The Noise Arts

The Delta Brainwave Society is a Divers Noise Arts Collective. But what, you may ask, are the noise arts?

Noise arts is a catchall term. If it is produced with the mindset or noise art, it is. This, naturally, cannot be the only designator of what makes an art ‘noise’. Indeed not. Intention would never be so solely magnified. Noise arts can only, however, be provisionally defined. They are the aspects of the arts that highlight the gaps, the breakages, the ruptures, the limitations, the failures. They are the strange stranger, the heretic that can never be orthodoxicized. They are the fringe. Sometimes for the delight of the fringe and sometimes because they have been pushed away by everyone and everything else and it simply where they find themselves. “No one ever plans to sleep out in the gutter / Sometimes that’s just the most comfortable place.”

Perhaps, when it comes down to it, the simplest way to phrase it is this:

Life is a noise art.

We are culturally programmed to narrativise. Most of us see ourselves as some version of the protagonist of our own story. We want to find the meaning written into cultural products (novels, movies, pop songs) in our day to day. It is never really there. Life is too erratic, unplanned, unpredictable, chaotic in its normalcy for that. Life is too alive. This is where the desire to claim a divine (but unknowable but I’m still certain it exists even though all evidence is to the contrary) plan comes from. There is no plan, divine or otherwise. 

But in embracing the noise of life, in making art of it, we gain a fair measure of understand and a potential level of control. 

Don’t Panic. 

The human life is the art. It is an extended aesthetic project (often unknowing & unwitting). But acceptance of the noise and art of living leads into the further noise arts. If one’s life is embraced as noise, so to one’s music, speech, writing, film&video, etc. 

This is art as the expression of living as noise. There is no meaning save living as noise. The art is an extension of the life. The life is an extension of the primal chaos. 

The greatest American liberty

The greatest American liberty is to be left alone to do and say as one pleases (ending at (just the) tip of the other’s nose).

You can call this religious liberty or freedom of speech or any other sociopolitical semantic construction you desire. What many of the conservatives in the room seem to be forgetting of late is that this live and let die policy demands that you don’t get upset by what you see if you insist on being a voyeur and spying on your neighbors.

Exponentially worse than the linguistic decision to allow literally (because of such rampant misuse) to also be defined as figuratively, is the application of law to enforce ‘religious’ liberty. Liberty is based on what one can be forced to do or kept from doing (or, rather, the absence of that force). It is not (in any way) based on what one can be asked to tolerate, to accept, to understand, to learn about, or to accept as fully human. Religious liberty (or liberty of any legally enforceable kind) is unrelated to what one may or may not agree with (despite deeply held beliefs). Otherwise my religious liberty invalidates your capitalism and willingness to destroy the planet.

Given that so many of those ‘deeply held beliefs’ are based on modern interpretations of ancient, translated writing  (mythologic, figurative, and often marked by extreme poetic license) the claim becomes even more tenuous. Social reality is based on consensual construction and shared meaning. Liberty is not, and cannot, be based on the attempt to force shared meaning, especially such culturally specific (in this case evangelical) meaning. The inability to accept that meaning is constructed or the inability to believe that history did not happen the way one wants to believe it did is not a basis upon which to insist that others blindly follow the path of ignorance. One is entitled, in America, to be ignorant and useless. One is not empowered to insist that the government protect that ignorance or force it upon others.

Powering Down: towards equalization

Knowledge only becomes power in the absence of power.

 

Power, as exercised through force be it violence, coercion, ideology, money, or influence, is not an exercise in ignorance, is not without knowledge. But the truism ‘knowledge is power’ is false so far as it concerns the pursuit of knowledge as such, knowledge in the form of science or philosophy or education for education’s sake (and not the sake of employment, etc.). Consider this: scientists overwhelmingly know that the globe is warming, that the climate is changing, that the oceans are acidifying, that more are more species are going extinct. This knowledge has not, in any real sense, given them the power to change policy to actually do something about it.

Knowledge should directly translate to power and thus education to empowerment but at present it does not. And changing an ‘ought’ to an ‘is’ is no small matter.

