Piece for Truants – check it out
Piece for Truants – check it out
Artist Kazim Rashid’s short film ‘2001: Pressure Makes Diamonds’ operates as both an online video hosted by Boiler Room’s 4:3 platform, as well as part of a group exhibition at the Rich Mix focused on Asian identity and culture post-9/11. Billed as a ‘tri-narrative film’, it weaves between 9/11 and the War on Terror, the Oldham riots, and the demise of boxer Prince Naseem to highlight the dearth of prominent Asian culture in a British frame. A tight soundscape threads through the work illustrating the importance of music in presenting a social history.
The film form is grid-like, running three screens across and three screens down, giving a sense of a reinterpreted news channel. At stake is a tension between the immediate spectacle of TV news, and the continued mournful trauma of racism and colonialism. There is a breakdown in genre as the news item is turned into a sport spectacle, and a boxing match into a bloody war. Rashid’s aesthetic sense is rooted in a social understanding of Asian presence in Britain.
Which brings me to the soundtrack. Having acknowledged the influence of Arthur Jafa on his work, Rashid uses music to drive his cinematic soundscape mashing multiple genres together. This is brought to a climax with a beautiful synchronisation between a distorted bollywood song ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ from Hare Krishna Hare Ram (1971) and the demise of Prince Naseem against Barrera. There is a definite evocation of the end of Naseem’s reign as the end of mainstream recognition, and the end of any straightforward sovereign narrative.
The problem of Asian culture, as Rashid presents us with, is also the problem of masculinity highlighted by the fetishisation of Naseem’s body throughout the film. The Prince’s body failing as distorted climax signifies the end of any dominant Asian narrative. However the use of music as a central narrative force seeks to reproduce a culture that is not nostalgic, but rather one that is politically and aesthetically critical. Music as the documenting tool of history leaves it always open to contemporary social and artistic reinterpretations. This avoids a staid representation that often gets nostalgically retold, particularly in British Asian culture, in favour of something generative and open.
Wrote this piece for Mixmag
IMAGE: LAYO MUSSI
Gaika’s first LP proper Basic Volume (Warp Records) enters the continuum of the ghostly matter that we call musical (sub)culture at the cusp between aesthetics and politics. There’s a feeling of Gaika as a nodal point triangulating a problem of the contemporary. This LP is part of that emerging aesthetic project the groundwork of which has been in motion for some time now.
This idea of time is central, with futurist dystopia inscribed into London territory as if the antagonism of urban life produces this out-of-jointness in temporality itself. A gothic time. Gaika’s resonance, and ability to tune into and amplify this warped sensibility is exemplified in his cross-referential musicality, playing through British-Caribbean soundsystem culture and industrial electronics. There’s a crispness in production, with the likes of SOPHIE and Jam City contributing, which is part of a configuration of contemporaneity that is embedded across the tracklist bringing a particular intensity and density. This intensity, in typical gothic fashion, forms an affective atmosphere of impending violence. A colonial trauma bringing forward the proximity of a third world landscape, reinscribing a race-class analysis that connects the global south with antagonisms in Britain. This seems to be working against current ideas of race and identity which are increasingly defined by ones proximity to Britishness and normative conceptions of identity.
The aesthetic work put-in runs along the icy lines of embodiment and disembodiment. A bounded embodiment is shown throughout his live performance, visual focus on the body/face and interest in fashion, something he’s followed through with his fashion label Armour in Heaven. This textilic and tactile materiality is set against a disembodiment engendered through the overproduction of voice in his music. This voice triggers a sense of history, historicity even, like channeling a ghostly transmission of The Spaceape’s poetics of force. There is religiosity at play. The dedication to the memory of Gaika’s father furthers this idea of history and dis/embodiment. His announcement note reading: ‘We live in turbulent times. I hope this work inspires those in search of a better world. This is dedicated to my Father. Dad, I put the reggae song on’.
The force of history Gaika is channeling a reinscription produced through the aesthetic labour that undergirds and maps the Gaika project. The question in contention would remain in how this aesthetic critique can reproduce and manifest a socio-political prospering within – or after – the degeneration of an urban masculinity endemic in ‘immigrant sons’. Or put another way is there a critical transformation of social form at play here amidst the aesthetics of desolation.
For my first blog post proper I’m posting a few quick notes on Lotic’s new album Power. This may be the start of a series of shorter reviews/sketches/notes. Let’s see.
Following Lotic’s work you’re struck by the movement of desire, and the uncoercive rearrangement thereof (Spivak, 2012); in a permeable drive entangled with identity, though not reducible to it. Angular, disjointed, their latest offering Power certainly continues in their strain of electronic music, though there is a softer vulnerability elicited in the opener ‘Love and Light’.
Lotic’s entry of their voice lends itself to a greater intensity of violence and vulnerability, something which Arca has also been developing in parallel. ‘Hunted’ in its whispering undertone, ‘Heart’ wispy and bare, ‘Nerve’ willful. The voice adds to this stillness and knowingness played through in the instrumental title track ‘Power’, a kind of out-of-placeness pre-loaded breaking-down in ‘The Warp and the Weft’. An instrumentalisation of the reanimated ‘phantom limb’, as writer Wilson Harris has formulated.
And yet Power enters an architectural metaphorical spacing that inhabits Lotic’s interplay between audio mix, club performance and track-driven timing. This contributes to an aesthetic environment overlaid between the cinematic and visceral. The overlaying I understand as a kind of response and refraction of the overdetermination of space and time of the contemporary. While this is clearly in conflict with racialisation and gendering, the affective drive found, for instance, in the crackled horns ‘Resilience’ generates this aesthetic mapping of desire for something like freedom, or just the inhabitation of space itself.
This resonates with the haunted motion of closer ‘Solace’, the closing of work-done. Its signifying-power epitomised in the double-image of the cover portrait. The double-play of visage/image eliciting a synaesthetic ‘phonic materiality’ (Fred Moten, 2003), a stylisation of form overlaying the movement of desire.
Moten, Fred, ‘Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester’s Scream’, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003)
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, ‘Introduction’, An Aesthetic Education in the Age of Education (Harvard UP, 2012)