Performance/Film/Photos: EchoReFlex Event
by Beauchamp Art
Poster from the performance/exhibition.
EchoReFlex Event 
This version of the films was produced after revisiting the work, and featured the recorded performance in full and uncut.
No stills were taken from this variation, as they would essentially be identical to the EchoReFlex  Event Fast Forward variation, but with a slightly different title sequence. The opening text reads ‘EchoReFlex [/] EVENT’, as does the first panel of the closing credits. The second of which featured my name ‘BENJAMIN S. [/] BEAUCHAMP’, followed by an accreditation for the audio ‘MUSIC: [/] BORN SLIPPY / UNDERWORLD [/] BBC NEWS THEME / DAVID LOWE”. The text was arrange so the length of each line was the same, with ‘MUSIC’ and ‘EVENT’ made considerably larger than the other phrases, and ‘EchoReFlex’ being the only words not fully capitalised, as the stylisation of the letters E R F capitalised deconstructs the word, foregrounding its etymology.The typography was made to match later pieces, however this did therefore loose the connection to Trainspotting that came with using Helvetica Neue, which was used used on the promotional materials for the film (which the piece is also bound to by the use of my Born Slippy remix, that plays over the final credits of Danny Boyle’s adaptation.
This video was designed to function as documentation of the entire event, sped up considerably so that it could be watched quickly alongside BBC Slippy in full. This is one of the few sections of documentation that features the other participants, mainly Vladimira, within the footage.
Following the straightforward video documentation of the EchoReFlex performance, I subsequently created a series of more experimental films using the footage taken from the camera used to create the live video feedback to accompany and overlay the projected video.
The web Safe version of the film does not feature the original music playing at standard speed and only uses the inert audio. This is due to the copyright on the two songs that make up the BBC Slippy theme. For the same reason, most of these videos are currently not available online.
Stills taken from the sped up footage.
Echo Event  [Solo]
In this version I cut up the footage into short, equal length sections, and composed it around the original music. This could be seen as cutting up narrative as a reflection of the deconstruction of the self as a linear being, evidencing a contemporary era where, as Virilio observed, “there is only collage, cutting and splicing. […] The disappearance of the great narratives. […] We’re in the age of micro-narratives, the art of the fragment.” [Virilio; Lotringer, 1983 41].
Echo Event  [Solo Flashing]
In this variation, I combined the solo dancing footage with the flashing frame sequence from EchoReFlex Video 3, reasserting the connection between the imagery and the music, but also asserting a non continuous form of ego “made up of a series of little deaths and partial identities which don’t come back together, or which only manage to come back together by paying the price of anxiety and repression.” [Virilio; Lotringer, 1983 43] [Lotringer] The video composition also aligns itself with the aesthetic of “the music video, the movie trailer, the television advertisement” [Broeren, 2009: 123].
Stills taken from the film made from just the footage of me dancing by myself, cut into 4 second segments, and set to the music that used to accompany the projected video. This was then used for a number of more complex video works.
Echo Event  [Solo] [Cropped]
A cropped version of the solo documentation of the EchoReFlex [Solo] event was produced after revisiting footage. I had made a cropped version previously, though only as a resource to be refilmed for the 4th major variation. Arguably, this would probably be the most effective record of the performance and simplest use of the footage
The opening shot and the basic titles are part of the flow, but they punctuate it, so if it were looped it would still be the same static shot with the subject moving before it, but the text would remind the viewer of the return to the initial state (like a landmark on a world tour). This edit gives the piece a sense of continuous movement, editing out the pauses, the breaks and gaps in the flow of the work.
For the event/performance, two projectors were placed in one concern of the room, one playing the EchoReFlex video with BBC Slippy playing alongside it, the other producing live video feedback, the footage of which was later heavily reprocessed. In the area where the projection was thrown, I danced whilst wearing all black and a high visibility jacket.
Though I did not much time to prepare, the EchoReFlex Event when fairly well. I had to re-edit the video to synchronise the video flashes with the audio, but that worked particularly well when combined projection feedback. The whole room pulsated with green light, the audience mostly stood by in spectacle. Nevertheless, one person participated directly at length, and joined in the individual dancing. My isolated rhythm perforated those in the room though their passivity, and we all moved in harmonious oscillation, defying isolation; unity through spectacle.
There was a notable different between just having the one person dancing and a second, the dynamic shifted and the isolated figure of myself became an anthropomorphic personification of spectacle (emphasised by the news theme) “to be a person is to be a mask – to play a role” [Lawler, 2008: 105] I wore the mask of comic tragedy, one that is ridiculous but also somehow pitiful my severance from the crowd. Upon reflection, I found that the participator element mostly distracted from the performance (especially after talking to members of the audience), though it remained the reasonably informal performance of the solitary mid-day raver, and did successfully adopt the aesthetic of the traditional 1990s raver.
This performance made use of the isolated dancing figure positioned as the central locus of attention, making reference to Gillian Wearing’s Dancing in Peckham, and Sam Taylor-Wood’s Brontosaurus.
