Regenerative Feedback: On Listening and Its Emancipatory Potential: NOISE/HUMAN/SIGNAL
May 26 @ 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm| $20
“The action of [the evolutionary] principle is exactly like that of the centrifugal governor of the steam engine, which checks and corrects any irregularities almost before they become evident; and in like manner no unbalanced deficiency in the animal kingdom can ever reach any conspicuous magnitude, because it would make itself felt at the very first step, by rendering existence difficult and extinction almost sure soon to follow.” -- Alfred Russel Wallace
Saturday, May 26th, ISSUE is pleased to present the second evening of Regenerative Feedback: On Listening And Its Emancipatory Potential, a three day symposium of talks, presentations, discourse, and performances centered around biological, social, political and cognitive negotiations in music. Experimental in form, each evening of Regenerative Feedback explores various ethical dimensions, historical circumstances, and cultural resonances of musical artifacts through a series of individual presentations, a roundtable conversation guided by a moderator, interlocuting performances, and extended Q&As.
Taking the general heading NOISE/HUMAN/SIGNAL as a point of departure, the Saturday event features Iranian artist, writer and philosopher Reza Negerastani (returning to ISSUE after his 2012 presentation of “The Non-Trivial Goat and the Cliffs of the Universal” with Florian Hecker), as well as theorist Inigo Wilkins, returning after his presentation of “Xenopoetic Deviations” with TCF at ISSUE in 2017. Presentations also include musician and artist Brandon Covington (founder of multimedia performance project Black Hydra’s Discharge Springs Forth Errantly From Her Many Mouths), Dhanveer Brar (scholar of the aesthetics and politics of sound in black diasporic culture of the Global North), Melle Kromhout (scholar of intersections between musicology, sound studies, and media studies), and lecturer and member of techno-futurist collective ANON Alexandra Hedako Mason. The panel is moderated by Inigo Wilkins. In addition, the evening features interlocuting performances from Brandon Covington’s N-Prolenta project, and Neha Spellfish, a project of Oakland-based multidisciplinary sound artist Neha Chriss.
6-8pm: Presentations and Roundtable
As Reza Negarestani holds for the aesthetic experience in his following of Kant: "The domain of aesthetic judgment is the domain of pure autonomy inhabited solely by ends without finality, or purposiveness without purpose. These are the ends that are determined by neither material nor final causes. [...] Technologies of form implement a discordant feedback [...] between the sensible and the formal, intuitions and concepts, imagination and understanding."
Not only is the aesthetic experience an almost anti-teleological end in itself, the implications of this experience as manufactured, constructed and provided have far-reaching consequences on conceptions of self and time, of the world, of relations. Perhaps it’s time to realize that all fiction becomes reality (and, obviously, vice versa). Less abstract and more mundane, illustratively applied to the present cause: the amplification of collective imaginaries echoes into the future as well as the past, in a strange feedback loop which renders dystopian and utopian aspirations into the dullness of the present. Much like a musician tuning an instrument: there’s an unstable memory, updated at the same time as it is remembered, projected as well as performed into the future. The telos is a specific, desired sound, the process is a loop in time rarely paused over and analyzed. Music’s given phenomenological character invites an interpretation of reality as fleeting, interdependent processes, rather than as atemporal, isolated objects. It is perhaps this very quality of the sonic experience which inspires admiration, reverence and a cognitive opportunity for environmental- & self-reflexion.
The notion of feedback, allegedly dating back to the eighteenth century, has its more recognized roots in the construction of regenerative audio systems: in the amplification of signals. Feeding energy from a device’s output back into its input creates a self-augmenting loop which results in an exponentially stronger output. It’s not difficult to imagine how the implementation of this logic in complex systems could lead -- and has led -- to catastrophic results, but it’s also not untrue that the basic tenets of feedback can be observed at play in successful evolutive organic systems, as well as non-organic technological operations, given the proper regulatory context.
The dream would be that humans all become expert cyberneticians, and explore dreams, intents and efforts, and all their possible impacts, conflicts and resolutions by way of self-regulating orders and systems. Despite the fact that reality may never be so (or it may be that it so already is), is there something to be gained from an investigation into the nature of the feedback loop created by the musical experience (i.e. sound-processing as sound progresses)? Can one aspire to the unspoken balance bespoken by this experience without violently instrumentalizing it? Can one harness the capacity for change and evolution in musical engagements for the sake of a better understanding of human engagements at large? Without assuming this is possible or even the case at all, this Regenerative Feedback aims to uncover the positive feedback mechanisms in the abstract realm that is human musicking.
One way to think of the feedback in aesthetic engagements, perhaps, is by considering artistic experiments as seemingly legible footnotes to an undecipherable system. The systems humanity is indoctrinated into seem to transcur over periods vaster than those considered by just an individual. Society wakes up into a premeditated world. Art offers glimpses of -- and approaches, footnotes to -- those systems, even if ever so briefly. Music transforms prevailing notions of social morality, generates and speaks to different subjectivities, produces ever-innovative informational structures, influences collective and individual behavior: political movements; aesthetic sentiments; affective biases. It constitutes the historical backbone of the most basic human rituals. But how exactly does this happen? How does an assembled combination of sounds and -- sometimes -- words appeal to something as volatile as a feeling, or to something as robust as a political stance? The implications of music in culture remain challenging in a field whose intellectual, political and technological grounds have observed so many morphisms. In an effort to activate a more encompassing, alert, informed, empathetic, challenging and compelling political voice against the present horror: Regenerative Feedback aims to offer a critical and concerned focus on different perspectives on the politics of social change, through the power of music.
