Kathryn Fischer (Mad Kate)
Kathryn Fischer (Mad Kate)
A naked figure channels the virtual binary between life and non-life.
Art, music and text: TUSK (Adrienne Teicher)
Choreography and Cinematography: Mad Kate (Kathryn Fischer)
Translocation, in genetic terms, occurs when information on one chromosome moves onto another, or chromosomes trade information, resulting in a corrupted, mutated copy of the source material.
Translocation, in spiritual terms, is used to describe a host of experiences that challenge the consensus reality model of three dimensional space and of objects and beings moving in one direction along an additional time axis. Out of body experiences, UFO abductions and psychic communication – all of these phenomena count as forms of translocation.
“I” experienced in a flash the cold, dispassionate reality of this transformation even as “I” experienced the non-being of this reality.
The universe split in two in that moment, the world of “I” and the world in which “I” is dead, inanimate matter.
Acceptance of that world scars the other, the world in which “I” is alive, in which the world worlds, in which I is.
There is now a vortex that links these mutual impossibilities: being-alive and being-dead, world-animate and world-inanimate, the cast of selves and the image which unites them.
This other world is not a world in which “I” is not. It is a world perceived from the perspective of a composite life which has decomposed into molecules and microbes.
The microbes do not mourn, nor slowly forget and move on.
“I” has no part in this world. And yet “I” has been there.
“I” has seen it with “my” “own” “eyes”.
I have recently begun using open source software for creative work wherever possible. I am excited by the escape route from capitalism this offers. In this spirit, I am releasing the Translocation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please support me by buying the album through Bandcamp above, or download it without cost here:
Released January 29, 2016
Music composed and mixed by TUSK
Artwork by TUSK based on a photograph by Claudia Kent www.claudiakent.com
I started this remix of David Bowie’s “Loving The Alien” two years ago but never released it because I felt I had never quite nailed it. To remix one’s idol to one’s own satisfaction is, I guess, impossible, so I will use this moment to post it online as an imperfect tribute to Bowie – my first artistic inspiration.
Bowie has died but I am really mourning for myself, a person I was a long time ago. I first discovered David Bowie at age 12 when I saw the video for Space Oddity on Australian TV. (I should really say rediscovered, because I had already watched Bowie countless times in the movie Labyrinth but it took some time until I connected the Star Man to the Goblin King.)
What I saw in this creature on television was a creature of ambivalence, something utterly lacking in the musicians I had consumed previously – the Beatles (under the influence of my father), Metallica (under the influence of my brother). Bowie was the first musical being I discovered for my own.
And I really felt on my own. As I started High School no-one in my milieux listened to David Bowie, even knew who he was. I felt like I had a secret, like discovering some lost philosopher. Australian society, at least as I saw it through the prism of my suburban isolation, was coming to terms with the existence of gay people, even (with a little more reluctance) lesbians. Gender queer, however, was something else, something more deviant and ridiculous, understood through the rubric the transvestite.
Being gay was something you either were or were not. In contrast, Bowie was someone who was gay and straight and bisexual and neither of the above, never letting us know if it was all just a game he was playing on his audience, Bowie as a mirror, revealing the striking emptiness on the wall where we thought we had hung our solid, fixed gender identities.
Bowie kept alive for many years the unintelligible idea that I might have no gender, or that I might have many genders, and that far from suffering a delusion in need of a cure, it was the world that was constructed on illusions. Bowie carried me safely through these fraught years, delivering me, ultimately into the hands of Michel Foucault with the start of my university career who served much the same critical role, but in a philosophical discourse.
At aged 18, I read a mediocre Bowie biography which purported to analyse the techniques through which Bowie had constructed his mystique. I read this book, reading about how Bowie invented and reinvented himself, always with a wryness, a knowingness that he integrated into his characters to undercut any charge that there was something inauthentic to these identity adventures.
I imagined that in some way, on the cusp of adulthood, I might carry this torch, transcend Bowie even in some way. When I finally began to take music seriously seven years ago, I made music, just like Bowie by creating characters, first Aurora Kiss, then TUSK, my own nod to the Star Man.
Bowie was the master of responding to the gaps and cracks of the world around him and finding the means to build a career on mirroring the strangeness in seemingly self-sure society. What I missed, until now, was that these gaps and cracks are not the same in the second decade of the 21st Century as they were in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
The one major shift, I see, is that Bowie set himself up as the locus of this adventure in gender, sexuality and identity, with the rest of us as mere watchers or occasional imitator. And he did so as a self-professed apolitical person, intensely private and withdrawn.