After considering this performance for some time, Dylan Thomas’ words came to mind:
“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. […] Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright, Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. […] Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.“ [Thomas, 1952]
The multiple versions an outlets of this piece (the movie variations, interchangeable soundscapes, online GIFs and offline performance) came about directly after reading out the Presentation Auto-Captions in the project space, following the Pause event undertaken the day prior. I subsequently began processing the imagery, and attempted to experiment with using it across multiple digital media.
Simultaneously, I was attempting to gather footage for the Riot Rave project, which later became Twenty-Four Hour Delirium Rhythm, and experimented with combining the EchoReFlex material with other projects, notably to juxtapose the protest footage featuring high-visibility clad police officers with the video feedback green and myself in the hi-vis vest. As a result, much of the thought and technical processes used in producing these three pieces (Pause/EchoReFlex/TFHDR), although the materiality of the jacket was given exclusive attention in the Hi-Vis Green-Screen video, which was used alongside TFHDR in the Degree Show installation.
Therefore, not only may the work be using the idea of “pancommunication – everything and everybody conveying content and meaning in all possible communications, from one-on-one to everything-on-everybody” [Antonelli, 2011: 2], but also the process of creating this work could be seen to be embodying notions of “Hypermedia systems [that] ‘provide their users with the ability to create, manipulate and/or examine a network of information containing nodes interconnected by relational links’” [Halasz, 1994: 30], given the various sections of footage that were collected and fed into a range of works were commingled though a range of experimentations. The means of reprocessing not only utilises feedback to form new harmonies in the combinations thereof, but also has resulted in s dries of multi-variation works that are not exclusively tied to one outcome or format. “The new media object can exist in numerous version and numerous incarnations” [Manovich, 2001: 134] is thus unified in their richly saturated digitality.
This may be described as indicative of the “post media condition” in which “no single medium is dominant any longer; instead, all of the different media influence and determine each other” [Weibel, 2006] so could reflect the prospect of new media inter connective to create new forms of language, and forming a grammar to the ‘internet of things’. With the “hypermedia structure that specifies connections between nodes” thereby potentially comparable to “the deep structure of a sentence; a particular hypermedia text can then be compared with a particular sentence in a natural language” [Manovich, 2001: 41].
Not only is the “text […] a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture,” [Barthers, 1967: 142, but the tissue folds in on itself in its self-reflexive intertextuality. If the EchoReFlex project is considered as a post-media product, rather than multi-media amalgam (using a rage of different resources together) it could be considered a form of möbius. This may embody a logic of new media that facilitates a post-industrial society, one that values individuality over conformity [Manovich, 2001: 41], whilst conversely suggesting that rather than prioritising individuality, it is personalisation that follows post-Fordist post-Humanism.
If Margaret Thatcher famously declaration, “there is no society”, is examined then it is perhaps worth considering that in the political context which has followed this remark and the technological progression that pushed networked computers into mainstream use from the 1980s onwards. When the self is held up as the definite article of man as an exclusive entity to itself, its community an arbitrary fabrication, this may be comparable to the “universal practice of designating in one’s mind a familiar space which is ‘ours’ and an unfamiliar space beyond ‘ours’ which is ‘theirs’ is a way of making geographical distinctions that can be entirely arbitrary […] imaginative geography of the ‘our land – barbarian land’ variety does not require that the barbarians acknowledge this distinction” [Said, 1979: 54].
Thatcher and Said’s joint notions of what are arguably Existentialist interpretations of the division, cauterisation and regrouping of cultures into their smallest unit; the atomised individual, could thereby be seen to share similar ideological threads, but do not necessarily do so for the same (political/cultural) purpose. Said’s dismissal of arbitrary boundaries and groups of man could be seen as more in line with a unifying principal of humanity being a mass collective of individuality (like the isolated cells within one body, co-dependent, but otherwise not connect/collected. Whereas if Thatcherite doctrine is recognised as not just a call for individualism, but as a response to the post-Fordist (perpetual) labour conditions of the contemporary environment, resulting from man’s increasingly inmate connection with more complex technologies that enable for a more diverse interconnecting of individuals, functioning independently, self-responsibly, self-accountably, self-interestedly. Though this could be outlined as essentially a Left/Right-wing dichotomy, the distinction and overlap is more complex than a simple binary of one self isolated, versus many selves together.
Post-Fodism compartmentalises every aspect of the individual, not just their working practices (as in Fordism, the specialisation of labour tasks). In this economic mode of production, the individual is further subdivided between their various roles, parallel to other individuals but due to their internal fragmentation, inter-social bonds may be increasingly difficult to form. So the concept of a society of mixed individuals may be undermined if those persons are overly fragmented. If, as Manovich observes, “Modern media follows the logic of the factory” [Manovich, 2001: 29], then the extrapolation of labour fragmentation into individual disassociation may be complicated further by multifaceted self that presents multiple interpretation of the self through different media, as is being demonstrated in the various outputs of EchoReFlex, where the figure of spectacle is being fed repeatedly through an array of prisms, mediums.
