industrial in spirit if not in origin and ought to interest the “industrialised listener”. In the way it excavates cavernous space it mirrors some industrial ambient but is less theatrical than that “genre” tends to be. Although texturally clinical, Cavitation has a markedly eerie undercurrent that eventually becomes overt and suggests a techno-pagan ritual invoking dead machines, offering a simultaneously nostalgic and prophetic comment on our present reality.


[1] "Ice on the Circuits/Coldness as Crisis: The Re-subordination of Laptop Sound." Contemporary Music Review. 22: 35-43.
[2] Kodwo Eshun, More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction, London: Quartet, 1998

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Laibach @ RoTr

Photos © Soren Stirling.

ICRN is grateful to everyone who attended, assisted and supported a very memorable night on Friday 1st September. Strong performances were given by all the acts and further photos will appear here and on other sites shortly. Special thanks to Laibach Kunst members for creating a mesmerising spectacle.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Return of the Repressive (RoTr). Birmingham 1st - 3rd September

Return of the Repressive (RoTr)
The Custard Factory Birmingham,
September 1st – 3rd.

A weekend of industrialised culture presented by I.C.R.N. (Industrialised Culture Research Network) in collaboration with Capsule, Cold Spring and the Custard Factory.

Over the first weekend of September the Custard Factory will host a unique event exploring the past, present and future of industrial music and culture. Often ignored, industrial is a style that won’t go away, and keeps re-surfacing in new contexts. Return of the Repressive will trace the industrial undercurrents that seethe beneath the surface of our culture.

The centrepiece will be the opening of the LAIBACH KUNST inhibition “Instrumentality of the State Machine”. This large-scale sound and visual installation recreates the industrial ambience of Trbovlje, the Slovene industrial city which gave birth to Laibach 26 years ago. The exhibition will be open daily 11-8 until September 5th.

The exhibition will open on September 1st, and members of Laibach plus guests will perform a special "Concerto for magnetophone, gramophone, radiophone and megaphone" at 8pm.

The Laibach opening will be followed by an evening of DJ’s and live acts, featuring dark drum and bass act PCM, percussion group Shit and Shine, dark industrial legends Schloss Tegal, and a specially commissioned audiovisual set by Birmingham techno pioneer Surgeon.

On Saturday 2nd there will be screenings of rare industrial video material plus a Mutefilm screening, including Laibach videos and the British premiere of Saso Podgorsek’s Laibach U.S. tour documentary Divided States of America.

On Sunday 3rd, industrial will be explored in an ICRN seminar featuring guest speakers and a presentation of Interrogation Machine, Alexei Monroe’s book on Laibach and NSK.

Tickets 1st Sept. £10 Adv. (8-9pm Advance Tickets only). Limited tickets available at door. Tickets 2nd & 3rd Sept. £5 Door Only.

RoTr is generously supported by Cold Spring Records.













Sunday, July 02, 2006

I.C.R.N. Alert: RoTr Festival, Birmingham, September 2006

Return of the Repressive (RoTr)

This I.C.R.N. initiated event will take place over the first weekend of September at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. It will feature live peformances, video screenings, an industrial seminar and more. More details to follow shortly...

I.C.R.N. Live Review 1: Hanno Reichel. DIE KRUPPS 25th Anniversary Tour

DIE KRUPPS 25th Anniversary Tour “25 Jahre Wahre Arbeit, wahrer Lohn”

Berlin, Kato. 29.1.2006

As part of their 25th anniversary tour, the renowned German electro/industrial pioneers DIE KRUPPS returned to the stage on Sunday 29th January. The group had fallen silent since the last official tour in 1997 and the increasing preoccupation of frontman Juergen ENGLER with his new project DKAY.COM. In any case, by the mid to late 1990s little remained of the original avant gardist reputation of DIE KRUPPS who had once been a crucial influence on the electro- and industrial-scene back in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, their visionary approach had since the early 1990s literally been buried by a layer of “rock” and “metal” debris, leaving the former KRUPPS´ factory halls ruined and dysfunctional, echoing to the slowly fading sounds of their “Stahlwerksinfonie” (Steelworks Symphony). Nevertheless, the “new” KRUPPS-style with the massive use of (-ironically- metal)-guitars and more or less completely English and non-industrial lyrics seemed quite suitable to the new market: the blood- and sweat era of the former “Steelworkers” was quickly forgotten, giving way to more streamlined and designed music and lyrics for the new (post-industrial) generation of consumers.

In this sense, the return of DIE KRUPPS accompanied by an explicit reference to the early 1980s “Wahre Arbeit, wahrer Lohn” era was unexpected enough to raise speculation about what was to be expected from these concerts. The announcements of the concert already suggested a return to the roots of DIE KRUPPS, with posters bearing on a black background the familiar KRUPPS “rings of steel”, surrounded half and half by a cogwheel and wreath. This visual proclamation of past times was accompanied by the news that the concerts would be performed by the most original KRUPPS-line up imaginable, Juergen ENGLER (vocals), Ralph DOERPER (keyboards/programming) and Ruediger ESCH (bass). For all that, the announcements also already gave the impression that, far more than just performing old-school material, DIE KRUPPS seemed to have adapted to contemporary influences, as the phrase “Wahre Arbeit, wahrer Lohn” featured the letters “A” in the font used in the official acronym and logo of the German federal office “Bundesanstalt fuer Arbeit” which has become synonymous for the problem of mass-unemployment in Germany since the early 1990ies.

