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Entries from January 2009.

Dieter Roth, Life

When life straightens up again
after falling into the pit
then I've spotted the pitfall
and beat life to shit.

(My translation of Dieter Roth's/Diter Rot's:
"Wenn sich das Leben richtet
nach dem Falle wieder auf,
hab ich die Falle schon gesichtet
und haue dem Leben eins drauf.")

Tags: art, poetry. 2nd January 2009

no longer forgotten music

no longer forgotten music, underground counterpart to Ubuweb. The stupid but obvious appreciation would be merely sentimental and historicist. Listening to a ca. 100 hour selection [of which a semirandom selection could include de Fabriek, Peter Sterk, Horst Rickels, Ynse Vugts, Moniek Toebosch, Schlaflose Nächte], it matters little from which period and culture the audio is from, but all the more that it's improptu, unpretentious and surprising. The best of it defies both categories and musical stereotypes of either pop music or academic avant-garde. (The cheap, low tech, read-writable technology of the tapes might have helped in this respect; sentimentalizing and retro-fetishizing it, however, would this work further injustice. The anonymous blogger is thus right selling those tapes while keeping the mp3 files.)

Contributed this bit

Tags: music. 2nd January 2009

first shots at deutch poetry

cobra's konten kippen bedenken

leider hoert indien studenten verbloeden

arie sticht - pomp bezichtigt.

Tags: deutsch, nederlands, poetry. 2nd January 2009

The Web is broken

...as a platform for electronic publishing for long term-storage and reference. One might embrace this instability, as net.art has done from early on. But it means that the world continues to be stuck with print books and journals for all "serious" publishing, with all the negative - and no longer necessary - implications for public access to information, research, study and learning opportunity outside rich institutions and countries.

Reasons why the Web is broken for long-term electronic publishing:

  • The URL system is broken since it doesn't sufficiently abstract from physical server addresses. This has always been a problem, but has escalated with the (a) commercialization of the Web and (b) proliferation of content management systems: (a) URLs rely on DNS, DNS does not abstract enough from IP addresses and has been tainted by branding and trademarks. (b) Content management systems create internal namespaces (that taint URLs and document structure) and are highly unstable, getting rewritten/replaced every couple of years. If a document exists on a CMS, it's unlikely to survive years on its URL. (Ultimately, CMS create just another layer of spam to the Web.)

  • As a side-effect, any kind of reference to an online resource - be it a citation, link or embedded quotation - can not reliably made, which is why the WWW has not met its original goal of providing a distributed hypertext system.

  • Still, the Web is not distributed enough because web servers provide single points of failure (and document death - an issue closely linked to the URL and DNS system).

  • HTML does not provide enough structure for research-level publishing. More capable alternatives such as extended XHTML, DocBook XML and TEI XML have not succeeded because their complexity is too much for people trained on graphical software that emulates, and thus artificially extends, analog tools and their work flows. Because of this legacy, not even the rudimentary semantic markup structure of HTML has been widely understood and used.

  • Changes / editing histories of documents can only be tracked on the level of individual content management systems (such as Wiki engines), not the Web as a whole. However, built-in revision control and version rollback are a necessary precondition for reliable referencing of documents. [Ted Nelson had that figured out in the 1970s.]

What could be done:

  • Introduce a new document identifier/addressing system that fully abstracts from DNS, using cryptographic hashes as document identifiers and a distributed registry for those document hashes.

  • Introduce document revision control and rollback on protocol/API level. This would allow server software to implement whatever individual local revision control, respectively rely on existing systems (RCS/CVS, Subversion, git etc.) while still maintaining network compatibility.

  • There is no hope for high-level standardization of document formats (such as simplified TEI XML), so simply allow any open standard document format.

This needs to be written up as a paper, with technical terms unwrapped for non-technical readers.

Tags: internet. 2nd January 2009

vampire of bruges

vacation/home movie, 1:10 min., opening credits and music from Harry Kümel's Le lèvres rouges:

(Recorded with a cheap Aiptek HD camera, footage converted with

transcode -Z 720x576 -y mov -F yuv2,twos -i [infile] -o [outfile]

edited with Cinelerra, encoded with ffmpeg.)