Regenerative Feedback is organized by Sonia de Jager, a Rotterdam-based researcher currently residing in New York, working at the intersection between philosophy of technology, philosophy of language, media studies and cultural analysis. De Jager has stated the following: “Curator is an uncomfortable word these days, and definitely not the role -- as it is most commonly enacted and perceived -- I wish to associate myself with. Having said that, I do want to state as an organizer/initiator/instigator, that despite my general conceptual framing of this project: none of the above would have been possible without the bonds and feedback loops I entered into with other people during the planning of things. From age-long inspiration from friendships and collaborations, to structural and technical suggestions, to the recommending of then-unknown people as possible speakers, to overall moral support and human enthusiasm. This is, above all, a collaborative effort.”
Reza Negarestani is an Iranian artist, writer and philosopher who has pioneered the genre of ‘theory-fiction’ with his expansive Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. He has written widely online and in print on contemporary theory, philosophy, and politics, notably in journals like Collapse and CTheory.
Brandon Covington/N-Prolenta is an artist and researcher, dedicated to a long-term multimedia performance project called Black Hydra’s Discharge Springs Forth Errantly From Her Many Mouths (2014-), which engages in a critique of the transatlantic slave trade, inescapable commodification, and the networked information ecology that formed and reproduced the historical foundation of the African diasporic experience. Covington began the project after leaving the neuroscience program at the University of Rochester in 2014 and returning to their hometown to focus on art.
Neha Spellfish is the convergence of the speculative and the experimental, a recollection of natural sound phenomena and exploration of the oceanic subconscious. A project of Oakland-based multi-disciplinary sound artist Neha Chriss.
Dhanveer Singh Brar is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. He writes on black diasporic culture, aesthetics, and politics from the late twentieth century to the present, with a focus on electronic music.
For Regenerative Feedback, Dhanveer discusses the recent recorded output and performance work of Klein, as a contemporary reconfiguration of the collective songform.
Melle Kromhout works on the intersection of musicology, sound studies and media studies, Melle Kromhout is interested in the conceptual relations between music, sound and media from the nineteenth century to the present day. Currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, he studies the implications of the nineteenth century conceptualization of Fourier analysis and sine waves for the development of contemporary sonic and musical cultures.
For Regenerative Feedback, Kromhout presents "Resisting Pure Sound: Debunking the Myth of Perfect Fidelity, or: Why Humans Will Never Be in Charge."
Alexandra Mason is a member of ANON, a techno-futurist, left accelerationist collective. In the absence of an affirmative presence within the Left, the members of ANON took it upon themselves to create their own movement. Alexandra is interested in biopolitics, social movements within America, future-oriented identity politics, and impact of social media on society. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Urban Studies at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies, and she received her undergraduate degree from The New School.
For Regenerative Feedback, Mason presents how hip hop, along with other 20th century black music, exposes the limits and pressures of this capitalist system. At times, such music constructs a bleak but honest outlook on the present, while simultaneously presenting an imagined future. Through the lens of afropessimism and afrofuturism, we can examine how a history of tense race relations has led to a pessimism that is actually transcendent, as well as a vision of the future that is actually part critique. Using black sonic arts from the past few decades as our guide, we can begin to see why the project of “world negation,” or delinking currently held phenotypic ideas from the categories of human or rational thought, should be the next big social project.
Inigo Wilkins took his masters in Sonic Culture at the University of East London, and completed his doctorate in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2016. The title of his thesis was Irreversible Noise: The Rationalization of Randomness and the Fetishization of Indeterminacy, which he is now working on for a forthcoming publication by Urbanomic. He is a co-director of Glass Bead. Publications include “Interfacey McInterface Face” Litteraria Pragensia 2017; “The Sharpest Point of Sensation is Pointless” in a booklet accompanying an LP by musician Eric Frye entitled “On Small Differences in Sensation,” 2016; “Destructive Destruction: An Ecological Study of High Frequency Trading” first published in Mute magazine, 2013. An extended version of “Destructive Destruction” published in HFT Review, February 2013, in the Journal of Sustainable Finance and Investment, January 2014, and in “Plants, Androids and Operators: A Post-Media Handbook” published by PML Books, 2014; and “Catalyzing Dissent” published in Mute magazine, December 2012.
For Regenerative Feedback, Wilkins presents “Shake and Squeeze: Making Relevant Moves.” The notion of universality in scientific models abstracts away from irrelevant details by a procedure of asymptotic reasoning, exemplified by renormalization group theory. Cognitive systems can be understood to operate through the same kind of process, and this is implemented in current deep learning. After showing how this relates to noise and bias, Wilkins addresses the limitations of this model of modelling for the multi-modal rationality of normative-linguistic thought.