Cruising through the non-places…

I have been in contact wih the editor of ‘Bifurcaciones’; a Chilean cultural/urban studies journal:

He was interested in something I posted to the film-philosophy list about Marc Auge’s concept of the non-place and wants me to write something for the journal. As James Weiner has noted, within anthropology (proper, none of this ‘cultural studies’ nonsense) there are two competing accounts of human relations to place and placedness. One is premised on “detailing the many dimensions of intimacy, knowledge, familiarity, history, and interpersonality mediated by attachment to particular places.” The other is located around Auge’s notion of the ‘non-place’ “the interstitial and often artificially constructed zones that have emerged in a world of continuous travel.” A ‘place’ in Auge’s little book are public spaces filled with historical and ceremonial memory.

Of course, my research on modified-car culture, where I have hung out in these alleged ‘non-places’ doing fieldwork, has led me to the conclusion that Auge’s account is, at best, only ever partial and its partiality needs to be interrogated. Perhaps it is too French? The account of the business-class traveller in the beginning of the book certainly offers a very different account of the non-places compared to a traveller from a different class, gender, ethnicity, age, etc background.

It is perhaps useful to retun to Foucault’s notion of heterotopias which I read through a Deleuzian-eye as the virtual potential of the spatial extension in any actual situation. Chris Stanley has already thought through the notion of the ‘streets’ in a similar way in his piece in the 1998 _Club Cultures Reader_ “Not drowning but waving: urban narratives of dissent in the wild zone.” Stanley’s ‘wild zone’ is the space where ‘joy riders’ can escape to in their stolen cars. It is the space within the space that is under the radar of governmental authorities; not only the actual police, but the machinery of policing that has come to populate the body of the ‘road user’.

The ‘cathedrals of consumption’ such as shopping centres and fast food joints have long been appropriated by youth as spaces of sociality. Most of my fieldwork time has been carried out in one of two modes. I joined a car club and attended organised club events. The other simply involved cruising around and discovering where something was ‘happening’. Something ‘happens’ from the nothing of the street. That is, it is not enough to label a space a ‘non-place’ as such a categorical distinction is temporally specific. Paul Corrigan’s piece on “Doing Nothing” in the BCCCS classic _Resistance Through Rituals_ exemplifies the creative event-based practices that are common to most youth and, I would argue, especially car enthusiasts. The space of the street becomes a space of potentiality – through action what is precipitated is the incorporeal event of ‘nothing’. Parallels can be drawn to the early rave scene that Stanley also discusses and their appropriation of abandoned warehouses/etc.

Anyway, I will need to think about this some more. There has been some work on ‘cruising spaces’ already by scholars (including an awesome essay from 1969!) so I need to figure out what has changed, if anything… and I think a lot has…

That sound from family feud….

What I think would be good fun would be to trace the genealogy of the ‘incorrect answer’ sound from the television game show “Family Feud”… hmmm, I am not sure if I can represent it properly on my blog, but it kind of goes ‘boh-bong’ where the bong is a lower note than the boh.*

It is crazy how the game show has died in Australia but the sound is relatively common. I have found it circulates within popular discourse and receives immediate recognition of its meaning whenever it is deployed in a ‘small-talk’ context (you know, gossiping, ‘yarning’ and so on). It means ‘bad luck for someone, but something is wrong, and the bad luck makes it a rather funny situation in the context of your story telling’ or that is how I have witnessed it used. How many bloody sounds are there that can be deployed in such a manner?!?! I can’t really think of any. Maybe Ali G’s “booka” getting-shot-in-the-back-of-the-head-by-a-ganster-holding-gun-sideways sound? Maybe it is just amongst my mates?

See there is a difference between adding sound effects to action, ala classic Hong-Kong action style post-translation sound effects – like adding ‘fist punching’ sounds to a punching fist, or making lightsaber sounds while sweeping the yard, or even humming the theme song to a fuckin wild 1980s tv show – like the theme from the A-Team or Joey Scarbury’s absolute classic “Believe It or Not (I’m Walking On Air)” from the television series “Greatest American Hero” which I want played at my funeral…

None of the above examples are really in the same ball-park because they do not carry anywhere near the same semantic weight as the ‘boh-bong’. The ‘boh-bong’ is not a word and yet it functions in a word-like way. Is this a machine language that is circulating amongst the humans? Would machines go ‘boh-bong’ to each other after they dropped a set in Pong?

I’ll be buggered if I know.