Tags: gnu/linux, video. 4th January 2009

Art as parascience

An autosystemic, yet very sensible definition of art (which could be easily mistaken for being conservative although it isn't - since it even the disruption of styles can only exist in relation to a history, and historical consciousness, of styles):

"If art is not a means of self-fulfillment and expression, what is it then? A kind of parascience, with a system of rules that is several millennia old. Art builds upon the history of art and styles, on preceding developments. That is the material to which everyone wanting to do art has to relate to. It does not suffice to have an art school degree, to be able to stretch up a canvas, somehow organize things visually and think that this would amount to a work of art. Nevertheless, an artwork may be greatly successful out of that misunderstanding."

Translation of an interview statement with the contemporary art critic Marius Babias

Tags: art. 7th January 2009

WORM.shop Top 9

Asked by Rotterdam's WORM.shop to compile its next "Top 9" selection of music, films and books available in the store:

  1. Peter Tscherkassky, Films from a Dark Room (DVD)

    Tscherkassky's multi-layered found footage films are as visually and mentally intense as cinema can possibly be - rare examples of film reaching the density of the best poetry and music. They are a historic high point of experimental film while drawing on the language of big screen movies.

  2. Francis Picabia, La Nourrice Américaine (CD)

    A piano piece first performed at a Dada soiree in 1920 and consisting of only three infinitely repeated notes. More radical than the "Vexations" of Picabia's close friend Erik Satie, it anticipates La Monte Young and Terry Riley by forty years.

  3. Wha-ha-ha, Getahaitekonakucha (CD)

    A hidden gem from the early 1980s if not the best record of that whole decade: Free Jazz mixes with and is interrupted by cartoon soundtrack music, schmaltzy synth pop, theater pieces, Japanese folklore, dub - composed and played with unmatched wit, inventiveness and virtuosity.

  4. Cornelius Cardew, Chamber Music 1955-1964: Apartment House (CD)

    Early, interesting works of the later member of AMM and founder of The Scratch Orchestra. Cardew, a student of Stockhausen who later renounced his teacher as an "imperialist", is still finding his own way here between strict serial composition, Cagean indeterminacy and non-academic radical improvisation.

  5. Coolhaven, Strømbloque Phantasiën (CD)

    An opera based on the German autobiography of David Hasselhoff, with its text as both the libretto and musical MIDI score, performed by guest singers and the band - Peter Fengler from De Player, Hajo Doorn and Lukas Simonis from WORM - itself. What more needs to be said about this instant contemporary classic by Rotterdam's super group?

  6. Das Dieter Roth Orchester spielt kleine wolken, typische Scheisse und nie gehoerte musik (CD)

    Dieter Roth is little known "outside" but has been highly influential inside concrete poetry, Fluxus and postpunk underground culture. The latter - among others: Wolfgang Müller, Namosh and Stereo Total - pays posthumous tribute to the German-Swiss-Icelandic universal artist here with musical adaptations of his poems: "When life straightens up again / after falling into the pit / then I've spotted the pitfall / and beat life to shit".

  7. Jodi, SPAM (book)

    Not untypical for Jodi, this work simply is what its title says - a printed collection of Internet spam that turns into "concrete" poetry and art in the most literal - yet, as always in jodi's work, strangely beautiful - sense.

  8. Satan's Bed (DVD)

    A 1965 black-and-white exploitation flick directed by the notorious Michael ("Snuff") Findlay starring Yoko Ono, back then the best established artist of the New York Fluxus group, as a mail order bride kidnapped by lowlife sex fiends. Shot one year before Ono's famous "naked butts" Flux[ploitation] film, this one however didn't make it into the modern art canon.

  9. The Titmachine, s/t (7")

    Fantastic energetic, funny and raw post-punk/no wave dilettante girl group from Nijmegen.

Tags: book, film, music. 9th January 2009

Musical occupations

Picabia, Portrait d'une jeune fille américaine dans l'état de nudité

Completed two new deli plain releases:

  • American Wet Nurse

    Electronic interpretation of Francis Picabia's infinitely repeating three-note-one-pause musical piece La Nourrice Américaine (1920), using only sinewaves (at 69.30, 87.31, 77.78 and 0 Hz) and a tempo of 60 bpm repeated 840 times (lifted from Picabia's close friend Satie). Quick-and-dirty sequencing with LMMS, editing with sox. Rationale: The first of the two piano interpretations by Tom Feldschuh published by LTM on CD is too fast, the second too slow. In 1920, the piano was arguably the most generic and impersonal musical instrument, today, the sine wave certainly is a better match to Picabia's industrial object drawings from that period. Question: Is the correspondence to Picabia's Portrait d'une jeune fille américaine dans l'état de nudité from 1915, showing a light bulb with "For-Ever" printed on, coincidental or not?

