Destruction Ceremonies as 21st Century Book Burning

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Advertisement for destruction of pirated media in the Philippines.

Surely the irony wasn’t lost on Maulana Fazlullah when he took to his FM channel to tell his supporters to burn their radios. But Radio Mullah—as he fast became known—was just preaching on his shortwave what the incumbent Islamist government had set in motion on the streets of the frontier province. In 2006, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government in Pakistan's provisional district of Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa had begun cracking down on ownership of electronics and recordings of all kinds. Muhammad Arif of the Center for Peace and Cultural Studies Peshawar remembers what happened when media products were suddenly found to be profane: "CDs, Video Cassettes and other gadgets were burnt on the directives of the provincial government. There were clear directives from the MMA government to remove 'obscene' material from the shops and the police had to prove their efficiency." Ordinary people—not only the most devout—and, in some cases, even the police, attended the ceremonies.

Having consisted primarily of local cassettes, videotapes, and VCDs, the MMA government's own bonfire of the vanities did not garner much media attention. Whether it's the looting of Egypt's Museum of Antiquities, the United States’ desecration of Mesopotamian sites in Iraq, the Taliban burning of the Afghanistan National Film Archive, or the torching of historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, the international community can generally be counted on to mourn the destruction of listed sites and priceless objects. But this is not the case when it comes to the destruction of contemporary digital or electronic cultural artefacts, which often receives the tacit approval of the international community as an essential part of the war against piracy. By shredding the "counterfeit" electronic media of their citizenry, governments of emerging markets signal their willingness to participate in a global economy and stage their official identity, while sacrificing the media archives of the future.

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July 2: NYC poetry event with Kev, Bunny Rogers, and Brigid Mason

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Rhizome Presents: Internet as Poetry
+ Book launch for Cunny Poem Vol. 1
Issue Project Room
July 2, 8pm
Free 

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TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD THEIR LIVES WRECKED BY COMPUTERS, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND THE INTERNET

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The Urgency, the new DVD release from Extreme Animals (Jacob Ciocci and David Wightman), is a "visual album," like Beyoncé by Beyoncé, but any similarity to Beyoncé begins and ends with format. Beyoncé is too serious, too straight—the wrong kind of urgency. Her hooks have never found their way into the pop-punk power ballads of Extreme Animals, which mix club disco, heavy metal, and chiptunes with maximalist, strobing montage. 

If there's a diva who is muse to the duo, it's the fickle Katy Perry, whose songs are sampled on two of The Urgency's eight tracks. Inspirational Katy Perry, who dedicates a rousing anthem to everyone who has ever felt like a plastic bag. Party girl Katy Perry, who gets wasted every Friday night. Bisexual Katy Perry who kissed a girl and liked it and wants to see your peacock-cock-cock. Dom/sub Katy Perry who yearns to be poisoned by aliens and is also the tiger who you will hear roar.  

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Internet Subjects: #Uberwar and the "Sharing" Economy

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A scene from today's #uberwar protest in London.
 
Thursday, June 19
7pm EST, at the New Museum 
and livestreamed on rhizome.org
Free / RSVP
#internetsubjects
 
Internet Subjects is a new series of flash panel conversations. Each takes a topic chosen just a week in advance in order to discuss emerging internet subjects and subjectivities in an engaging public forum. 
 

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Art, Bed and Breakfast: The AIRBNB Pavilion

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Left to right: Bava and Sons, Coast.biz; Jon Rafman, Juan Gris Dream House; Charles Broskoski, Untitled (Iris); David Kohn architects, Carrer Avinyo; Etienne Descloux, Visitez ma tente. Photograph by Noah Rabinowitz.

If Google had a pavilion at the Venice Biennale, who would they exhibit? How would their installation compete against the Artsy auction exhibition? Would a Young Incorporated Artist feel more comfortable representing Tumblr or the USA?

Biennales have long been recognised as vehicles of internationalization and globalization in the worlds of art and architecture. Founded in 1895, with its younger sibling the Architecture Biennale following in 1980, the Venice Biennale is perhaps the most well known of its ilk. Although structured around a thematic exhibition in the imperially-named Arsenale, a significant attraction is inevitably the soft state play that occurs between the national pavilions. But in a world where the certitude of nation states is increasingly coming up against a new dominance of multi-national business, it is perhaps surprising that outright corporate pavilions aren't more of a Biennale mainstay, beyond the aggressive sponsor interests that keep national pavilions afloat.

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Displacement is the New Translation

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                                                  Syntax, like

          government, can only be obeyed.       It is

                   therefore of no use except when you

                   have something particular to command

          such as:  Go buy me a bunch of carrots.

              — John Cage[i]

Translation is the ultimate humanist gesture. Polite and reasonable, it is an overly cautious bridge builder. Always asking for permission, it begs understanding and friendship. It is optimistic yet provisional, pinning all hopes on a harmonious outcome. In the end, it always fails, for the discourse it sets forth is inevitably off-register; translation is an approximation of discourse — and, in approximating, it produces a new discourse.

Displacement is rude and insistent, an unwashed party crasher — uninvited and poorly behaved — refusing to leave. Displacement revels in disjunction, imposing its meaning, agenda, and mores on whatever situation it encounters. Not wishing to placate, it is uncompromising, knowing full well that through stubborn insistence, it will ultimately prevail. Displacement has all the time in the world. Beyond morals, self-appointed, and taking possession because it must, displacement acts simply—and simply acts.

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Wavelength: Modular Youth, A Speculative Playlist

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This post is part of Wavelength, a series of guest curated sound art and music mixes.

Still from the music video for Mount Kimbie, "Carbonated."

"What do you want to make of your life? A cruel question, when it is not a naïve one. What is a life if not a definitive unmaking? Whatever the gibberings of profane man, it is not open to us to make anything of ourselves."

–Nick Land, The Thirst For Annihilation

"Perhaps the young of this generation haven't the stamina to launch the epochal transformation they seek; but there should be no mistaking the fact that they want nothing less. 'Total rejection' is a phrase that comes readily to their lips, often before the mind provides even a blurred picture of the new culture that is to displace the old."

–Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture

Alvin Toffler's seminal book Future Shock (1970) posited the modular man, the disposable person, as one of the fundamental units and products of an urban, post-industrial society. We interact with specific modules of a person rather than the full human. 

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Poetry Under a Home Shopping Network Sky

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Photograph: Sean Joseph Patrick Carney.

I saw poet Andrew Durbin read in a light drizzle in the backyard of Essex Flowers, a ground-level flower shop on New York's Lower East Side with an artist-run gallery in its basement. Despite the crappy weather, the patio was packed and I felt lucky to be near the stage with a decent view. 

Next-Level Spleen (which was published last year in online magazine The Destroyer) took about 20 minutes to read aloud. Durbin's voice began with a casual cadence, his pace quickening during certain passages—not because he was rushing, but because the text required urgency. The poem begins as the narrator gets ready for a movie night (code for sex) with a FWB at the unoccupied apartment of the friend's father. The narrative setup suggests a sort of New Sincerity/Tao Lin-esque intoxicated banal hipster casual romance scene, but breaks that promise when the plotline of Clueless, which plays on loop on a television screen in the bedroom, becomes the central focus of the piece. 

(For readers over 40, under 18 or clueless, Clueless (1995) stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a rich, popular high school girl in Beverly Hills, California who falls in love with her unfashionable older stepbrother, played by Paul Rudd. Cher's seemingly shallow and materialistic persona is itself proven only superficial as she sees past the importance of designer labels and social status to recognize the inner beauty of Paul Rudd's supposedly average-looking, but caring, character.)

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