#019 reflections by Lucas Kwong

…He spoke quietly, but with no excess of theatrics, about the urbanization of an industrialized society, and the effect it produces in collective psychology.  As a grad student whose life is lived from one theory text to another, I felt at home…but where was the “art”?  Where was the Dionysian eruption to displace the carefully reasoned Apollonian analysis of social relations?  WHEREFORE THE MUSE?

Ah, but all (good) things come to those who wait.  As I studied the way the lampshade hovered above John’s head (fez-meets-halo?), noises – a “pop” here, a click of the tongue there – began to texture the sounds (conveniently arranged as sentences) emerging from John’s lips.  Shortly thereafter, Jens solemnly walked up to John, mike in hand, to move his water from one side of the podium to the other.  The sounds Jens was emitting comprised a kind of soundtrack to John’s disquisition: as John spoke of regimented schedules dictated by industrialization, Jens made a noise not unlike an excited child’s impression of a Transformer morphing from Ferrari to Autobot.

Playfulness, a kind of gleeful subversion, thus characterized the rest of the evening.  At times I wasn’t sure whether Jens was sonically texturing John’s lecture, or vice versa: what if the real meaning resided in the onomatopoeias, the blips, the clicks, that Jens was spitting into the microphone?  As foreground and background blurred into one another, I realized that we were all bearing witness to the production of a new space: one intended not solely for kerygmatic revelation (this was, after all, a site of worship on Sundays), or for academic analysis, but for a collaborative deconstruction of societal expectations.  Maybe reclaiming space begins with reclaiming our own senses, rebelling against a society that trains our ears and eyes to locate meaning in the mere syntactical arrangement of words.  (Never mind that those words might signal the triumph of ideological mystification: see, for example, subway ads for Uniqlo that paint a fantasy of interracial harmony, thereby transubstantiating consumerism into social progressivism.)  Jens’ aural experimentation seemed to incarnate the possibility of emancipating ourselves from the specious system of signification that enmeshes us at every turn, late global capitalism’s self-destructing gift to the world.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” The first chapter of John entrances us with the prospect of a Signifier that exists, in perfect union, not only with the Signified (the constructions of deity that exist in our minds, from Cosmic Santa to Patriarchal Policeman) but with an Ultimate Referent.  In a city plastered with logos, such a perfect union seems at least as impossible as the thought that a Nazarene carpenter could die for the sins of the world.  This is precisely why we need such experiences as that which Jens and John provided us with that evening.  In that space, we began to realize that hearing new possibilities – hearing the mutual indwelling of Signifier and Referent – could begin with listening to the noise underneath the nouns.

Lucas Kwong: reflections on the Performance „a discourse on space / strange possibilities“  – Performance by Jens Reulecke in cooperation with guestspeaker John Boy and Florian Erdle – 22nd September 2011, Allthingsproject, NYC

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One Comment on “#019 reflections by Lucas Kwong”

  1. Ed Sidley says:

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