  • Re-issue of Meet Lt. Murnau, 1983: "Lieutenant Murnau was invented as the name of a ghost musical group. It was started in 1980 and ended in 1984. The image came from a photograph of film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau while serving as lieutenant in the German army. This photograph was taken and reproduced onto posters, leaflets, fanzines, badges and all other memorabilia of pop mythology to create an interest in something that did not exist. The next step was to provide Lt. Murnau fans with invisible music. I managed to produce various records and cassettes without playing a single note, simply releasing mixages of recorded music. The 'Meet Lt. Murnau' tape, for example, was a deliberate confusion of Beatles and Residents records. I also used soundtracks of F.W. Murnau's films and music provided by other groups in hommage to Murnau. To mess up things even more, I had some of these tapes and records released in different countries by different people. Lt. Murnau also appeared on stage, masked, mixing different records and crucifying a Beatles LP. Hundreds of life-size Lt. Murnau-cardboard masks were printed which people could wear. Anybody could make Lt. Murnau music and become Lt. Murnau, and a few people did it. The whole project was focussed on a very limited idea, that of underground music, and did not have the broader implications of the Monty Cantsin philosophy. Yet, I think, the problems remain the same." (Vittore Baroni)

Contributions to no longer forgotten music:

Tags: gnu/linux, music. 9th January 2009

tape music

Meet Lt. Murnau contributed to no longer forgotten music.

Completed video [1:26 min.] of the second Tape Treff at Extrapool, Nijmegen, according to Frans de Waard "an evening on cassettes [...] hi-jacked by not always stable noise makers who think its still shocking to run around naked and throwing up on microphones":

(Background information on methodology:

  • ca. 60 min. material recorded with cheap Aiptek HD camera
  • selected 60 scenes
  • each of them trimmed to exactly 1 second
  • original sound kept so that a sound edit results simultaneously
  • slowed down the resulting video to twice the playback duration (2:00), equivalent to slowing down tape playback
  • final cut to 1:26)
Tags: music, video. 17th January 2009

critique of cybernetic ideology

The notion of "system" is as much unfiltered cybernetic/behaviorist ideology as it is undisputed, building the foundation of all discourses from general systems theory to contemporary media studies. A critique of idealism (Platonist as much as Pythagorean) finally needs to include a critique, and rejection, of "system" as a fiction disguised as science/engineering. While it might have some value as speculative (science) fiction in the past, the blatant reductionism and control fantasies behind it have become too obvious; viz. the collapse of cybernetics around 1969 - history repeating itself.

Tags: cultural theory. 18th January 2009

floppy films

concept: digital video/film whose complete file length does not exceed 1.4 MB, the capacity of a floppy disk; distribute the films on floppy disks only. The video files must be standard MPEG1/2/4 files playable on standard player software such as VLC, no "demo" hacks. [h264/x264 allows to compress video streams down to 128 kbit/s, resulting in 90 sec. video on a standard 3.5 inch floppy disk.

Tags: video. 22nd January 2009

Critique of the "Digital Humanities Manifesto"

Remarks on the Digital Humanities Manifesto:

There are, to put it diplomatically, issues with this manifesto, both in its precision of terminology and critical thinking. First of all, the term "digital humanities" is fuzzy. Does it mean the cultural study of digital information systems, or simply the use of these systems in humanities research and education? If the latter is meant, why differentiate between humanities and other fields of study and not talk about "digital technology-based research and education" in general?

Paragraph 1 of the manifesto states that...

Digital humanities is not a unified field but an array of convergent practices that explore a universe in which print is no longer the exclusive or the normative medium in which knowledge is produced and/or disseminated.

This is a straightforward paraphrase of McLuhan's "end of the Gutenberg Galaxy", with the only catch that McLuhan referred to analog media - film, radio, television. So it seems as if the authors thoroughly confuse "electronic" and "paper" with "digital" and "analog". But, technically seen, the movable type printing press is not an analog, but a digital system in that all writing into discrete, countable [and thus computable] units.

On top of that, there are very contemporary positions in the so-called 'new media' field that are much more differentiated and a few steps ahead in their reflection of the relation between online and print publishing. In his introductory essay to the first Mag.net reader, Alessandro Ludovico soundly argues that "print is becoming the quintessence of the web", a stable long-term medium for which the unstable medium of the Web serves as a production and filtering platform.