This may reflect how an individual will perform their identity differently depending on their audience, it “is always something that is done; it is achieved, rather than innate […] not something achieved in isolation; it is part of a social an it is part of a social and collective endeavour, not an individual odyssey.” Lawler’s suggestion that “no one has only one identity, in the sense that everyone must, consciously or not, identify with more than one group, one identity,” [Lawler, 2008: 104, 3] could be sense as evidence against Thatcher’s claim, as the modification of the self before other may be interpreted as product of the desire to be included in the social. But with inclusion comes exclusion, so once again the ‘other’ may lead to a negative outcome for the subsidiary excluded group (leading to various forms of Xenophobia).
These apart hides may manifest themselves more greatly as an individual’s ontology is increasingly shaped by consumption of commercial products (you are the brands you eat). Whilst the self “occurs as a result of social situations” [Lawler, 2008: 107] it could also be seen to be in the process of producing new combinations of societal scenarios in the feedback loop of ‘prosumption’. As post-Industrialism posits that “every citizen can construct her own custom lifestyle and ‘select’ the ideology from a large (but not infinite) number of choices. Rather than pushing the same objects/information to a mass audience, marketing now tries to target each individual separately” [Manovich, 2001: 42], then this may demonstrate the significance of personalisation as a factor when defining the self, society and the role of one’s mediated interactions with others as part of a collective narrative.
If, as Chomsky suggests, “the picture of the world that’s presented to the public has only the remotest relation to reality” [Chomsky, 1997: 37] then when it is narrative making the world intelligible, and also makes ourselves intelligible [Moore, 194: 19], a distortion in the narrative flow, resulting from the amplification of the artefacts within representational modes caused by remediated feedback may be detrimental to establishing a stable definition of the self, or to outlining their community role.
Where the figure of EchoReFlex dances alone, all interactions besides the video feedback loop of the self are designated as subordinate to peripheral social relationships. Even before a small audience, it is cocooned, demonstrating an open spectacle perceived as an exclusive non-participatory event. It function appears self-contained, asocial, and thus bizarre in the transformation of the collective act of dance into a solitary exercise. It could be seen that the audience’s stillness is a product of a form of bystander effect, where the refusal to participate or to be drawn in is reinforced by the abstinence from interacting (other than as a viewer) from the other members of the audience. Much like the “spiral of silence” results from the fear of ostracization in discourse [Hampton, 2013], as no figure steps forward first, then no others follow. Although for the performance when viewed in full (see, EchoReFlex Event Photos, EchoReFlex Event  and EchoReFlex  Event Fast Forward), this is not strictly true, as one of my peers, Vladimira, joins in repeatedly and James also briefly became involved. But as this engagement was sporadic, in most versions of the film this has been edited out, as has my short breaks and pauses from dancing, to give the impression of continuous motion.
Nevertheless, it is worth recalling that “stillness is not a lack of actions; it is instead a particular kind of action” [Farman, 2011: 139], so those who stepped forward and those who acted as spectators where still engaging in the performance and the sustained movement of the isolated figure is only made significant in contrast to the surrounding lack of movement. The isolated dancer conveys a different form of social action to that of a group of people dancing together. This exclusivity in the veil of exclusivity could be compared to the appearance of union though collective intoxication. A crowd may cheer together, and in that they are joined, but in their narcotic state they are alone, as only they have access to their unique phenomenological state at the time of peak distortion. The experience may be similar amongst those who participate, but for those exempt, they cannot empathise with the emotive state of those involved.
(Opium as the Opiate of the People)
The role of narcotics in relation to EchoReFlex should not be understated. Although I was not under the influence of any extraneous substances whist undergoing the performance, the appropriated appearance of a state of delirium was observed. As once audience member commented, “you looked like a proper smack-head”, in other words at times I resembled one as though I were under the influence of Heroin, or in a comparable drug induced state. Not only does this relate back to the notion of in/exclusive individualism, but to a similar dichotomy within escapism, and the isolated tribalism of the performance. This could also be seen to have taken on the “hypnotic trance” qualities of the MTV aesthetic [Kaplan, 1987: 12], the sustained flow of flashing images and loud music emulating the rave and club culture adopted by the network, but could also be seen to adopt the “occasion field of perception, privileged space of the vision of the trooper, of rapid stimuli, slogans and other logotypes of war” [Virilio, 1994: 6].
Furthermore, the relationship between escapism, dance music, drugs and social deprivation being discussed here, following the EchoReFlex performance and subsequent video works, is also explored extensively Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel Trainspotting (and a number of his other novels, however it is the 1996 film adaptation that has been a point of reference through the production of this piece, in addition to reading the original book, as well as Ecstasy, 1996 and Filth, 1998 prior, each of which posit a particular drug as their crux).