Thus, when the group entered the stage (which was -in a Laibachian manner- flanked by flags bearing the “rings of steel”-logo), the audience seemed full of expectation of what was to come. The set started with the –musically and lyrically timeless- track “High Tech-Low Life” from the album “I”, and the very sound of that track already gave an impression of the shift backwards in the sound of DIE KRUPPS: Even though it was originally one of the more guitar-based tracks, the guitar-elements remained quite far in the background, giving more space to the synthesizer-sequences of the stoically (KRAFTWERK-like) acting DOERPER and the great bass-work of ESCH, which effectively transformed the venue into a hammering and vibrating industrial worksite. Following that concept, ENGLER resembled perfectly his image in (now 25 year old!) photographs from the “Wahre Arbeit, wahrer Lohn”-album with a black work vest and trousers and precise short haircut. Thus, even the more recent tracks that followed were greeted enthusiastically by the audience (which seemed to be composed at least 50 percent of “old” DIE KRUPPS fans). The atmosphere intensified even more, when, to the sounds of “Germaniac”, the large apparatus that had been carried onto the stage just before the beginning of the show turned out to be a renewed and improved (but conceptually original) version of the ancient KRUPPS “Stahlophon” furiously beaten by the energetic ENGLER.

After the first 30 minutes, which mainly featured tracks from the more recent (guitar oriented) albums “I”, “II”, “III” and “Paradise Now”, KRUPPS embarked on a time-trip back to the early 1980s presenting (among others) “Volle Kraft voraus!”, “Goldfinger” and “Fuer einen Augenblick”, all performed in the original style, with only slightly modified synthesizer sequences and absolutely (!) no guitars. Although the audience was enthusiastic enough about hearing such old tracks once again after their total absence from DIE KRUPPS for so long, a medley of old and new songs wouldn’t have been in itself anything significant for an anniversary tour, but DIE KRUPPS seemed to have more in mind.

The small section of totally new and so far unreleased tracks started with “5 Millionen”, a song musically strongly linked to “Wahre Arbeit, wahrer Lohn” but addressing the problem of the now more than 5 million unemployed in Germany. Musically and lyrically, the track is –due to these contradictory references- a perfect description of the social problems in post-industrial Europe, on the one hand once more satirically celebrating the sweat of hard industrial labour as the basis of post-war Europe (“von der Stirne heiß, rinnen muß der Schweiss”) but at the same time stating that this kind of work seems less and less available and/or suitable to people now (“5 Millionen – Denn die Zukunft muß sich lohnen”). More than any other, this song might mark a new beginning of DIE KRUPPS, recognizing that their original artistic approach towards work and industry themes in the early 1980s might not be at all out of date but in need of only a few adaptations to the context of the new decade and the global economy. In this sense, the return of the “Stahlophon” and the reduction of populist rock-elements in the KRUPPS performance might parallel the signs of a coming era that will be marked by more basic needs for work, energy and raw materials across the globe. Philosophically speaking, it might have occurred to society as well as to KRUPPS that the future can sometimes be found in the past. In this sense, the formerly explicit message of “Volle Kraft voraus!” could be transformed into the oxymoronic statement “Vorwärts, Kameraden – Wir müssen zurück! (Onward, comrades – We must go back!)”.

In this way, the second new track “Der Amboss” (featuring CLIENT) even more retro-stylistically connects the idea of industrial work (“Wir schlagen den Amboss”) with post-modern club culture (“Tanz mit mir!”) and even includes slightly erotic musical and lyrical elements. The result is a track that comes across like an obscure mixture of “Wahre Arbeit, wahrer Lohn” and DAF´s “Der Mussolini” done in a retro style but nevertheless with a state-of-the-art sound-mix. Forcing together the contradictory -but also self-stipulating- aspects of hard work on the one hand and ecstatic leisure time on the other brings to light the dramatic problem of “contemporary” western societies: offering aspects of leisure and entertainment on the broadest possible basis, but being incapable of offering enough “wahre Arbeit” for its citizens to participate in society and contribute the effort of “wahrer Lohn” to legitimately afford the comforts produced.

Coming full-circle, the time-travel ended with the another new mix of “Wahrer Arbeit, wahrer Lohn” (featuring Nitzer Ebb’s DOUGLAS MCCARTHY), performed with some additional guitar sound but also the most “original” elements of the “Stahlophon” and ENGLER´s whistle blasts, once again confronting the audience with the sociological and economical question of whether this image of work is a) out of date and b) if not, if it is then desirable or frightening.

Speaking in the industrial-economic mode that was a permanent trademark of DIE KRUPPS in their early days, the concert could be described as a good test performance of some first new machinery-prototypes and marketing strategies hopefully giving way to a successful resumption of mass-production. If DIE KRUPPS are able to reflect on their traditional methods again, and adapt them to the new challenges, they might be successful again in the same way as their predecessors: The “rings of steel” logo of the former steel and arms manufacturer KRUPP survived wartime- and post war disruption as a permanent symbol for “deutsche Wertarbeit” (German workmanship), and are now gliding towards the future on the advanced suspension-railway “Transrapid” built by the German industrial-trust THYSSEN-KRUPP in China. Maybe the shadow group who appropriated their logo will once again be able to create a successful cultural “Exportschlager”, stimulating discussion about industrial and post-industrial art, society and life.

Hanno Reichel is based in Berlin and is a regular contributor to http://www.nskstate.com/

die krupps site: http://www.dkay.de/krupps_index.html

thyssen-krupp/transrapid site : http://www.thyssenkrupp-transrapid.de/

photographer´s site: http://www.vorndranphotography.com/

I.C.R.N. Paper 2: Heinrich Deisl "»Freedom is a sickness«: Musikalische Anschläge gegen die neoliberale Beliebigkeit im englischen Industrial"

Symposium Pop & Politik. Fluc, Wien, 31/05/06.