Like all media revolutions, the first wave of the digital revolution looked backwards as it moved forward. It replicated a world where print was primary and visuality was secondary, while vastly accelerating search and retrieval.

The common assumption that media studies suffer from a lack of mid- and long-term memory is a confirmed by this paragraph. Historically, the opposite is true. In their "first wave of the digital revolution", the humanities chiefly associated the new technology with holographic visuality of "virtual reality" and "cyberspace". The humanities needed about ten years to catch up and grasp that computing and the Internet was based on code, and thus on linguistic logic.

Now it must look forwards into an immediate future in which the medium specific features of the digital become its core.

First of all, "the digital" is not a medium, but a type of information; information made up of discrete units [such as numbers] instead of an analog continuum [such as waves]. The medium - the carrier - itself is, strictly speaking, always analog: electricity, airwaves, magnetic platters, optical rays, paper.

To insist on this terminological precision is not just some technological nitpicking, but of political significance. It reminds of the concrete materiality of the Internet and computing that involves the exploitation of energy, natural resources and human labor, as opposed to falsely buying, by the virtue of abstraction, into the "immateriality" of "digital media".

The first wave was quantitative, mobilizing the vertiginous search and retrieval powers of the database. The second wave is qualitative, interpretive, experiential, even emotive. It immerses the digital toolkit within what represents the very core strength of the Humanities: complexity.

As it remains totally vague what this "second wave" represents - YouTube and social networking as the next evolutionary step after Google Search? [Seriously? How young are the people who wrote this?] -, it is nearly impossible to seriously discuss this argument. It also seems quite futile to argue whether the humanities or sciences have the better grip on "complexity" - a word which is a systems theoretical null signifier typically serving as a dialectical device for reducing the very thing it means; saying that something is "complex" is a truism, and thus a simplification.

Aside from that, the above argument is seriously flawed in its implicit assumption that there was no, or less, social and cultural complexity involved in what it calls the "quantitative" formalisms of databases and programming. It's a blatant regression behind the research of critical media scholars [like Matthew Fuller, Wendy Chun, McKenzie Wark and many others] and hacker activists of the past decade; research that has shown again and again how these very formalisms are "qualitative", i.e. designed by human groups and shaped by cultural, economical and political interests through and through.

Interdisciplinarity/transdisciplinarity/multidisciplinarity are empty words unless they imply changes in language, practice, method, and output.

And the words in this paragraph are just as empty because they state a completely generic truism.

The digital is the realm of the open: open source, open resources, open doors. Anything that attempts to close this space should be recognized for what it is: the enemy.

I'm slightly tempted to put the above paragraph, as a sarcastic joke, into my E-Mail signature, because it is the perfect [if for sure unintended] joining of the ideological opposites of a liberal Popperian ideology of "the open" with a right-wing Carl Schmittian agonistic rhetoric of "the enemy".

I'll stop here in order not to produce a prolonged rant - and sincerely apologize for my harshness if the "Digital Humanities Manifesto" should turn out to be a text written by younger students.

Tags: cultural theory, internet. 22nd January 2009


The dire need [and current] lack of a critique of "system", i.e. not a critique of one system (operating system, financial system, political system), but of the very notion of system itself that obscures more than it clarifies. System as a speculative, un-empirical [scholastic] proposition that is a signifier without an empirical signified; a claim that certain entities or phenomena can be summarized under the same concept without any objective backing.

What we are experiencing now is not the collapse of systems or ideologies, but the collapse of the ideology of systems. [Bertalanffy, General Systems Theory, cybernetics, structuralism, media theory, Heidegger's philosophy of technology.] "System" as the empty signifier having replaced the older empty signifier of "God". A vehicle of suspending/postponing individual agency and responsibility, with "the system" as a general excuse. If there is something to unite "systems", it is this very fiction (permeating structuralism, anthropology, sociology, economy, science and computing, media studies).

What would a culture - a politics, economy, humanities and science, engineering and technology - be that would radically do without a fiction of "system"?

Tags: cultural theory, politics, systems, theology. 28th January 2009

The Sound of Neoism
Tags: music, neoism. 28th January 2009

Piet Zwart Institute

From "systems, not surfaces" [slogan around 2002] and critiquing them to "an end to [the belief in and ideology of] system".

Tags: education, systems. 28th January 2009

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