Welsh’s example is fairly typical of community decimated by the Thatcherite assault on society, the Blairite failing of the working-class, and the current government’s sustained aggression against the people who suffer as the products of the unfair society they had no influence in shaping. It demonstrates a socially isolate group of Glaswegians individuals attempting to cope with growing up with the same risks of poverty and unemployment as their parents. Following the collapse of the mining industry and similar forms of employment, then there is an inevitable need to escape, so “heroin in these areas was associated with a need to ‘get away from it all’” [Jones, 2011: 76, 216]. Trainspotting may be a fiction account, but it exemplifies and allegories genuine issues facing the people of that place and time that could be seen as indicative of a wider failure to address these issues and the function of the associated activities within society. When “social problems in working-class communities are magnified and then blamed on the personal characteristics and lifestyles of the inhabitants” then “the communities that suffer most are the biggest victims of the class war unleashed be Thatcherism” [Jones, 2011: 82, 195].
To consider the role of state intervention from a paternal perspective, perhaps it is remembering the a few lines from Philip Larkin’s This Be The Verse, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had, and add some extra just for you. […] Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf” [Larkin, 2001]. Perhaps to counterpoint this with a theological paradigm, “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” [Ezekiel 18:20]. I mention religion here for a number of purposes, besides considering the Bible as interesting literary source with long-standing social impact on the formation of moralism and so forth, but also because of Marx’s description of religion as the opiate of the people, a means of keeping the proletariate suppressed and unquestioning the monotheistic principals that were utilised to reaffirm the validity of the centralising of power.
Whereas here, following from the discussion on Trainspotting, and relating to the ongoing theme of narcotics and escapism, I posit that it may be worth considering the more basic statement that opium is the opiate of the people; in that opiates like heroin and other intoxicating substances, like alcohol and cannabis are used as a commonplace coping mechanisms, alongside other subsidiaries of a bread and circuses edict; spots, soap operas, Facebook’s newsfeed and other such perpetually renewing entertainment platforms (though given the current Austerity measure in place in Britain, its just circuses; with 24 hour rolling news turned on the populous and ever increasing amounts of user-generated content, “YOU are news, you are the social, the event is you, you are involved, you can use your voice” [Baudrillard, 1983: 53].
Although the social problems of one generation are passed onto to the next, the blame therein should not be inherited if the stewardship of that society has been undermined irreparably, but it is always the responsibility of one society to alleviate the faults of its forebears and to attempt to rectify the errors occurring within one’s own lifetime, so as not to pass on new problems to the next.
Otherwise, it may be that a situation is created that the errors of history not only repeat themselves, but the lack of cultural inheritance provides a situation in which social issues feedback and thereby worsen exponentially. Although animosity against those that cam before may be entirely justifiable, forgiveness may be necessary to overcome to the cycle of blame, so as to move towards social reform. As Sontag saw this issue, “there is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering […] embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited.” But when the dissemination of information presents itself as unilateral, and “the spread of news is ‘everywhere’ [and] some people’s suffering sufferings have a lot more intrinsic interest to an audience (given that the suffering of others),” [Sontag, 2003: 103-104] then the individual’s role as one who forgives may be disproportional to the representation of the situation in which they are being expected to be forgiven. So they may internalise the blame, rather than directing it to those deserving of it, and vice versa (as was described by Jones earlier). The spectacle of contempt may be an erroneous figure, irrelevant and undesirable for the viewer.
So people may gather, listening to music and dancing to feel part of a collective, where they dance to the collective rhythm of the music, not necessarily with one another, as Gruen notes, “since amplified sound touches all, equally, partners need not embrace while dancing; sound becomes the real partner,” [Gruen, 1966: 123-124]. But they may still participate as a member of a society that welcomes them and does not demonise them for the failings of others that have been imposed on them. But they may use narcotics as form of escapism within the social context, not just as an extension of it, but as a schism; much as interfaces “represent a new dimension of our existence, a space in which we spend a considerable amount of our time on earth” [Antonelli, 2011: 11], they are are invariably grounded in reality, but there may be a sense of detachment associated with an over extension of the self.
Perhaps it was not the wax on Icarus’ wings melted, but the strain on body that caused his descent; the arms of man dislocate under the stress of his flight. So the dancing figure may collapse in exhaustion, when all the fluids and amphetamines have drained from their body, they may be left feeling hollow. Although this situation may not be unilaterally true, as individuals may participate in dance and drug rituals for a range of reasons besides escapism. Though even considered as a form of entertainment, this is still relevant, as for me as the performer in EchoReFlex, I acted as a form of entertainment for the audience, a lonely spectacle. But also was perceived to be escaping within myself, in an aggressive counterpose to meditation; a dopamine dance to the death.
This work could be seen to take the “ecstasy of communication” in pill form, and seize “the giddiness of simulation” [Baudrillard, 1987: 22, 72] in fits of erratic dynamism, and violent bodily gestures, as a study of Individualism when affronted with a wall of media of one’s own making.