»Freedom is a sickness«: Musikalische Anschläge gegen die neoliberale Beliebigkeit im englischen Industrial bis Mitte der 1980er Jahre

Der Titel dieses Vortrags hätte auch heißen können: »Tanz den Adolf Hitler«. Das wäre aber zu plakativ, außerdem geht es hier um sozusagen echten Industrial. Denn wo sonst außer im Geburtsland der Industriellen Revolution würde es so viel Sinn machen, eine Musik zu entwickeln, die, wie es Genesis P-Orridge, Sänger der Band Throbbing Gristle, einmal formuliert hatte, daran interessiert war, die Musik aus der Sklavenzeit, dem Blues, in das industrielle Zeitalter zu transferieren. Also von der (Strom-)Gitarre zum Synthesizer. Womit die Wahl der Musikinstrumente – zumindest damals – auch politisch konnotiert war. Die deutsche Band DAF hatte mit diesem griffigen und so oft in falschen Kontext gebrachten Slogan ein Feld beackert, das ein paar Jahre vorher in England wesentlich radikaler und diskursiver aufgezogen worden war, als es DAF jemals sein konnten. Um erst gar nicht von den Irgendwie-Fascho-Posern von Rammstein zu reden, dieser Band, deren Musik höchstens für die sublimierten Allmachtsfantasien pubertierender Jugendlicher auf einem radikalisierten Jugendlagertreffen taugt. Immerhin haben Rammstein ihre letzte CD »Reise, Reise« (2005) international 1,6 millionenmal verkauft und der Major EMI war stolz...

Freedom is a sickness: Freiheit ist eine Krankheit. Oder, wie es Slavoj Žižek formulieren würde, Freiheit ist ein Syndrom. Was bringt Bands wie Test Dept. dazu, eine Platte mit dem Titel »The Unacceptable Face of Freedom« oder Throbbing Gristle dazu, eine Nummer namens »Zyklon B Zombie« aufzunehmen? Oder eben die für den Vortrag namensgebende Nummer »Freedom is a sickness«, wo doch Freiheit als das wertvollste Gut überhaupt gilt? In diesem Vortrag möchte ich ein paar Beispiele dafür bringen, welcher Notwenigkeiten es bedurfte, mit einem mit faschistischen Zeichen, Symbolen und Inhalten aufgeladenen künstlerischen Output gegen die Mittelmäßigkeit in der Musik, in der Kunst, in der Gesellschaft im Allgemeinen vorzugehen. Die Aufrüstung der Gesellschaft ist in vollem Gang, wie etwa das wegweisende Buch »Entsichert« von Tom Holert und Mark Terkessidis bereits 2002 zeigte. Und spätestens im Zuge einer neuen Weltordnung nach dem 11. September 2001 wird klar, dass eben diese Freiheit mit vehementen Mitteln als propadandistisches Tool instrumentalisiert werden kann.

Verglichen mit heutigen Standards mutet das meiste künstlerische Material des Industrial krude, offensichtlich und oft auch zu existentialistisch an. Das hat nichts mit »Härte« zu tun: Wer findet in Zeiten von Slayer etwa Black Sabbath »hart«? Aber es ist der Vorteil oder Nachteil so gut wie aller Revolutionen, dass sie früher oder später eingemeindet und damit diskursfähig werden. Auch wenn Industrial heuer genau 30 Jahre alt geworden ist, ist eine Auseinandersetzung mit dieser heftigen Entäußerung im künstlerischen Underground – zumindest im deutschsprachigen Raum – nach wie vor praktisch nicht vorhanden. Zwar gibt es gute Biografien wie etwa »Wreckers of Civilisation« von Simon Ford über TG (1999); Die meisten Bücher aber, die Industrial als gesellschaftliches Phänomen untersuchen, stammen aus den frühen 80ern. Und das, obwohl Industrial als künstlerischer Einfluss mittlerweile in diversen Galerien ausgestellt wird. Während die Kunst Industrial via Futurismus, Konstruktivismus, Aktionismus, Mail-Art und Fluxus schon längst in ihren genealogischen Diskurs übernommen hat, siehe etwa »Performance Art« von RoseLee Goldberg, sind musikalische und politische Auseinandersetzungen über weite Felder auf nerdige, kryptische oder zumindest fragwürdige Quellen verstreut. Über den Umweg klischeehafter Abziehbilder wurde diese Musik- und Kunstrichtung ziemlich in Misskredit gebracht. An dieser Stelle ein Zitat des spanischen Philosophen Georges Santayana, das Throbbing Gristle gerne benutzte: »Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it«.

Folgende Thesen habe ich für diesen Vortrag aufgestellt:
1) Die historische und spezifisch sozioökonomische Situation des frühen neoliberalen Wirtschaftssystems in England Ende der 70er/ Anfang der 80er Jahre war Grundbedingung für das Entstehen von Industrial.
2) Die künstlerische Auseinandersetzung des Industrial mit der Industriellen Revolution antizipierte als eine unter vielen Strömungen das Informationszeitalter.
3) Industrial brach mit der post-nazionalsozialistischen Tradition der Entschuldungskultur und des Bilderverbots, indem diese radikal ausgestellt wurde.

