Re: [-empyre-] contra noiseless art

Hi Johannes (please forward to Paulo -- invite him, maybe),

Thank you bringing still another voice. As I told you, I came more or
less by chance to know Paulo's work many years ago, and it has let me
a strong impression. I was happy to hear about him from you, as your
work also has made a strong impression on me -- and this should serve
as a good opening for what I'll try to say, always facing the
challenge of expressing my positions in English.

So, I have to reply to Paulo's reading of my notion of noiseless, and
I must say that I don't think so. I'll try to answer these comments,
and this will make things more complicated -- I hope.

As I use to say nowadays, I'm an optimist -- except in what relates to reality.

(So, life is great, but the world is under a frightening
technification of all levels of experience, including art)

However, such a position cannot satisfy, since future is not done --
it's up to us, in a larger or shorter measure, to make it. So, we look
for openings. (for Benjamin's Messiah to come?)

First of all, to think that the meaning of technologies rely solely on
the way we use it, as if they were neutral in themselves, seems to me
a very naive position in face of the radical changes technology has
fostered in our contemporary experience -- it's a position that lies
in the pleasures of control this machine offers, it could even be

For me, the question is embedded more or less in what follows .

-- Benjamin has noticed that technologies interfere in the way we
perceive and make meaning of our experience in the world.

I hope it is ok, up to here. So,

-- Benjamin develops different arguments on that. For example, showing
that the "camera submits human beings to a test, in which the winers
are the movie-star and the dictator" (this is not a precise quote).
Obviously -- somebody has commented on this here --, he doesn't mean
that the movie star, herself or himself, is the winner, and not the
industry she/he personifies: this is understood, since his analysis is
a marxist approach (but not only that) to the questions of economical,
political and symbolical relations in mass culture in the thirties. By
such examples, he means, ironically, that the empowerement of human
figure through its spetacularization as a result of being mechanically
reproduced leads to such social phenomena as "movie-stars" and

Take in one hand the star-system, and in the other Leni Reifnestahl's
movies and the importance of radio and cinema in the Nazi propaganda
(aesthetization of politics);

-- Also, he writes about the "objectivity" of the camera as the
surgeon, as oposed to the magic of the quakster: the eye of the camera
is the eye of science -- which turns all things and beings into
objects. Remember camera lens is called "objective" (Andre Bazin
develops a whole theory of cinema based on this kind of objetctivity
offered by the camera).

Important Corolary: the image offered by cinematic apparatus ennacts a
perceptual experience which is promiscually related to the
epistemological matrix from which it emerges.

( This doesn't mean cinema is entirely condemned for the very fact
that it is the apex of a certain modernity, that of mechanical science
-- in one hand, we notice that it incarnates some of the the most
important atributes of such model: narrativity, objectivity,
mechanical reproducibility commodity, appropriation of reality through
pieces and through visual representation, for example; but on the
other, of course, it's an amazing tool for expression and thinking --
we all love different directors and authors, in narrative or
experimental cinema. That the corolary above is not dismissed by this
can be noticed in the fact that this cinema we love is far from being
the hegemonic model.)

But there's something else to be noticed in these observations above:

-- by sugesting that the photo and cinema experience interferes in
perception -- for example, opens a "visual unconscious", thorugh which
we perceive previously unnoticed visual dayly realities -- he
anticipates McLuhan's thesis of media re-shaping our perception;


-- by suggesting that cinema ennacts a perceptual experience that is
related to the kind of  knowledge from which it emerges, he
anticipates aspects of Flusser's thesis of the black-box.

(Hamed cited Beckett's "Film": the way I see it, this great movie
supports all such positions)

Well, this is a possible reading of Benjamin's article -- at least I
think so. I think people
take attention to more discussed points of that incredible text, but
such points are there, and some of them can find support in others of
his writtings.

Ater this, I'll try to be brief.

-- Of course, the impressive power of personal computers and digital
technology -- its appropriation of all language as data, able to
circulate (immaculate flux) through planetary networks that presently
tend to swallow the totality of our experience, since they mediate all
aspects of contemporary experience, from sex to war -- gives us the
illusion of great noise;

That's one of the ways by which digital apparatuses ennact an
experience related to the the knowledge matrix from which they emerge
(information theory, cybernetics): it presents the whole lived
experience as available to be easily manipulated, so we have hip-hop
and all  kinds of recombination cultural artifacts and art-works. The
whole history of human culture -- at least that which can be expressed
in some kind of language -- is available to be freely manipulated in
the informational matrix where reality is turned into data (to a point
where there's no difference between real and virtual, human or machine
-- human is a genetic code, a program, thus is available to be

[I've seen a lecture of Ray Kurzweil two days ago. In fact, I'd
written a long account of that grotesque episode, which I've decided
not to send to this list, because I didn't want to talk too much, as a
mod. He was introduced as a kind of "father of XXIst century".
However, what's his landscape of the future, if not that of a world
without noise? A world of complete redemption though the power of
technology over reality (and minds, of course), where everything works
perfectly, and we have neither viruses, nor illnesses, nor pain -- we
have even... immortality!]