Fear & Loathing
It could be said that people who spend all their time chasing dragons (lost in fantasy, drug induced or otherwise) may fail to see the real wonder before them. Any delusion that succeeds in dominating the life of an individual transforms their existence into a being without value. Much as a longing for heaven does not enrich the days of the living, but only seeks to sew resentment for the waking state, to make the afterlife, or any plane of transcendence superior to daily life. Such escapism is understandable in a world made so hateful and unfair by the selfish few, so people may resort to a narcotic release (or alcoholic intoxication, or representational illusion, “a substitution of shadows for substance” [McLuhan, 1964: 193) to prevent the apathy of their dis-empowerment from momentarily causing further deprivation in the mind of the individual, often at the expense of they person’s life and that of their community.
They are lost from their community because they become lost within the wanders of their own mind, they close off the world outside, in a state of self loathing and medically-induced meditation. Because the body of the individual continues to function, it still walks, talks, eats, sleeps, it still has to function within society, but cannot provide any support for itself, so the body, the person may be seen as a burden. Much as certain groups of society look down on alcohols or drug-users as selfish and a threat to a stable society, and seek to punish those afflicted by a state that has failed to provide them with the tools and the means and the motive to survive without a deep introspective escape.
The state punishes drug users rather than amending a society that causes drug dependency. The need for escape is a by-product of wider social inequality, it is not the cause of deprivation, it is the symptom. So as the community suffers in its attempts to support those afflicted by its cruelties, it begins to resent them, rather than resent the system that caused their situation, because it is easier to blame a single victim of drug use than it is to seek justice on their behalf and to blame the institutions that cause their downfall. The public is made to direct their hate to those who stay at home and stare at televisions rather than at the government that has deprive them of honest work, of a decent life, of self worth.
“Television is not the truth! Television is a God-damned amusement park! […] We’re in the boredom-killing business!” [The Network, 1976]
The narcotic individual is still within society, no individual functions totally outside of it without becoming a hermit, and even then they exist in opposition to the collective body. It is that the are pushed to its fringes, they are excluded, the world they inhabit is made intolerable, so they may become self destructive, self abusing, or even suicidal. A drug addiction could be considered a slow and very painful death, if the individual is unable to recover (due to personal instability caused by socio-economic factors, or underlying mental illness, or the addition), because they are escaping from the waking world, so they delay their response to life, but do not necessarily welcome death, but are made to feel unworthy of a normal, healthy life.
A person does not have to go far to reach a point of dependency, though a pragmatic approach to understanding the causes and factors within a destructive level of narcotic (ab)use vary greatly, but it could be said that all that is required is for a person to consider the need to escape, through substances or otherwise, is for them to become loathing of their current state of being due to disenfranchisement within their community or wider society.
To be lost to alcohol, for example, could simply mean waking up and amongst the initial thoughts of the awakening mind being a desire to be intoxicated. To simple want to be drunk momentarily does not necessarily indicate addiction, but it my by symptomatic of an unhealthy society. When the waking world becomes undesirable, this apathy may transform even the most substantial substance abuse into a state of comparable banality. To drink, perchance to forget.
Heidegger calls banality the second fall of man, after Original Sin, and it may be this very banality that “becomes prodigious. This is the fatality of the modern world, whose astounding depth raises to challenge reality itself” [Baudrillard, 1987: 93], when Nietzsche’s concept of the Last Man reigns supreme, where humans become “an apathetic creature with no great passion or commitment. Unable to dream, tired of life, he takes no risks, seeking only comfort and security, an expression of tolerance with one another” [Žižek, 2015]. Man sinks into the world of Plato’s shadows, cast by television sets, computer screens, drug-induced hyperbolic hallucinations, insomniac minds forever lost in the Post-Fordist nightmare of perpetual labour.
So when even “sleep […] is a standing affront to capitalism” [Poole, 2013] the narcoleptic narcotic faces the terror of remaining perpetually turned on, tuned in and dropping out, without totally dropping out of consciousness. By “removing our need for sleep with drugs or other modifications […] we would be more like efficient machines, able to ‘interact’ with (or labour among) electronic media all day and all night. […] ‘He’s a machine’ is now supposed to be a compliment” [Poole, 2013]. Man may be expected to act more like a machine, not just dancing like a robot (circa Gilbert & George) but to be unfeeling, unresting, unresisting, to move with a twenty-four hour delirium rhythm, never missing a beat, stomping in four-four over the bodies of the weak, the weary and the unprivileged in a technological apartheid. It lives the life of “an ‘allnights newsery reel’ that substitutes a ‘reel’ world for reality,” [McLuhan, 1963: 193] the Joycean equivalent of embodying 24-hour news, with novelty coming with every hour, every frame of the unreal-reel, the double-thinking cognitive dissonance, accepting both representation and reality as equally true.