Während die Popmusik und damit ihre Kultur noch immer in dem Rock’n’Roll-Mythos vom rebellischen Outlaw verhaftet ist, wurde dieser Mythos als längst konsensfähig in die breite Massenkultur eingemeindet. Eine Teilschuld dessen sehe ich in der in den späten 80ern losgetretenen Debatte um Political Correctness, die sich schnell in ihr Gegenteil verkehrt hatte: Die Zensurschere kommt nicht mehr bei der FSK oder anderen, greifbaren oder relativ leicht zu identifizierenden Organisationen zum Einsatz, sondern im Kopf. Eben Selbstkontrolle, dis-lokalisiert und unsichtbar. – Was alles bereits bei Foucault aus Mitte der 70er nachzulesen ist. Ein sozioökonomisches Update lieferten 2000 Antonio Negri und Michael Hardt mit ihrer Studie »Emipre«, in der sie die mittlerweile im globalen Kontext agierenden, wirtschaftlichen Verflechtungen als exterritorialisierte Hegemonialmacht darstellten und auf die Umlagerung der Macht weg von Staats- hin zu Wirtschaftsystemen darlegten. In weiterer Folge geht es darum, ein adäquates Regelwerk für die neoliberale »Fit-for-Fun«-Informationsgesellschaft zu generieren, deren nihilistisches Chaos und Paranoia mittlerweile in den großen Institutionen nistet, Devianzen als gern gesehene Kollateralschäden firmieren, weg vom individuellen, hin zum kollektiv verstandenen »body as battlefield«. Darin liegt vielleicht eine der Hauptschwierigkeiten aktueller Kunst: Die Zentren der Macht, der Feind, etc. konnten sich abstrahieren, sind scheinbar unsichtbar geworden.

Da hatten es die Bands in den späten 70ern, frühen 80ern leichter. Das heraufdräuende neoliberale Zeitalter, als erste Industriestaaten exemplifiziert in den USA durch die »Reaganomics« und im UK durch den »Thatcherismus«, und die ersten Indizien einer Medien- und Informationsgesellschaft zeitigten zusammen mit dem heftigen Input, den Punk hinterlassen hatte, eine toxische Mischung. Hier wurde unter dem Eindruck der staatlichen Kontrolle ein absichtlicher Kontrollverlust eingeübt, sei es durch die Schaffung temporärer autonomer Zonen, sei es durch Körperekstase wie Tanzen oder sich selbst zu verletzen, sei es durch eine bisher unerhörte Musik oder Kunst. Die Punk-Ikone Lydia Lunch hatte über ihre sadomasochistischen Erfahrungen im Pornofilm als Befreiungsschlag gegen das aufoktroyierte Körperregime in dieser Zeit einmal gemeint: »It’s better to feel pain than to feel nothing.« Der von diesen Bands ausgeführte »sonic warfare« lässt sich – wie es der französische Nationalökonom Jacques Attali formulierte – als Riss (»rapture«) im gesellschaftlichen System lesen, der auf zukünftige sozioökonomische und politische Verhältnisse verweist, Musik somit diese Verhältnisse antizipiert. (Ein Riss, an dem sich auch etwa DAF und besonders die slowenische Band Laibach abarbeiteten.) Attali schreibt 1985: »It is necessary to imagine radically new theoretical forms, in order to speak of new realities. Music, the organisation of noise, is one such form. It reflects the manufacture of society; it constitutes the audible waveband of the vibrations and signs that make up society.«[i]
Cosey Fanni Tutti, ein Bandmitglied von Throbbing Gristle, drückte es in einem Interview mit »de:bug« so aus: »Eines der stärksten Motive war Frustration und Zorn über die unterwürfige Haltung, die Kulturschaffende einnahmen. Es spielte natürlich auch eine Rolle, dass das Klima in den 70ern in Großbritannien extrem politisch aufgeladen war. Es gab ständig Krawalle, Streiks und Unruhe im Land. Wir hatten das Gefühl, dass unsere Arbeit auch politisch war: Wir wollten die Vorstellungen darüber, was Musik ist, niederreißen.«[ii]

Oft als chaotisch oder nihilistisch verschrieen, führ(t)en diese Attacken auf die Hörgewohnheiten zu einer exzessiv überhöhten Selbstaufgabe, die den bewussten Kontrollverlust als Regulativ auf die Kontrollgesellschaft einübte. Diese Musik bezog eine ihrer stärksten Legitimationen daraus, dass die Elterngeneration einen Abwehrkampf gegen alles und jeden geführt hatte, was nur annährend den Verdacht hätte nähren können, faschistisch zu sein. Während sowohl in der alten wie in der Jugendkultur alles auf De-Eskalation programmiert war: einerseits Regression und aktives Vergessen und andererseits die als extrem dröge empfundenen Errungenschaften der Hippies – wuchs eine neue Generation von Künstlern heran, die praktisch aus doppeltem Antrieb heraus gegen die auf breiter Front gefahrene Politik der Verdrängung anzugehen hatte. Somit wird auch klar, dass dieser mit faschistischen Zeichen aufgeladene Kampf eigentlich ein »antifaschistischer« war. Aus heutiger Perspektive könnte man die Industrial-Musik wahrscheinlich als »sonically incorrect« bezeichnen. Was Georg Seeßlen über DAF schreibt, kann man in diesem Zusammenhang auch auf die hier besprochenen Bands anwenden: »[DAF] ließ nie genau erkennen, was noch Parodie und was schon spielerische Aneignung faschistischer Fantasien war. [...] Sie waren die Kinder des Bilderverbots und der Entschuldungskultur. Aber sie hatten auch den historischen Pakt der Jugendkulturen mit dem Projekt der linken Weltverbesserung aufgekündigt, mit Love, Peace und Happiness.«[iii]