EDIT: More than seven years later (21/03/12) here is a version of the sound:

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* Because of the extrordinary difficulty in making sounds with words (haha) here are some other versions of ‘boh-bong’ that did not make the cut: buh-bom, bah-bong, bah-bom, and boh-bomg.

All you need is love

Love is in the air at the moment.

I attended a wedding yesterday of one of my good mates to his now wife he met while doing postgrad med in Sydney. It was a wonderful day and I was righteously drunk by the end of it. Now I am recovering, I feel a little sick, my eyes hurt and there is an odd stuttering shake to my hands as a type, but it was great!!!! It felt a little bit like a Sin-Bin on a UCFK camp at various moments during the night… found via a link on Mel Gregg’s blog is a good read. I am reading some Alain Badiou over summer partially in response to the changing fortunes of the once-was-called “Spoon’s Lyotard List” that has now become the “Discussion of J-F-Lyotard, Alain Badiou, the Event” list. There is a distinct resonance between the words on love from the blog post and Badiou’s argument-cum-polemic on Love.

Badiou is a neo-Platonicist and has written some harsh words about Deleuze. I am not convinced that his central series of concepts-arguments has any general applicability in the slightest, in fact, for cultural studies he is downright useless, but what he writes about love is still pretty cool, though.

Badiou wants to bring back ‘truth’. Generally I would say, ‘Fuck that…’ It reeks of an arrogant patriarchal view of the world to even suggest that any truth is possible at all. All we have is Guattari’s ethico-aesthetic paradigm and the labour of commitment to what is done, not to what ‘it’ is. I can understand why all the old radical socialists love Badiou, but I can not handle the becoming-majoritarian-ism of his POV and, I’m sorry, but deriving the bulk of his ontology from mathematical set theory is just freakin bizarre…

For Badiou “truths are materially produced in specific situations, and each begins from an event or discovery that eludes the prevailing logic that structures and governs those situations. … a truth comes into being through the subjects who proclaim it and, in doing so, constitute themselves as subjects in their fidelity to the event.” One of the examples he gives is “a pair of lovers’ conception of themselves as loving subjects, grounded only in a shared fidelity to the ephemeral event of their encounter.” ‘Love’ would be the state where the incoherent inconsistencies of the multiplicity of the loving subjects is worked upon through the labour of love – a fidelity to the event.

A modification to Badiouisms to make them more digestible for the less Catholic amongst us would have to eject the set theory and look at the internal consistency of truth. He talks about the coherent multiplicity (or set) becoming unity or one. What he needs to take into account the multiple dimensions of the expansion and contraction/condensation from the One to the Multiple and vice versa. There is an immanent and situationally specific violence and a dynamic non-linear temporal series associated with each movement. One example is a node in one dimension expanding into a network in another dimension and vice versa. Bruno Latour calls one such passage ‘black boxing’. My modified-car enthusiasts go the other way when ‘modifying’.

How about falling in love and then out of love? Each ‘phase space’ or becoming of love involves a specific and beautiful violence of condensation and expansion. The marriage I attended yesterday is an attempt to ‘freeze’ the inconsistent and incoherent multiplicity which the lovers’ subject positions are derived and draw their strength. Condensation becomes a contract-ion.

A fidelity to the event of love isn’t good enough for some people and it is something christian in his blog post doesn’t really discuss. I often spoke about this with a certain ex-lover/partner/girlfriend (I think we went all three of those stages, a complete relationship). She wanted jewelry – a ring or someshit – a symbol of my love. The same thing was said yesterday at the wedding. “Take this ring as a symbol of my love…” The question I would ask in reply is (hoping like hell that she might finally understand exactly what I meant, but I don’t think she ever will) – why do you need a symbol of my love when you actually have my love?

You can see the Badiouisms in the poem I wrote below in an earlier time when I was tired, exhausted, stressed, but joyously in love… and I really did believe all I needed was love.

Poem url:

I love papers that demand a 20 minute spell check…

Approximately 16, 770 words and 48 pages later the Getaway in Stockholm interview with Mr A is finally transcribed.

Link to their website.

Mr A was an awesome interview participant. Very useful for my thesis, maybe not in terms of actual content, but certainly for ideas on questions for others. The interview may be useful for a paper on the comparative street racing scenes in Australia and Sweden. Perhaps a simple paper that explores the various legal, political and social forces that shape the space of the street race as much as the actual cars and street racers do.