Those unable to adjust may be euthanised eugenically, as a callus evolution takes place, transforming man into machine though the death of their humanity but the sustain life of their organic flesh, supported and extended by machines. As, “phenomenologically, our bodies are out there extended trough the infinite wires and radio waves that criss-cross the planet continuously and in ever-increasing density” [Zylinska, 2002: 29] The psychopath paves the way to a hollow immortality, where man never dies, because it does not live, its simply exists one endless renewing body of genetic material, a hereditary Ouroboros. The wheels of Revolution turn in kinaesthesia, the illusion of movement denying the possibility of change whilst in siting on a constant state of progress without the time for r reflection, for any substantial change or shift in direction.
The figure of EchoReFlex is cyberized (made cybernetic) by its digitisation and transformation across media. It lives through representations. It dances as if life depends up it (much like Cecile B. Evans’ AGNES, its sustained life depends on its constant display), as if the club will never close, as if keeping the rhythm going will sustain the night indefinitely, delaying the dawn, delaying sleep, denying its humanity, moving like a Golem with ‘LIVE, MOVE, BREATH’ etching in inside its head.
“Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light” [Thomas, 1952]
This work could be seen as a fairly literal-minded embodiment of Thomas’ sentiment, the figure raves (in both the tradition and modern colloquial sense, referring to spontaneous, often illegal dance-music based gathers that became notorious during the 1990s in Britain) at the close of day, as if it were effusing the rise of a new sun, replacing the warm yellow hue of the sun with the artificial electronic green of video feedback, moving with rage against the dying of the light, the end of days, the face of youth writhing against death.
The momentum of the dancing rhythm sustains the figure on its own force, it feeds back on itself (like the projector’ image) as a möbius loop folds upon itself in one continuous curve. As Braidotti observes, “desire as the ontological drive to become (potentia) seduces us into going on living. If sustained long enough, life becomes a habit. If the habit becomes self-fulfilling, life becomes addictive, which is the opposite of necessary or self-evident” [Braidotti, 2013: 134]. This work may be seen to posit that life, the fascinating spectacle of its vitality and ephemerality, becomes the spectacle to which each individual serves to sustain, whilst conflicted and confronting the knowledge of mortality. Society may be seen as deeply introspective in its sustain fascination with its own novelty, its constantly renewing newness, the death-life cycle, and the banal wonderment their in; the ceremony of births and funerals alike.
This may also be seen to be evident in the deeply held anthropocentrism with which most figures approach the world; gazing into the void, thinking of only it relates to their own standing, not narcassitically, but evidencing an inability or unwillingness o attempt to position a perspective outside of the human gaze, to look semiotically rather than pragmatically, disassociated the situation from its contents. As a form of “Dis-identification [that] involves the loss of familiar habits of thought and representation in order to pave the way for creative alternatives. Deluze would call it an active ‘deterritorialization’” [Braidotti, 2013: 86-87].
All that is required is for an individual to see their escape as a requirement, as a need like food or water or shelter. When one of the basic human needs is disturbed, then something may fill its place. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates the vulnerability of the individual, destabilise a person’s base necessities and a situation may be produced that may be difficult to rectify. Hence support for those with narcotic problems must be provided as early as possible in order to be of the most use to them, and thus to society at large, or the resources will have to go into picking up the pieces, rather then helping them to hold together in the first place.
Escapism is a vital and necessary part of society. Given that both narcotic and narcosis stem from the same Greek root, ‘narkē’, numbness, which became ‘narco’, meaning stupor, drowsiness, or sleep; the divide between the narcotic state and of dreamful rest is fairly narrow, and in linguistic terms at least share much the same history. So to sleep, perchance to dream, is integral to sustaining a healthy mind, it is just when the escape dominates life that it becomes problematic, and this does not take a great deal of stimulation if the environment a person is in leaves much to be desired. The world may seem like Hell, but that shows that there is great deal the public knows to be injustice that we can move towards amending.
The escape may be considered less viable than the actual world because it is not sustainable and is inherently self destructive, and as a consequence is destructive to society. If the voids of life are filled exclusively with fantasy or narcotics, then the underlying causes that cause the situations that produce an unpleasant world will not be addressed, and the same errors will be repeated, and there can be no progress without being able to learn from history.
To paraphrase a biblical idiom, a person cannot live on ecstasy alone. The situation that causes a narcotic need is not in the control of the already dis-empowered, so those in the privilege of a more secure or stable living must strive to improve the conditions in which people are living to prevent a further slide towards mass deprivation. Escapism is not in itself self serving and detrimental to society, but if the escape becomes more desirable than life, then society is failing it citizens. And so individuals must move to support those people in whatever ways possible.
The saying goes ‘Illegitimi non carborundum’, but perhaps ‘Ne aliquem illigitamus carborundum’ would produce more justice for all, in other words, rather than accepting the notion “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”, it may be worth considering the idea that”Don’t let the bastards grind anyone down”, do not let the bastards (arbitrary governance) have the power to do so, overturn the grindstone, build a better society from its shattered rock.