Instead, force is power. Force, like knowledge, is currently unequally distributed. Force, unlike knowledge, is not well suited to equal distribution. The solution is not to give everyone nuclear launch codes or even their own gun but instead to reduce the individual and collective capacity for violence across the board. And then to move from a power economy based on force to one more adapted to knowledge – a ‘commodity’ (not that I like to think of it as such) far more suited to equal distribution if efforts were made and resources made available (combined with a completely revised philosophy of education and its purpose).
As an interesting digression, one might be compelled to speculate as to whether human technological advancement has actually hindered our biological evolution. Technology, in a significant majority of contemporary cases, is created to solve social needs and problems created by previous technologies not biological needs. What biological purpose do guns serve? Certainly, as a ranged weapon, they extend the lethality of the human body in hunting and the pursuit of food. But the capacity of firearms to hunt actually exceeds the human need. It might be noted here that the current human population of earth is only supported through advancements in technology (agriculture, etc). But that begs the question of the current human population vs. overpopulation/the carrying capacity of the planet for human life. Is 7.2 billion sustainable? Or the projected 10? Sustainable for whom? For what? And in what sense? One might also question modern medicine. Certainly medical and hygienic advances have extended the length and raised the quality of human life. But much medical advancement has been in areas that industrialization, pollution, and technological advancement have directly caused.

What evolutionary benefit has technology offered vs what they have hindered? (“so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”)

I think it is fair to say that media are the extensions of man and we have become over-extended. Our reach has exceeded our (and the planet’s, and our fellow living creatures’) capacity to adapt. Our rate of (technologically enhanced) change is matched only by those species that have coevolved with us – maize, rats, toy dog breeds, superbugs. Perhaps future of the Anthopocene will be humans living in disinfected bio-enclosures (both terrestrial and orbiting) with our HFCS and miniature pugs while superbugs and rats enter an evolutionary arms race for who will dominate the hot sweltering open air.

 

This circles back to the original thought. Power as force and the capacity for force needs to be reduced and eliminated. The concept of political empowerment and enfranchisement should not focus on extending the individual and collective capacity for force to more and more people but on reducing that capacity overall. The capacity for annihilation should not be possessed, desired, or sought (“I suppose I could part with one doomsday device and still be feared.”). Moreover, incidental or accidental annihilation (antibiotics have created superbugs and carbon emissions are driving climate change) needs to be better understood and equally avoided. Through knowledge and the power that it would convey in the absence of force.

borrowed words (power of the commons)

reagan's 3rd sotu

reagan's 3rd sotu2

reagan's 3rd sotu3

reagan's 3rd sotu4

reagan's 3rd sotu5

reagan's 3rd sotu6

reagan's 3rd sotu7

reagan's 3rd sotu8

reagan's 3rd sotu9

reagan's 3rd sotu10

reagan's 3rd sotu11

 

 

 

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The source text used here is Ronald Reagan’s Third State of the Union Speech (delivered on January 25, 1984). Nothing has been added. This is not an effort to create a strawman Reagan but rather an experiment to show the creative, poetic, and theoretical potential within contextomy. Reagan was used because he remains a polarizing figure but also because State of the Union addresses are in the public domain. The power of the commons.

 

On not being special: privilege, flags, religion

 

You are not special.

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My thought is a wide ranging mélange of conflicting, contradictory, dissonant ideas juxtaposed to bring out the beauty of noise. There are reasons I study what I do in the ways I do it.

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Recent events (do I need to bother linking to whichever version of these stories you have/haven’t read yet?) have once again brought (White/cis/male/hetero/American/Western/capitalist/human/etc.) privilege under attack. Deservedly. Privilege needs to be continually acknowledge and its dismantling is not an easy or straightforward process but a necessary one. What privilege essentially claims is that you are special, you are exceptional, you are exempt, you are good-better-best. This is simply and obviously untrue. For numerous reasons. I will note here, briefly, one that stands out to me, that fits with my perspective and position as a knowing bearer of privilege, aware and desirous of its decay.

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Privilege requires power to be implemented and there are plenty of sources in which one can research the forms of power (institutional, ideological, religious, historical, martial, etc.) and how they have been and continue to be used to establish zones and forms of privilege and exception. This is an example of those who make the most noise, who have the power to make the most noise, are allowed (or allow themselves) to make the most noise.

Privilege requires authority, though, if it is to be conceived, if it is to be thought and articulated as a political/philosophical position. Appeals to god(s), Science, Nature, Force, etc. are used to develop and explicate this necessary bedrock of authority from which privilege and exception (and violence, and oppression) can emanate.

However, as a nihilist, I acknowledge no authorities-as-such. There is no purpose, no prima causa, or principle of sufficient reason to the universe. Things exist. Indifferently. Thus, we (and this ‘we’ can include any grouping of anything) are not special. We are unique in that everything is unique and hyperdifferentiated. It doesn’t matter.