Der britische Autor Stuart Home beschreibt in seinem Abriss über avantgardistische Kunstströmungen seit den 50ern einige Schnittpunkte zwischen einer Avantgarde-Tradition und Punk und erdet ihn dezidiert in einem »proletarian movement«. Er schreibt: »Punk was a politics of energy with a bias towards expressing itself in the rhetoric of the left, but which more than occasionally assumed the voice of the right.«[iv] Durch den Einfluss der Punk-begeisterten Kunststudenten wurde eine historische Komponente eingezogen, die bis zu den Futuristen und den Dadaisten zurückreichte. Mark Sinker, englischer Musikjournalist, fasste zusammen (186): »Futuristic music was to be a sensual exploration of Noise as a continuum of detail, structured by contrast and juxtaposition.«[v] Die aus diesen Strömungen entlehnten Taktiken und Ideen wurden besonders für den Industrial inkorporiert. War der Futurismus nicht schon in seiner aktiven Phase vielerorts als »protofaschistisch« eingestuft worden? So wurde dem Fabrikslärm, der Collage und einer expressionistischen Weltsicht gehuldigt, zu der sich die »Ideologie« von Geschwindigkeit, Massenproduktion und Mediendesavouierung gesellte. Das Wissen um diesen historischen Dechiffrierungskorpus zeitigte notwendigerweise eine Abkehr vom Punk, der mit 3 Akkorden die Welt erklären wollte. Prototypisch für den Industrial kam eine weitere historische Komponente dazu: Die als inhuman empfundenen, den Kapitalismus zementierenden ökonomischen Richtungen des Taylorismus und besonders des Fordismus, exemplifiziert an der Fließbandarbeit, wurden mit der fabriksmäßig betriebenen Tötungsmaschinerie des 3. Reichs synchronisiert. Mit den hämmernden Beats aus den billigen Rhythmusinstrumenten erfuhren Futurismus und Dadaismus –am besten exemplifiziert an Cabaret Voltaire – ein analoges Update. Test Dept. dagegen setzten – ähnlich wie die Einstürzenden Neubauten – mit ihrer tribalistischen Stahlpercussion auf eine nochmalige Brechung und projizierten diese in eine archaische Vorzeit. Indes war dieser Mythos des Martialischen, praktisch eine der Grundbedingungen des nationalsozialistischen Körperkults, mit einer konstruktivistischen Ikonografie aufgeladen.

Oberflächlich gesehen, roch Ende der 70er so ziemlich alles nach Freiheit, Grenzüberwindung, Verbrüderung. Disco, HipHop und besonders Punk sorgten für ziemlich radikalste popkulturellen Befreiungsschläge. Aber es waren eben nicht die »Holidays in the sun«, wie die Sex Pistols krakeelten. Denn schon kurz später sollte sich diese kreative Spielwiese an der Realität und an sich selbst vaporisieren: Die Anfang der 80er in England herrschende Stimmung lässt sich treffender mit einem Song sozusagen von der B-Seite von »Holidays« charakterisieren: »Belsen was a gas« (1978), das mit »Zyklon B Zombie« (Throbbing Gristle, 1980) eine brachiale Neuverortung erfuhr. Diese Single musste wiederholte Male neu gepresst werden, nachdem sie mehr als 20.000mal verkauft worden war. Man beachte die gesamplete Ankunft eines Zuges im Regen am Ende der Nummer...

Dieser heftige Anschlag auf Bauch, Beuschl und gute Sitten lässt uns mit einem ziemlich mulmigen Gefühl zurück. Keine Glorifizierung des Martialischen, wie sie so gerne von so vielen Bands durchgeführt wird, sondern eine Identifikation mit dem Opfer, in all der ungeschönten Grausamkeit. Keine Melodie, in die man sich verlieren könnte sondern ein treibender, stampfender Rhythmus, der auf die Tötungsmaschinerie der Gaskammern verweist. Somit lässt sich als Indiz festhalten: Es war genau jene Freiheit, die TG zu zertrümmern suchten, die den Millionen Nazi-Opfern in Auschwitz versprochen worden war: »Arbeit macht frei«. Diese Pervertierung der Freiheit konnte nur mit einer nochmaligen Pervertierung gesühnt werden.


An dieser Stelle einige kurze Worte zu den Biografien der Bands Throbbing Gristle, Test Dept. und Cabaret Voltaire.

TG wurden 1976 von den Kunststudenten Genesis P-Orridge und Cosey Fanni Tutti und den beiden Elektronikmusikern Peter Christopherson und Chris Carter in London gegründet. Die Band existierte nur bis 1981 und hinterließ bloß 5 offizielle Platten, die alle auf ihrem eigenen Label Industrial Records veröffentlich wurden sowie eine Reihe von Bootlegs. Sie gelten als die Begründer der Industrial Music. Sie verwendeten als Logo einen Blitz, der gleichzeitig für Starkstrom als auch eine Abwandlung der SS-Rune gelesen werden konnte, auf vielen Covers war der Schornstein von Auschwitz zu sehen. Nicht nur mit ihren bruitistischen Kracheskapaden sondern auch mit einer Art elektronischer Proto-Disko-Musik wurden sie zu einer der einflussreichsten Underground-Bands und inspirierten Gruppen wie die Einstürzenden Neubauten, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry und große Teile der späteren Electronic-Body-Music, einem der Vorläufer des Techno.

Cabaret Voltaire: Ihr Name geht auf den Gründungsort des Dadaismus, das Züricher Café Cabaret Voltaire zurück. Chris Watson, Steve Mallinder und Richard H. Kirk produzierten ab 1974 in Sheffield Klangcollagen, ihre ersten Platten wurden auf Rough Trade und auf Industrial veröffentlicht. Im Gegensatz zu TG war die Band praktisch von Anfang an mehr an einer Diskussion um Medien und ihrer Interaktion mit Macht interessiert. Cabaret Voltaire schlossen gesamplete News-Reels mit maschinell geerdeten post-Funk-Beats kurz und sangen über die Baader-Meinhof-Gruppe oder produzierten eine ganze LP gegen amerikanische Allmachtsfantasien (»The Voice of America«, 1980). In den späten 80ern wandte sich die zum Duo geschrumpfte Band dem Dance-Underground zu, den sie zu dieser Zeit bereits nachhaltig geprägt hatte.