It seems to me, now, in this era of environmental apocalypse, of neo-serfdom, and of totalitarian governments and corporations, that having Bowie as a centralised prophet to whom we turn to represent our strangeness for us in fact releases us from our obligation to explore this strangeness within and without in a political way, cuts us off from the necessary collective resistance to conformity. It’s a problem at the heart of the nature of celebrity itself and one that I want to engage with now as a musician and a performer: popular culture no longer as spectacle, but as something which activates people to be as counter-cultural as Bowie was.
It pains me now, as I listen to his music, that I am hearing a dead man’s voice. So the question now is whether he can live on not as a nostalgic memory, but alive in all of those he inspired.
“Let’s break out of the horrible shell of wisdom and throw ourselves like pride-ripened fruit into the wide, contorted mouth of the wind! Let’s give ourselves utterly to the Unknown, not in desperation but only to replenish the deep wells of the Absurd!”
– F.T. Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto
In Lisbon, a month or so ago, still sweaty from our show at the Rabbit Hole queer party, we talked with our host about a film program he is curating on the topic of Afro-futurism. The conversation stirred memories of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and the Italian futurists and I wondered if there was a connection.
Futurism is an Italian artistic movement from the early twentieth century which celebrates the destruction of the past to make way for the future. The futurists felt that Italian culture and society was decaying and laid the blame at a reverence for the past: “To admire an old painting is to pour our sensitiveness into a funeral urn”.
To break out of this anomie, Futurism makes no firm distinction between creation and destruction; in fact it closes the two into an Ouroboros circle:
“Let the good incendiaries come with their carbonized fingers!… Here they are! Here they are!… Set the library stacks on fire! Turn the canals in their course to flood the museum vaults!… There go the glorious canvases, floating adrift! Take up the picks and the hammers! Undermine the foundations of the venerable cities!”
There isn’t a connection between this and Afro-futurism, or at least none that I could discern from my cursory research (more on Afro-futurism here). My research did however re-evoke for me a kind of revulsion for the archetype of futurism: masculinity in control of an automobile, two things towards which I am deeply ambivalent.
In his “Manifesto of Futurism”, Marinetti declares his desire “to sing the man who holds the steering wheel whose ideal stem pierces the Earth, itself launched on the circuit of its orbit.”
In place of a reverence for ancient and renaissance culture, the futurists prefer “the vibrant nightly fervor of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke.”
It’s desire is its death drive and so the futurists gladly cheers militarism as well as industrialism, with Marinetti even celebrating the catastrophe of World War One in a poem titled “War is the World’s Only Hygiene”, in which the War is the only solution for cleansing the society of its passivity and dullness. The War, as we now know, produced only a decidedly undynamic and unproductive churning of human flesh in the trenches, something which greatly undermines Marinetti’s coupling of unreserved creation and destruction.
Wrong, in so many ways, in their understanding of what the Machine Age would produce, there is something nonetheless attractive about the Futurist ideology for an artist, a musician and a political activist.
There was a time, up until very recently in fact, where I devoured every morsel of the past, or at least a past centred on the nucleus of 1984: the year of my birth. David Bowie, Visage, Liquid Sky.
Ironically this vision of the past I coveted was the future as imagined from the past: a future of geometric lines cut in cloth and etched in make-up, of smoke machines and flashing lights, an aesthetic. I devoured this future-past in order to escape the now, the dry cultural landscape of suburban Australia in 1996 or thereabouts.
Perhaps this fascination with the 1980s has to do with a desire for the music from early childhood: the sound of music intertwining with the beating of my mother’s heart in a fantasy of inter-uterine existence.
If this is the case then it falls into the always tragic category of longing an impossible return, our dance a desperate flailing against the diaspora into which every human being is cast by being exiled from the first homeland – the womb. Such nostalgia removes us from political agency, entangles us in an impossible, backwards journey, turns us away from the future, from its hazard and risks, but also the opportunities it presents.
As a musician, I face the question: Why spend creative energy rebuilding analogue synthesisers designed forty years ago when we can design digital modes of synthesis for sounds never heard before?
So I find it hard to dance to the old songs any more – Blue Monday, Sweet Dreams, all the rest – not because they are not good – they most definitely are – but because of what the dance entails, not only nostalgia, but a nostalgia for a nostalgia, wretched invocation of neurons excited by the sounds of a synthesiser decades old.
This temporal cringe is not just about musical novelty. If I think of any account of what the future might look like, the one which I find the most compelling, disturbing and frustrating is that of Ray Kurzweil – futurologist (not futurist) and now Director of Engineering at Google who observes and predicts a rapid acceleration of technological development in all fields, but especially in artificial intelligence known as the Singularity. This acceleration culminates in an event some time around 2045 where artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence and a superintelligence saturates civilisation and eventually the entire universe.
