City as Museum / City as Instrument: new possibilities for sound and the city



See end of article for details of Locative Audio event on 29th June.

It’s an exciting time to be a composer or sound artist. Innovations in and new connections between methodology, technology and creative practice are creating a host of new possibilities for the sonic exploration of experience. NOVARS, the Research Centre for Electro Acoustic Composition and Sound Art at the University of Manchester work at the cutting edge of this new territory. So what are these developments? To keep it simple here we will talk about two, both of which relate to space.

The first concerns the composition and performance of sound in relation to space. Composition tools and performance environments are becoming increasingly sophisticated through collaboration and feedback between composers, musicians, researchers and engineers. For example, virtual 3-dimensional environments and multi-speaker matrix diffusion sound systems mean that composers and sound artists are increasingly able to realise…

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Line of Flight

I am currently working out some ideas in relation to Google Street View that I will be presenting at the Deleuze conference next week. I am exploring the concepts of the Molar, the Molecular, and the Line of Flight as they pertain to the user practices of Google Street View. In this case, the Molar would be considered uses as anticipated by Google, such as way-finding, real estate, etc.  Molecular uses are innovative, but used to primarily augment an established molar line, such as using it to conduct street audits; or perhaps something along the lines of using GSV as a backdrop, like a video game. A Line of Flight becomes a creative act that surpasses- and advances- existing uses, and fundamentally alters how we might conceive of the use-value of GSV.  For this paper, I am particularly interested in the artistic practices that have emerged as a result of this visual archive. 

As I worked through the paper, it feels clear that conceptually, this is a helpful strategy, using these conceptual categories. It feels a bit murky though, somewhat arbitrarily assigning some to a molecular category, and others to a line of flight. I think it supports D & G in their statement that the molar and the molecular lines crisscross, and sometimes the shift is imperceptible. The relational aspect is key, and this is precisely where the murkiness begins (and which is where I get interested…). I think this is where the plane of immanence, the overall plane and our individual planes, really take shape. Some user practices may seem very commonplace to a certain segment of the population, and might seem completely innovative to others; those that either have never used GSV, or have only used it in small instances. One example might be the use of GSV to ‘travel the world’, which might seem novel to some, whereas in many instances it is becoming a common practice.  The other aspect that has emerged from this exploration is that while artistic practices can be seen as lines of flight, within the plane of composition, there is an inevitable thickening that occurs. Functionary-artists appropriate or co-opt some of the more innovative practices, and merely become a riff or redundant creative act, one that mimics one particular artist’s thoughts, rather than thinking ‘like’ the innovative artist.

And then, of course, there is the attendant act of deterritorialization, as an initial experience of some act of the GSV interface.  I think this is where I have some real questions. On the one had, it seems like an artistic practice- we’ll say ‘A Street with a View”- operates as a line of flight within the overall user practices, for it is a creative leap that alters our conception of the tool, as well as challenges conceptions about the nature of the archive. But as a material practice, it seems like the line of flight would be the moment of realization about the potential of the tool, and the material (or virtual, in this case) practice is the process by which we reterritorialize that moment and is subsequently made manifest in a recognizable output, subsumed or axiomatized in the broader plane of composition or even plane of immanence.

Of course, I will argue that it is both- and there is an inherent oscillation between the producer and the user, and that oscillation generates a supple plane. The run-offs that D & G describe create this suppleness, one that seems capable of enabling even more lines of flight. I guess the question inevitably becomes: when will all the lines of flight (that the fascist regime of Google happily encourages, only to co-opt that innovation) shift their plane of organization – a visual archive of the built environment- into a state of chaos, where the interventions and exceptions produce an uncertain patchwork, one that is no longer regarded as useful, or no longer even valued for its approximation?


Becoming Poor

I’ve been involved in a reading group for the last 2 years at University of Washington- and it’s been a really fruitful endeavor. We been engaging in a range of texts, traipsing through history and various degrees of political agendas- from quietly political to outright call to communism by way of anarchic means. It’s name comes from D&G and the concept of becoming and a move towards embodying a certain minor position without actively identifying with certain identifying characteristics. In short, we all bring something completely different to the group, and we come together around a reading and engage in the text.

Anyway, we now have a blog.

rabbit hole

As previously imagined, this quarter (year?) has been something of a rabbit hole. The current rabbit hole is Spinoza, which has been an incredibly fruitful endeavor to deepen my understanding of Deleuze’s work. I am currently slogging through Spinoza’s conception of wonder, which he dismisses as imagination, or the first realm of knowledge, and therefore unimportant, in the bigger scheme of things.

Currently I am taking Spinoza to task, as I am seemingly wont to do with most written work, as missing an important aspect in the way that wonder functions, in that an experience of a thing has the potential to destabilize us and alter our course and our habituation. I am arguing that Wonder, and therefore imagination (since that is where Spinoza places it), could have an important place within Spinoza’s system. It seems like a missed opportunity for Spinoza, as he gives little support of the first level of knowledge, whereas Deleuze, in his book on Spinoza (and purportedly quite faithful to Spinoza’s work in ‘Expressionism’), gives imagination much importance. Spinoza does not really give an account for the movement between first and second levels, and in some instances, seems like reason functions as an always already state. Of course, this is not the case, for he definitively states in Part 4 that we are not born with adequate thoughts and remain that way, and in Part 5, where he acknowledges the infant has little power of acting. So at some point, we must acquire adequate knowledge.

In the first few propositions in Part 5, he states that there is nothing that we cannot form adequate ideas about, but his account of how is lacking. While his explication of the therapies for the Affects point to a process of overcoming the effects/impacts the affects have on our actions, which allows us to mitigate or eliminate some of our behaviors/actions that result. Taken together, I think this begins to point towards knowledge acquisition, but I feel wholly dissatisfied about his dismissal of wonder, at least of the variety that ‘stands alone in the mind’, as opposed to the thread that is an added layer to the affect. My argument is that wonder functions as pre-knowledge, not the first level of knowledge, for it ‘stands alone in the mind’ and we cannot place it in relation. When we experience something that we cannot immediately place in relation, it disrupts our passive state and produces a heightened awareness that could lead to a different understanding. It also begins to create a the first level of knowledge, when we encounter a second or third experience, for subsequent experiences now have a horizon in which to be placed. Only at this point can we begin to form adequate knowledge of thing.

Of course, I am nearly certain that I am looking for deterritorialization in all of this. In general, I’m less interested in the bodily deterritorialization that is discussed in relation to the peasants-cum-factory workers, and more interested in the cognitive deterritorialization and reterritorialization that results when an external object/person/force causes us to alter our course in the world, and it was striking, reading Descartes’s account of wonder, and even Spinoza’s account of wonder, and recalling Deleuze and Guattari’s account of deterritorialization in What is Philosophy, there seems to be a nice affinity to the cognitive disruptions that occur.

Critically, of course, is what we do with these disruptions when they occur.