(take Brave New World. and most science-fiction classics: see if
there's art on their landscapes of the future, be them utopical or

But, then, the semiothical powers of computers and such networks give
us a seemingly noisy world. However, all this noise relies on a
technology that depends on informational flux to work -- depends on
being, in it's foundings, noiseless. Depends on our hability to turn
all our thinking in data and algorythms, that -- may we have bugs or
whatever challenges they bring for us to program a code that works --
are supposed to allow perfect, calculated, data flux, which is so
powerfull that we can even program sequences that seem randomical.
However, such randomic surfaces rely in very precise algorithms and
calculations. This is no novelty at all;

And, just like cinema offered a perceptual experience which is closed
related to the model of thinking from which it emerges, such amazing
technology does quite the same: it stages a perceptual experience
which -- be it seemingly noisy -- happens as the actualization of a
calcullus, and presents the world and our experience as that of a
unbelievable command over all things that can be converted into data.
So noise becomes, in terms of the perceptual experience it fosters,

Of course, this does not close all the possibilities -- as classical
cinema didn't. But, just like it happened with cinema, divergent ways
of taking profit of such power are minority. We have an explosion, a
deluge of technical images -- to use Flusser expression -- that are
the agent of a perceptual experience that make us perceive the world
as -- ok, let's use Heidegger's expression -- "standing reserve", as
available to manipulation through calculus and through the convertion
of all our experience into information. This aplies to the way
contemporary societies eat, work, love, have fun, make noise:
calculus, efficiency, productivity, control.

So here's the challenge: art as perceptual guerrilla, because it is
supposed to chalenge hegemonical ways of making meaning of our
contemporary experience. It is supposed to make us aware of the way we
are making meaning of the world as perceived through the omnipresence
of digital stuff. It should not, must not, be thought in terms of
perceptual terrorism, because I don't feel the word "terrorism" should
be thought of in positive terms. It should not be legitimated, so
"guerrilla" sounds better.

I may be making things more complicated than they seem to be: some
radical works may be reinforcing the dominant paradigm in spite of
challenging it. Will it stop us from making art? I hope not. We
probably need art more than ever. But I think this has to be taken in
account by those developing art works -- that is: how to conceive
poetical landscapes that could not be appropriated by calculus, that
remember us all continually that experience cannot be converted into
data, even through a technological support which is now absolutely
unavoidable. Call it, maybe, a conflict bewteen surface X code -- but
it's not just that.

Flusser, in his book "Lingua e realidade" (Language and reality,
issued in Brazil in 1963)
plays with Einstein's words "God don't play dice". It happens that in
portuguese "dice" is the same word for "data". So "God do not play
data". It's not calcullable at all.

My feeling is that such reflections may help us slow down and be more
careful before being euphorical about the possibilities opened by
digital means. I don't think all this so called noise is noisy at all
-- look far more like a deluge of untaught informational entropy, with
strong impact on the way we perceive our lives, our desires, each

McLuhan: "(...) For the 'content' of a medium is like the juicy peace
of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watch-dog of the mind."

Let's think about the burglar for a while.

regards from brazil


On 11/9/06, Johannes Birringer <> wrote:
dear all

After posting my last comments and refering to composer Paulo C. Chagas, sharing with him the initial proposition for our November debate, Paulo sent me a letter of response that he wishes to share with the list, and i think it offers some good ideas to look carefully again at Hamed's reference to a negative theology. Perhaps we also need to look back at Sergio's notion of a negative utopia and understand his proposal as polemical and ironic.

Paulo Chagas writes:

I think it is a huge mistake to assume that the digital technology aims to
reduce the noise of the world. I don't see any sign of such a utopia.

In digital music, for example, music became an essential component of any sound synthesis process. There is even an aesthetics called "noise", which is very popular in Japan and Europe. Did Sérgio never hear hip-hop music? This is pure noise both as sound and cultural phenomena.

In opposition of Basbaum, I believe that the whole digital thinking
intensifies the role of noise and randomness in your life and
society. Kittler says that when he analyses the meaning of Shanon's
theory of information. Flusser, although he doesn't talk about noise,
emphasizes the chaotic nature of network communication. Sérgio is
developing a linear interpretation of digital technology. There is no
noiseless world at all, but a chaotic world where individual and
relationships are been submitted to a process of re-construction
which is essentially a re-introduction of noise in our lives. Digital
technology makes clear how noise is part of your system. Putting it
in terms of Deleuze&Guattari, digital technology has a powerful
capacity of deterriolializing our "milieus" and generating all kinds
of noise.

Benjamin was a marxist and Sérgio is making the mistake of projecting
marxist thinking to his analysis of the impact of technology in
current society. I highly recommend him to review the fundamentals of
his thesis. Everything is noise today, go to the movies and you see
and hear noise, see the people with i-pods on the streets connected
to the world through noise. Come to California and you understand the
noisy nature of technology. Walk on the streets of downtown São Paulo
and see the people selling and consuming piracy technology. If piracy
is not a noise I don't know what it should be. Our current
environment is all noise and digital technology is embodiment of
noise; it articulates noise in the social system.

I believe that Sérgio's view of noise and digital technology is
marked by the idea of reproducibility of the medium, in the sense
that digital media reproduces sound and images without noise. But he
has to see that digital reproduction creates its own noise, which is
from a different kind that the  noise generated by analogical
processes such those described by Benjamin. Digital technology
generates noise that have impact such as social, economic, cultural,
genre, etc. For example, the essence of the "hackers" culture is to
introduce noise in the system of digital communication. Terrorism is
another kind of noise, as also piracy and many other things that
haunts and threats our existence. Even the nuclear energy, which is
essentially a liberation of noise, benefits from digital technoloy.
This is what matter in our world, because this is how we use technology.

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