When I read about the Singularity, a little pit of despair emerges, the fear that the future does not belong to us after all, but to the technocrats, to Kurzweil’s employer Google, to the NSA and the rest, that what the human technological development has set in train is a hyper-intelligent algorithms in the service of a capitalistic authoritarianism, ice-cold to culture, beauty and freedom, a future where knowledge subsumed to data, building, expanding, producing, but oblivious, contemptuous even to the costs for human consciousness.
By obsessing over movements from the past – the music of the 1980s, classical humanism, analogue, whatever it may be – we become ever more disconnected from the tools which might help us to define a future which is beautiful, queer, transhumanist, multiple, anarchist.We need to assert the values which will guide the machines, we need to extend our vision of what life might be when our bodies become truly saturated with machine intelligence.
Somehow we got drawn into a binary. Radiating on one hemisphere are the proselytisers of Computer Future, drawing all their energy from the misplaced anxieties of the soothsayers of computer future.
Where the soothsayers point to loss and dissolution, watch the Matrix as documentary and close their Facebook accounts, the proselytisers celebrate the productive nature of the emerging modes of sociability that Computer Future allows.
How different is it, really, to share a photograph on your wall, than it was, in previous eras, to dust off photo albums and gaze at faded glossy memories behind plastic sheets? Not that different, and the now is infinitely better because we can share with an infinite number of people: so quantitatively speaking the act of digital sharing is that many times more valuable than the analogue photograph as the number of followers who “see” your post.
Phenomenologically speaking, concepts like “seeing” and “sociability” remain undefined. In 1980, before digital consciousness, we were not really that much further than Kant or Husserl (*lack of women philosophers noted*) in understanding what the world is beyond our retinas – even the retinas were lost to us, the optic nerve but a theory, the assumption of a “conscious self” written in quotation marks to allow at least the possibility of conceptualising the world.
Computer Future clashes with this philosophical tradition, because it takes as its starting point the existence of the network, and then tries to theorise what the human might mean within it, whereas, at least for some of us (anyone over thirty years of age being essentially a stone ghost of the twentieth century in the flux of the twenty-first) understanding what I am, and what I can know about the external world as more than just flickering lights on the cave wall is a hurdle we have not passed.
So maybe this is how our questions will finally be put to rest, not through resolution but through a fading of relevance, through a fading of the concepts and the experiences which gave these questions life and importance in the first place.
But what, then, when AI wakes up to itself? What will it know of itself? Will it be able to verify, with its near-infinite processing operations per second, that it actually exists, that there is a world beyond its digital tendrils?
Will it even care?
I read once that the Stasi ultimately failed because a certain formula failed – the ratio between the information they collected and their capacity to analyse it and render it meaningful was vastly unequal. So they ended up with immense archives of unknowable information. Satisfying to an archivist perhaps, but not of much use to the security apparatus.
In this era of cybernetics the equation is levelled, even though on both sides of the equation the numbers have increased dramatically – There is an increase in the amount of data collected and at the same time the ability to turn this data into knowledge.
Data is essentially 0s and 1s, numbers before they are rendered intelligible to a human mind. Content without form. Information is the start of the transition. Information is my name, an SMS I send, pornography I consume. Knowledge is the end of the transition into intelligibility, where we can really say that we have integration, all the information about me becomes intelligible, you know where I will go before I do, you give me a sexual identity (determine what highly specialised breed of fetishist I am), knowledge is knowing, knowing is an act of violence, of control.
Google knows me.
Tusk’s interpretation of Cohen’s seething bitterness and cynicism sits quite naturally atop the pumping and strangely fitting melodic groove, with the female chorus backing vocals adding to the resigned, but weary of its resignation, general tone of the song.
Long awaited return of the sci-fi synth supplicant TUSK now reborn as the perennially wandering lesbian vampire of your sweetest, darkest dreams.
Lesbian Vampires is a psychedelic paean to impossible love and the weight of desire.
Buy the EP at tusklives.bandcamp.com
Directed and Edited by TUSK
Cinematography & Styling by Mad Kate
Music written and produced by TUSK
Mix Tweaking & High Definition Mastering by: Bartłomiej Kuźniak (http://studio333.net)
“I wait by your door as the day starts to dawn….”
Long awaited return of the sci-fi synth supplicant TUSK now reborn as the perennially wandering lesbian vampire of your sweetest, darkest dreams