Situations in which the vulnerable are victimised, such as a recent Conservative policy to make young people “work 30 hours a week for benefits” [Dearden, 2015] go only towards worsening the problem, even more so than simply ignoring it. It could be seen that this proposal, to make young people work for benefits (i.e., below a already meagre minimum wage-slave rates, and be grateful for the merry of the employer, suffering at the inconsequential expense, in ignorance of the inevitable profit for private firms this force labor enables, as well as slowing down the increase in the minimum waste through tactically controlling inflation to suit the benefits of businesses at the expense of the populous).
This could be seen to embody an attitude to the impoverished members of society that seeks to force upon them a level of depressed and destitution that they are driven to suicide and are no longer a concern, no longer need providing for, and evidences a righteous contempt for those not already in positions of power, using the threat of further poverty to push people to the most extreme form of escapism; death.
If escapism becomes hyperbolised, so that life seems worthless, then an existential nihilism may become a prominent consideration. This indicates that the value assigned to goals within life are arbitrary, so must be overturned, and new ways to give life value must be found. However, escapism in itself is not necessarily a means of giving value, but a means of delaying acknowledgement of the current being in the world.
“All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a human being, God damn it! My life has value!’ [The Network, 1976]
There are many measure of value, within a form of post-Capitalistic society a presiding opinion is that money is the only quantifiable measure of value, so is therefore the only justifiable one. However, from a Humanist perspective the worth of something to the individual may be a fair measure of value. Value is what it is made it to be, and what is made to be valuable. What matters – matter is what is made of it. Grains of sand can be a formless desert, sand castle, or an intricately woven glass vessel. Applying a form of Deconstructivism to Ontology, then subjects (or objects) may be taken apart to proved further understanding; to find its meaning from its constituent parts and from that better derive its value.
(Within some Eastern philosophies, such as (a fairly rudimentary, Westernised readings of) Buddhism, this may be describe as a means providing insight in the ‘Dharmas’, though this is invariably tied up with religious ideology, it could be considered a form of escapism, although religious groups may in themselves provide ample opportunity for community and inclusivity, but this can easily become exclusivity, and counter productive for greater social cohesion. Moreover, individuals must remain aware/weary the arbitrary value placed on internal hierarchies, though this is more prevalent in monotheism that priorities a single godhead. Nevertheless, the principal of Mediation may be worth meditating on – metatation – as a form of escapism).
“As in narcotic states, the series of visual impressions become meaningless. They no longer seem to belong to us, they just exist, as though the speed of light had won out, this time, over the totality of the message.” [Virilio, 1994: 9]
(The following section of analysis and writing here may initially appear as a erroneous non-sequitur, however the pop culture reference should not be seen to undermine the validity of what is being discussed, but rather may be considered a reinforcement of the cultural context within which the work is entering, aligned more with MTV and music performance than directly with art. The analogues drawn may be compared to Lev Manovich’s citing of Star Wars and his use of the character of Jar Jar Binks to inform his debate in The Language of the New Media [Manovich, 2001], a cultural signifier that acts as a catalytic for conversation that ma have otherwise been squandered. Though not a totally Deconstructionist approach, there may also be allusions to that mode of subject evaluation here; as any meme, or unit of cultural capital can be broken down far enough to reveal wider pattens from the sooty from which it has been plucked.)
“We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind. […] We can go when we want to, the night is young and so am I. […] And you can act real rude and totally removed, and I can act like an imbecile. […] It’s the safety dance” [Men Without Hats, 1983].
In this piece, there may be an unintentional but inescapable influence of Men Without Hat’s 1983 single, The Safety Dance, and not only because of the high-vis safety vest and sporadic nonsensical dancing, but the background of the song and the lyrical relevance is worth examining in detail.
The Safety Dance has been seen as a form of protest song against banning ‘pogoing’ in dance clubs, as to bystanders the act of a lone individual jumping up and down, thrashing about with torso rigid (similar to some of the dance moves that I demonstrated) was seen as threatening and non-inclusive, going against the partnership-lead dancing associated with the popular Disco music that came before the New Wave and Synth-Pop movements that followed.
So bouncers, human pillars of security, bounced the pogoers out of the clubs, ironical using the same seemingly violent actions they were attempting to prevent against the people they attempted to control. Although not to the same extent as riot Police using brutality to fight public violence and anger against the political establishment. This it is worth noting that the final frames of the music video do allude to bombs and weapons of war, but they are not necessarily indicative of the song and the social stance associated with this area of popular culture at the time.
Similar themes were followed up in the music video for I Like, but using a stage format and a more direct interplay between folk and club imagery. Despite music videos effectively serving as adverts, they are still worth considering for a visual culture discussion. Particularly with the pop-propaganda potential of the MTV aesthetic, adopted by the likes of political organisations, private companies and charities alike (or embodying all three, see the Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 viral video). But unlike a TV commercial that provides a ‘slacktivist’ response; one that encourages activism by consumption; in other words, proposing “one easy solution to the problem, i.e. buy this ‘product’ and it will be solved,” [Creeber, 2013: 140] both The Safety Dance music video and my EchoReFlex performance are not offering an ideology resolution to any specific systemic problem.