Die fünf Mitglieder der 1982 gegründeten Band Test Dept. kamen aus den Londoner Docklands und entstammten einem Redskin-Mileu. Die als Kollektiv auftretende Band ist sicherlich die politischste und »englischste« dieser drei Bands. Anlässlich des großen Minenarbeiterstreiks 1984/85 brachten sie die Platte »Shoulder to Shoulder« heraus. Darauf nahm die Band Streikreden und Chorgesänge der Kohlebergwerker im Revier South Wales auf und beteiligte sich an einer der größten Streikaktionen des industriellen Englands. Die Band paraphrasierte besonders eine konstruktivistische und kommunistische Ikonografie. Nachdem sie sich gegen Ende der 80er intensiv mit Bühnenperformance auseinandergesetzt hatte, waren Test Dept., ähnlich wie Cabaret Voltaire, im englischen Dance-Underground aktiv.


England, zwischen Ende der 70er und Mitte der 80er Jahre, in ein paar Spotlights zusammengefasst:

1977 war die Arbeitslosigkeit in England auf 1,3 Millionen gestiegen, soviel wie 1939. Der Winter des folgenden Jahres sollte als »Winter of Discontent« in die Geschichtsbücher eingehen, als es zu ausgedehnten Streiks der Gewerkschaften kam. In der Folge musste Premier James Callahan von der Labour Partei zurücktreten. Ihm folgte 1979 Margaret Thatcher.

1978: Die Debüt-Platte »2.nd Annual Report« der Band Throbbing Gristle brach mit ihren kruden Noise-Wällen in ein gesellschaftliches Szenario ein, das gefüllt war mit Agitation von linker und rechter Seite, von Streiks und Propaganda. Praktisch auf ihrem Höhepunkt brachte die Band die Nummer »Discipline« heraus, eine Art Blueprint sowohl für die Band wie für die herrschende Stimmung im Land. In selbst designten Tarnanzügen forderten sie ein: »We need some discipline in here!« Wo sonst als vor dem ehemaligen Berliner Propagandaministerium entstand das Cover zu dieser 12’’ von 1981. An diesem symbolträchtigen Ort kulminierten die Referenzrahmen der Band. Die in einer agitatorischen Strenge vorgetragenen Lyrics wurden in dieser Live-Nummer sukzessive von einem schier ohrenbetäubenden Lärm überlagert, ein Rhythmus, der durchaus tanzbar war und dazu die für TG typische Inversion der Inversion: Die nur wenig entschärfte Diktion der Nazi-Rhetorik wurde sinnigerweise auch über Manchester losgelassen, dem Geburtsort der industriellen Revolution. Über fast 10 quälende Minuten ist nun ein Live-Videomitschnitt zu sehen, in dem die menschlichen Verschleißteile der industriellen Revolution als augenscheinliche Katharsis herausgekotzt werden, in dem TG sich einen brachialen Exorzismus mit sich selbst und dem Publikum liefern. Von dort gab es kein Zurück mehr. Konsequenterweise löste sich TG im selben Jahr auf.

Der für England erfolgreiche Falklandkrieg 1982 mochte zwar zur Wiederwahl Margaret Thatchers maßgeblich beigetragen haben: Für die vielen Engländer, die sich mit einem massiven Sparprogramm besonders bei den Sozialausgaben konfrontiert sahen, war es indes nicht akzeptabel, einen Krieg zu führen, der 10.000km vom Mutterland entfernt stattfand. Durch starken Rückhalt in der Bevölkerung und im Parlament konnte Thatcher den einjährigen Bergarbeiterstreik im März 1985 für sich entscheiden. Damit ging eine drastische Reduzierung der Rechte der Gewerkschaften einher. Die Haltung Englands gegenüber der polnischen Solidarnosc-Bewegung war gespalten. Denn einerseits war die Arbeiterbewegung und ihre Gewerkschaften noch stark im englischen Selbstverständnis verhaftet, andererseits fiel eine Fraternisierung mit dem kommunistischen Polen von offizieller Tories-Seite nicht gerade leicht. Test Dept. beschrieben in einem Interview 1987 die Situation so: »They can support Solidarity by saying that it’s the Communists that are against them. And here they can put down the unions because they say that the Communists are behind them, too. In the early 80s the British government were openly supporting Solidarity, praising them and waving their flag. It was front page news – they had extended newscasts devoted to the Poland issue every day, and now it’s suddenly forgotten and buried.«[vi] – In dem nicht ganz pathosfreien, indes sehr eindringlichen Track »Shockwork« auf »Shoulder to Shoulder« exklamieren Test Dept.: »Justice to the miners, down with the police state! Victory for the miners, victory to all the working people!« – Daran anschließend die Nummer »Statement« von »Unacceptable Face of Freedom« als eine Art Verdichtung der Ereignisse des Bergarbeiterstreiks, konterkariert mit einer etwas elaborierteren und in einen breiteren gesellschaftlichen Rahmen gestellten Auseinandersetzung mit der Thematik Staat und Machtausübung.