I met Tom O’Dell in Sweden and mentioned something about a paper to him. So I will send off the transcript and see what he says. Here is his uni home page. He wrote part of his PhD thesis on the Swedish raggare (greasers) – car dudes who participated in a subculture based around American cars. As O’Dell writes in one of his essays, the aesthetic of American cars during the ‘streamlining’ era offended Swedish conceptions of modernity. In other words, the raggare were a Swedish-style, spectacular subculture.

Some or most of the raw interview with Mr A will appear in the next issue of the Australasian Autosalon Magazine.

The radical potential of ‘dead wood’?

A number of the issues raised in various papers that I heard at the 2004 CSAA conference hit home in a very real way; that is, at my familial home. I am writing this the night I am back in Sydney. I am exhausted, but not tired, and have this I want to write before I forget.

My mum is nearing the end of her 31 year career as a teacher. For 21 of those years she has worked at one public high school. Now she is being forced to face up up to the neo-liberalist workplace policies of ‘perform – or else’ (See Jon Mckenzie’s work).

Without going into the specifics of her plight my mum has been stiffed at work for the last time. For longer than I have been alive she has been a Liberal voter. Come next election, I hope very much this will no longer be the case.

Like the worker in the Living End’s song “Roll On” my mum found out the hard way about the biopolitical production of living labour in the meld of the performatively docile worker in this hyper-conformative era (where you conform even when you don’t):

You see you’re all expendable,
And when all is said and done,
You’ll go back to work tomorrow,
Or meet your new replacement son.
Roll on!
Roll on!
We’ll roll on with our heads held high…

The typical 60+ year old baby boomer my fellow members of generation-? (? for ‘whatever’, but generation-W sounds kind of second-wave-feminism-ish) and I dismissively refer to as ‘dead wood’ (or maybe it is just me?). With future security tied up in fat retirement funds and the collective conscience of their once-was-radicality perhaps we will see a return to political engagment mobilised by a shared sense of resentiment triggered from social underappreciation.

Or perhaps the dead wood will remain so and end up being the motor-cause of the grey-dollar consumer society. Then it is a question of the biopolitical potential of whatever enthusiasms the Rich Dead Wood desires. Rather like generation-?, who think raves offer some sort of radical potential by offering alternate images of economic exchange or some bullshit like that. Which leads me to one of my childhood faves – Ren and Stimpy.

The biopolitical potential of dead wood as consumer and of the rave is a bit like Ren and Stimpy’s ficticious child’s toy (and maybe ‘adult’ toy for the kinky folks) “Log”:

What rolls down stairs,
Alone or in pairs…
Rolls over your neighbor’s dog?
What’s great for a snack,
And fits on your back?

It’s Log! Log! Log!

It’s Lo-og, it’s Lo-og
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood!

It’s Lo-og, Lo-og.
It’s better than bad, it’s good!!!

Either way what is left but an ethical commitment? The collective resentiment of boomers is a moment that will flash and then never reappear with the same force again. There is only one boomer generation and, likewise, there is a singular period of becoming-‘dead wood’. Hopefully such a wave can be tapped in a more ethical manner than the collective resentiment ‘captured’ by, for example, Pauline Hanson.

Such dead-wood resentiment will happen and it must be mobilised in ethical ways. Negative affects must be filtered and fed into each other so they become positive affects.

This is the opposite of what happens at Sydney International Airport. As Melissa Gregg and I mention in the hopefully to-be-published paper on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, there is an announcement broadcast continually over the PA at Sydney Airport that begins with: “Due to increased security measures…” This message has been played over the PA for a long time, I noticed it about 7 months ago. It captures the affective of the ‘to-be’ journey in pretension with itself. That is, the futurity of the present is in an affective tension with the eventuality of the future. The word ‘increased’ increases the polarity of the tension across scales of temporality – of coming and going bodies with various anticipations of the future. The anticipating body is in tension.

The future-event is reconciled with the incredibly strong affects (sometimes) of, for example, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. The momentum of the present is given a certain weight – the heaviness and slowness of goodbye or the incredible lightness and speed of hello. However, the mobilisation of the lightness or heaviness of the present is always in a particular direction. The direction is bound to be congruent with the announcement about ‘increased security’. The continual repetition of this phrase in the space of the airport is a complex event that has a number of intersecting possibilities. I argue that one such event is the production of particular kinds of departing and arriving travellers.

Anyway, long blog entry, and it has done its job – now I am ready for bed. Last point. I wonder if there is a radical potential in this Blog form of communication? Or is this just another form of ‘log’?