Rather, the MTV aesthetic is (to paraphrase Aristotle) entertained without being immediately endorsed, thereby facilitating and evoking “a kind of hypnotic trance which the spectator is suspended in a state of unsatisfied desire but forever under the illusion of imminent satisfaction through some kind of purchase’” [Kaplan, 1987: 12], but in the case of my performance, there is nothing for sale. The only thing on offer is a performance which the audience is envied to freely participate, but (mostly) refuse, playing on the attrition/revulsion dynamic of one individual facing a crowd dancing haphazardly by itself, not making for potential dance partner or subject for collectivised interpersonal feedback, shutting off the potential for mutual social interaction, favouring a one-way un-choreographed monologue. I was dancing AT the audience and WITH the schizoid music.
(The subject of political discord through mass moments of people in demonstrations, protests, and riots, is covered more extensively in the writing surround the Twenty Four Hour Delirium Rhythm works than the EchoReFlex performance and subsequent videos, but it was necessary for this piece to be undertaken for the latter to be initiated. For some time, there was intended to be a greater cross over between the works, but the aesthetic juxtaposition of the subject matter seemed too jarring and the ridiculousness of the dancing seemed to undermine the seriousness of the riot footage, rather than initiate an effective dialogue between the two. I had to go through individualism – ERF – and come out the other side to arrive at the wider social context – TFHDR.)
Despite the problematic ‘Pogoing’ that is alluded to in The Safety Dance lyrics being more prominently affiliated being with bands like Joy Division, or more aggressively with the Sex Pistols, similar forms of musical movement subsequently infiltrated a range of musical genres: from rock, metal, punk, post-punk, new wave, and later in the rise of 90s dance music, notably the Acid House scene. But what all of these areas of music share in common, besides the notably energetic dancing demonstrated by the fanatics of such movements, but more notably their stance as ‘anti-establishment’, going against the grain, à’rebours, to the popular music of the time, although nostalgia paints all music pop eventually.
Nevertheless, the particular background of music I have had experience with has been a mixture of all of the above, but also the British Folk scene, which shares a tradition with the Heavy Metal genre in its live performances, in its return to group dancing,. However Folk music tends to involve more linked arms and jigging (an aesthetic that is alluded to in the music video for Safety Dance, in which members of the band and various other character dance around a May Pole in Morris dress), and fans of Metal music at live concerts are often noted for their swirling ceremonies of communal violence in the form of the mosh pit, presenting a mutually supportive scenario where individuals can exchange pushes and shoves without malice or anger, but a healthy release of otherwise pressurised aggression. This may be considered another form of cultural escapism, providing a situation for self-expression and immunity that might otherwise be socially unacceptable. Or as Men Without Hats would put it “We can act like we come from out of this world, leave the real one far behind” [Men Without Hats, 1983].
Needless to say, there is inevitably a cross over between music and dance styles, as pogoing may result in an inadvertent mosh pit, and the traditions of solo and group dynamics tend to overlap where there enough people present in one space. Though they may not dance or move as partners or groups, they function and move with the primary rhythm of the music present. Much as a crowd may al turn their heads when a car horn blares, they may move in step when the sound fully saturates a space.
This cross-pollination of popular and anti-establishment music, dancing, and the wider cultural significance of ‘youth movement’ is counter to the depictions of the ‘apathetic youth’ that is frequently drawn by the media. Hence, in this performance, I did not stick to a dance outline, I did not move formally, I was not a ‘punk’ or a ‘raver’ or a ‘smack head’, I acted as one individual moving to the rhythm of many, of discord, reflecting the dichotomy of the music. The order of the BBC news Theme and the counter-culture associations of Born Slippy throbbing together in the background, in the air, in the walls, in the static people facing one individual writhing stoically in the waking coma of music-driven escapism feeding back on itself in bodily tints, sweating the last drops of teen spirit from a lung body whose youth is already dying as it enters its 21st year in the ripening dawn of the 21st century.
There is an underlying tribalism to this ritualistic rave-like aesthetic, a unity through collective dancing and collective movement. When music is played loud enough, people do not dance with one another but with the music itself, especially in enclosed club or musical performance settings when the sound covers the entirety of bodily mass of the crowd; they move with the rhythm of amplified machines.
Humans embody the mantra of the machines they built, the function, they (con)form ideas, the solitary figure is obliterated in the face of the mass inter-media networks that it has been thorn into (like the cast off shoe of a Luddite, in fear of the destruction of their way of life, known all too well what the machine age brings for Ma; its total disintegration, by the atom bomb and the atomic speed that followed.
“It’s the individual that’s finished. It’s the single, solitary human being that’s finished. It’s every single one of you out there that’s finished, because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. […] Transistorized, deodorized, whiter-that-white, steel-belted bodies, totally unnecessary […] human beings, and as replaceable as piston rods. […] The whole world is becoming humanoid – creatures that look human but aren’t. […] The whole world’s people are becoming mass-produced, programmed, numbered, insensate things” [The Network, 1976]