If there are no transcendent authorities (no gods, no monolithic True Science, no actual Pristine Nature) and Force maintains a tenuous grasp once decoupled from mythos, then there can be no privilege. I am no better than, no more important than, the couch I am sitting on, the river I can see from my bedroom window, the molecules that make up the air I breathe. Note here, even in my posthuman musings, I am still bound to a certain anthropocentrism. I am human; I can only think and act as human. It is my effort to push my thought (and actions) away from privileging my status and standpoint (as white, as male, as cis, as human, etc) but those categories remain and (some are not fully escapable, constructed though they may be). But I will never be able to know how a rock (or a Vampyroteuthis infernalis) thinks, understands, or æffects the world (note how anthropocentric the terms of relation already are).

After that, perhaps distracting, digression into a vague ontology, let me bring this back to what set this post rolling.

Breitbart (who don’t need more links) has a post up demanding the taking down of the Gay Pride flag because it is “Fascist” and “Anti-Christian.” I am sure that they believe that this is a very apt and clever response to the demand for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from state and federal property. The fact that it isn’t should be more than obvious. A symbol of struggle against oppression is not the same as a symbol of oppression. Funny how phrases that use some of the same words don’t always mean the same things (that is why I like to work with contextomy as an attack on authority and entrenched power but it doesn’t work as well as a straw man argument). But what the claim surrounding this retort amounts to is that these conservatives and christians want to be treated like they are special, like their hurt feelings matter regardless of their position as privileged.

Now, you might begin to see a slight flaw in this argument. I noted its potential and am thus now, again, digressing. If all things were equal, the desire to remove the Confederate Battle flag would be just as much a claim for a special exemption as the desire for the removal of the Gay Pride flag. All things are not equal. No one starts the race from the same point. This brings us to a question of values. As there are no inherent values in an indifferent universe, societies must choose and establish values. For me, the drive towards equality is an important one. If everyone were equal, had equal opportunity and equal access, got equal pay, and was treated as equally human we (as a human society) would be a lot better off and arguments about flags and racism would be irrelevant. But we are not equal and pretending that we are does not erase that fact. Pretending that racism is gone is something only those in a position of privilege can think that they do (even as they exercise the privileges established by institutional racism).

It is because there are no authorities that we have the freedom (and duty) to make a better society. It is also why we have the freedom and duty to make a better world (which would require denying human privilege and exceptionalism, but perhaps that is another post). Of course it is also why we have the freedom to be colossal fuckups using force, violence, oppression, and mythology to establish unequal societies that rape and pillage the land, the planet, the Other, the environment, etc. etc. etc.

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We are not special. We are to blame.

neither an oppressor nor a victim be …

In my previous post, I made some effort to address what I see as a root failing in American educational outlook, in what we, as a society, consider education to be for or what, which is perhaps more pertinent, we use it for in the majority of cases (funneling bodies into jobs). That was the most salient point of the article as I first read it: that students don’t want to be challenged but coddled in the most cursory (and illusory) for of ‘acceptance.’

 

That was not, and is not, what seems to be generating the most controversy around essay. A brief glance would say that the reaction to the post was proof of its contents (there are many that are too quick to be victimized or too quick to be oppressors or both). That is not sufficiently nuanced.

 

The essay itself had a number of troubling points for me. This is why I, initially, focused on what I did leaving the misinformed and inaccurate (but aren’t they always) barbs of ‘nihilism’ alone, leaving the disparaging view of cultural studies alone, not bothering to critique the signature of anonymity, not fully questioning the foolish approach of critiquing Twitter posts for being insufficiently nuanced, etc.

 

Perhaps that is necessary.

 

I am a nihilist. There are many nihilisms, but this one is mine: the universe is indifferent. Welcome to the Infinite Perspective Vortex. When the Abyss gazes back, it gazes not stares because staring is rude and the Abyss isn’t looking at you, you aren’t important as far as the Abyss is concerned (which is isn’t because it isn’t anthropomorphic).

 

There is a reason this note comes first. It removes all appeals to authority.

 

The views on nihilism that the references but does not define (treating it as a universally abhorred bogeyman) are superficial at best. They just upset me.