Cabaret Voltaire dagegen waren wahrscheinlich die modernste Band der drei. Sie erkannten bereits sehr früh die Wirkung des Bildmediums in dem von vielen Industrialbands etwas pathetisch als »Information War« bezeichneten Diskurs um Massenkommunikation und den Einfluss der Bildmedien darauf. Das Video »Walls of Jericho« von 1981 ist eine Art Sammelsurium von Bildtabus. Aus heutiger Sicht ziemlich krude zusammenmontiert, ging es vor allem darum, ein rhythmisiertes Bilderarsenal zusammenzustellen. Dieses Video hat per se nur wenig mit den vorher dargestellten Beispielen linker oder rechter faschistischer Ästhetik zu tun. Vielmehr fand hier eine wesentlich unterschwelligere Okkupation des Körpers und der Sinne statt, die indes genauso vehement von der nuklearen Krise des Kalten Kriegs kündigt wie »Discipline« oder »Shockwork« davor. – Vorher noch die Nummer »Do the Mussolini Headkick«, einer der frühesten Tracks von Cabaret Voltaire von 1978. Mit einer seltsamen Mischung aus ein paar schrillen Synthesizer-Klängen, einer verzerrten Stimme und einem für die Band emblematischen Beat entstand neben »Baader Meinhof« wenig später die wahrscheinlich offensichtlichste politische Nummer der Band. Sie ist praktisch das Gegenstück zu DAFs »Tanz den Mussolini« von 1981. Hier findet allerdings eine bewusste Umdeutung oder Rekontextualisierung des faschistischen Gestus statt, indem – weit weniger offensichtlich – die Nummer mit einer Melodie daherkommt, die mehr als harmlos scheint.


So lassen sich einige politisch relevante Tendenzen im frühen Industrial bei Bands wie Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire und Test Dept. in eine Entwicklungslinie bringen, die mit existianzialistischer Gewalt den Körper in Frage stellte, ihn als ein Schlachtfeld territorialisierte, veritable Medien-Guerilla betrieb und mit bisher nie dagewesener Heftigkeit und vor allem Konsequenz versuchte, musikalisch, visuell und performativ der herrschenden politischen Situation Herr zu werden. Es galt, gegen das faschistische Erbe der Elterngeneration und die gesellschaftliche/ kulturelle/ künstlerische Vernichtungsmaschinerie anzugehen. Mit der unbändigen Schaffung, Bereitstellung und Dechiffrierung von medialen Inhalten, also mit der Gründung eigener Labels und Vertriebsstrukturen, jeder Menge Texten, Videos und Postern sollte die »Do it yourself«-Politik des Punk für das Medienzeitalter nutzbar zu machen, von großen Firmen und Organisationen unabhängig zu sein, ein Netzwerk aufzubauen und eine Gegenöffentlichkeit zu etablieren. Der englische Musikkritiker Brian Duguid fasste es 1995 so zusammen: »Throwing the establishment’s own excrements back into the throat is sure to result in a nauseous reaction. For groups intending on outraging society, fascism was a powerful weapon. [...] with methods you had for doing so were those that the authorities had themselves taught you.«[vii]

Industrial erklärte den Medien einen »Information War«. Aufgerieben zwischen der Überwindung der Hinterlassenschaften der faschistischen Elterngeneration und den kommunikativen Neupositionierungen des heraufdräuenden Massenmedienzeitalter, kamen diesen Bands die analogen Elektronik-Musikmaschinen zugute, mit denen die Funksignale einer im Popkontext längst vergessenen Zukunft von Futurismus, Konstruktivismus und Geräuschkunst eingefangen und tanzbar (!) gemacht wurden. Die Politik der Maschine synchronisierte sich einmal mehr mit der des Körpers, der Körper zur aktionistischen Kampfzone ausgeweitet. Nicht umsonst wurden die Materialaktionen des Wiener Aktionismus als körperinhärente Inspiration für Industrial zitiert, da diese das Stigma des »Volkskörpers« hinsichtlich Kollektivität und Physikalität als Tabubruch in der Entschuldungskultur der späten 60er Jahre radikal instrumentalisierten. Was an sich klar auf der Hand liegt, wenn man sich vergegenwärtigt, dass die hier beschriebenen Bands großteils aus einem Performance-Kontext kamen, der als Interventionen im öffentlichen Raum meist den eigenen Körper zum Ziel hatte. Auch klar, dass praktisch die einzige diskursfähige oder zumindest referenzielle Band für den Industrial Velvet Underground waren, deren Noise-Wälle und devianten Sex-Transgressionen mit den Erfordernissen technologisch vermittelter Musikpraktiken kompatibel gemacht wurden. Was nicht heißt, dass Joy Division hierbei ausgelassen werden soll. Viele Überschneidungen mit dieser sehr einflussreichen Band aus Manchester wären zu erörtern, die genug Stoff für einen weiteren Vortrag liefern würden.

Nur wenige bemerkten die humoristische Erdung dieser kathartischen Exzesse. Während im »The Great Dictator« (1940) Charlie Chaplin seiner Hitler-Persiflage Hynkel noch die Worte »Die Freiheit ist hassenswert« in den Mund legte, generierten TG gut 40 Jahre später eine durch William S. Burroughs u.a. inspirierte Decodierung der Sehnsuchtsprojektion Freiheit in Richtung »Freedom is a sickness«.

Freiheit als Krankheit, als Syndrom einer Gesellschaft, die für ihre systematische Krankheit zwecks Machterhaltung meistens nur kranke Agitationen bereitstellt. Die Frage stellt sich natürlich, ob es klug, sinnvoll etc. ist, Gewalt mit Gewalt zu konfrontieren. Mit der von diesen Bands ziemlich offen vorgetragenen Nazi-Rhetorik war es klar, dass diese Nazi-Sympathisanten anziehen würde, denn nicht jeder tut sich die Mühe an, die vielen kleinen Fährten und Spuren zu decodieren, die über das künstlerische Output wie eine Art makroskopischer Rahmen gelegt wurden. Für die Bands damals schien das ein wesentlich effizienteres Vorgehen als sich um subliminale Strategien zu bemühen. Diese rüde Haltung des »Schau her, so bin ich. Love or leave it« ist natürlich auch eine, die einem faschistoiden Gedankengut zuspricht. Weswegen diese Bands auch als »unzugänglich« galten/ gelten, weil sie, die produktionstechnische Freiheit im Rücken, nicht an Major-Plattenverträge gebunden waren, in mehr oder weniger politische Weise aktiv waren, diese Statements in Musik und multimediale Kunst umsetzten und so nicht nur verstörten sondern heftig polarisierten.