 

Cultural Studies did not create a world of victims or oppressors. It is necessary, given that culture is all we have a humans, to look at what we use to define ourselves, to critique it and, often, to attempt to change it. Culture is not opposed to Nature. Cultural Studies is not opposed to Science (or science). There is no nature, there is no divide between nature and culture. There is the world and we are embedded. Science is wholly part of culture and they are all manifestations of anthropogenic noise marking our territory in an unimpressed cosmos. Is science biased towards the Patriarchy? Yes. It is part of the culture and paradigm of science as it has developed in the Western World and remains as part of the legacy of science in the world today. Does that invalidate science as a whole? No. And it certainly does not invalidate the scientific method. What it does instead is demand a challenging (look we are back to this) of the assumptions and paradigms of science, its factishes and practices. That would be the point of Science Studies and the philosophy of science. They do good work, I like Stengers and Latour. That a Twitter post was unable to convey the nuance of monographs and journal articles of academic science studies research is so patently obvious that the point should be irrelevant.

 

Then there is the signature of anonymity (pseudonymity). What does it mean to sign with a false signature? What does it mean to sign with a false signature but then quote with a Twitter handle (which are occasionally their own brand of pseudonymous signatures but I do not believe that was the case here). There were accusations of hiding, of cowardice. Is it cowardice to sign falsely? To sign falsely while not allowing others to do the same? If the pseudonymity was out of fear of reprisal did not the author consider the reprisal that the Twitter author would (and did) receive? I will not address questions of the right to quote (with attribution) from Twitter. Quotation without permission is a staple of the free use of copyright necessary for academic freedom (this is the proper MLA format for citing a tweet).

 

Dealing with those issues then brings me to my brief conclusions. There are a recent changes in media and discourse (social media, text messages and their brevity, tv punditry, etc, etc) that have given society over to an increase of seeing life in the binaries of oppressor/victim, us/them, offensive/accepting. There are no binaries save the ones that voltage gates allow in computers, et al, and that is only through an express limiting of analog continuity. Are more people seeing themselves as victims and/or oppressors? It seems like it. But the internet makes everything louder and seemingly more prominent. Is that binary (and the others) a bad thing? Yes. Will pseudonymously complaining about it change much? Doubtful. Especially when that complaining refuses to embrace the comforts of nihilism that demand that we solve our own problems because we are otherwise alone.

 

We are embedded in this world (despite all claims to dominance and separation) and only through embracing that embeddedness, the non-binaristic greyscale, the nihilism, can we cut through the useless blather and banter and come to understand the underlying chaos and un/hyper/differentiated realities of which we are only a small (but significant to ourselves – highly recommended by owner) part.

on whether to challenge

I read this article this morning.

As both a precarious academic and a dreaded black pit of nihilism …

Where to begin?

Students are entitled. It is known.

I have had students (who hasn’t?) who have complained that I have no respected their strongly held beliefs (mostly those with naive conservatism mixed with normative patriarchal racism and sexism). They left negative reviews. They were few. My administration was supportive.

My theories can be edgy, controversial, abrasive, challenging, confusing, etc. But I have kept most of my personal thinking and research out of my teaching as I have only taught entry level courses. Which is not to say that I do not try to challenge my students, make them question their beliefs, and develop sustained arguments for their claims. That’s what teaching is. Critical and creative thinking skills are what I believe education should be based on and geared towards. Based on this essay though, it seems I’ve been getting off easy. I knew I was pulling punches in those classes but mostly because there is only so much that can be conveyed to kids fresh out of high school and standardized tests and I didn’t want to lose or disinterest them. But what would be the point of teaching if you can’t actually teach?

Personally, research. I am passionate about my research, about the act of research, and my eccentric research methodologies. I like teaching because it is a means of conveying my passion for knowledge and sustained inquiry. And accepting teaching as the cost of being able to have the time and means to do research is a small and often rewarding ‘burden.’

It would disappoint me if teaching falls to the wayside as universities seek to offer their customers the best experiences for their money, if classroom hours are devoted to reaffirming deeply held beliefs and widely believed facts as well as appreciating things that we all like. But as more an more students come to see college as little more than an extended credentialing process (I need this class because it is required for my degree, I need the degree to get a job, I need a job because something) and less as a place of inquiry and exploration & a means of developing into an informed and engaged citizen, perhaps such a change is inevitable. And if that is the way the winds are blowing, why not just give the people what they want? Sure, I have ideas about what is best in life (To crush your enemies …) but forcing a love of knowledge on someone isn’t going to happen when they are 18. This is a symptom of an issue that is at the root of many of the problems in American education today: what is the purpose of education? And if the purpose of American education is to train workers for jobs then the idea of challenging students’ beliefs is no longer pertinent.

Am I ok with that? It’s not ideal but there are other battles to fight. You reach the ones you can and if the rest just want to pass through on their paths to a dream job in the sky, so long as they meet the benchmarks it is what it is. I have no plans for drinking hemlock any time soon.