Das hat nichts damit zu tun, dass sie laute oder »extreme« Musik machten. Im Gegenteil: Attali weist nach, dass seit der Antike jede Musik, so sie revolutionär ist, als »Noise« empfunden wird, der die hegemoniale Ordnung der Gesellschaft durcheinander bringt, für semantisches Chaos sorgt, weil sich ökonomische und musikalische Strömungen seit jeher simultan entwickeln. Zur gleichen Zeit, also Anfang der 80er, trieb auch die unabhängige Video- und Super-8-Szene einmal mehr ihr »Unwesen«. Alle drei hier beschriebenen Bands nutzten den visuellen Kanal, da klar war, dass Fernsehen oder zumindest visuelle Informationsverarbeitung eine stärkere, weil direktere Verbindung zum Publikum herstellen konnte. Industrialmusiker als ziemlich klassische Bilderstürmer. Weshalb bei Live-Konzerten oft Ausschnitte aus Avantgarde-Filmen, gegengeschnitten mit KZ-Filmen oder Euthanasie-Videos mit militärischen Lehrfilmen zusammenmontiert wurden. John Fiske schreibt in »Media Matters«: »The saying ‘the camera cannot lie’ is inaccurate and out of date but not stupid, for it does point the key differences between words and photography in terms of the immediacy and totality of the social control that can be exerted over them.«[viii]

Diese Vorboten des Informationszeitalters wurden durch den aktuellen Komplex des »Empire« mit neuer politischer Weltordnung und neoliberalem Grundtenor einmal mehr aktualisiert. Während die durchschnittliche Popmusik ja meist daran interessiert ist, den Hörer ruhig zu stellen, sollten mit diesen akustischen und visuellen Manifestationen Anschläge auf das alte System verübt, die Zuhörer echt rangenommen und an die Grenzen des Erträglichen gebracht und – wie bei jeder nachhaltig ernstzunehmenden Kunstströmung – an den Grundfesten der Gesellschaft gerüttelt werden.

Diese Brechung und Decodierung ist einer jener Vorläufer der Aneignung politischer Inhalte auf der »Spielwiese« namens Pop, auf der alles erlaubt zu sein scheint, wenn etwa heutzutage T-Shirts mit Images von z.B. Che Guevara oder der RAF in »modebewussten« Klamottenläden um die Ecke zu haben sind.


Selektive Leseliste/ further reading:

Heinrich Deisl: 10 auf der nach oben offenen VU-Skala. Sonische Symptome: Noise. In: skug – Journal für Musik. #64, 09-11/05, Wien, 24f.
Gilles Deleuze/ Felix Guattari (1986): Nomadology. The War Machine. Semiotext(e). University of Minnesota Press/ Columbia University, New York.
Simon Dwyer: From Atavism to Zyklon B. Genesis P-Orridge& Thee Temple of PsychicYouth. In: Simon Dwyer [Ed.](1995): Rapid Eye 1. Creation Books, London.
Simon Ford (1999): The Wreckers of Civilisation. The Story of COUM Transmissions& Throbbing Gristle. Black Dog Publishing, London.
RoseLee Goldberg (2001): Performance Art from Futurism to the Present. Thames& Hudson, London.
Michael Hardt/ Antonio Negri (2003): Empire. Die neue Weltordnung. Campus, Frankfurt/ New York.
Dick Hebdige (1979/ 2005): Subculture. The Meaning of Style. Routledge, London/ New York.
Terry Wilson/ Brian Gysin (2001): Here to go. Brian Gysin. Preface& additional text: William S. Burroughs. Creation Books, New York.
Tom Holert/ Mark Terkessidis (2002): Entsichert. Krieg als Massenkultur im 21. Jahrhundert. Kiepenheuer& Witsch, Köln.
Robert H. King [Ed.](1993): Total. Vol. 2: The Body. Total Press, Glasgow.
Greil Marcus (1992): Lipstick Traces. Von Dada bis Punk: Eine geheime Kulturgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts. Rowohlt, Reinbek / Hamburg.
Allucquère Rosanne Stone (1995): The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass./ London.
V. Vale/ Andea Juno (1992): Re/Search: The Industrial Culture Handbook. #6/7. Re/Search Publications, San Francisco.


[i] Jacques Attali (1985/ 2002): Noise. The Political Economy of Music. Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 16, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis/ London, 4.
[ii] Felix Denk: Throbbing Gristle. 5/07/04. www.de-bug.de/texte/3322.html
[iii] Georg Seeßlen (1994): Tanz den Adolf Hitler. Faschismus in der populären Kultur. Ed. Tiamat, Critica Diabolis 47, Berlin, 175.
[iv] Stuart Home (²1991): The Assault on Culture. Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War. AK Press, Sterling, 81.
[v] Mark Sinker: Destroy all music. The Futurists: Art of Noises. In: Undercurrents. The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music. Continuum, London, 2003, 186.
[vi] Test Dept. In: Charles Neal (²1992): Tape Delay. SAF, London, 166.
[vii] Brian Duguid: The Unacceptable Face of Freedom. 1995. http://media.hyperreal.org/zines/est/articles/freedom.html
[viii] John Fiske (1994): Media Matters. Everyday Culture and Political Change. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis/ London, 222.