I went to the Jazz in the Domain last night. It is part of the Sydney Festival. Not a particular fan of jazz, but it was a cool environment to have a few drinks and hang out.
Met some people and one guy was particularly taken by my dissertation topic. He added another negative comment to my master set of negative comments/questions about my research: “Is it in the engineering department or the literature department? [answer] Oh, well now I have lost all respect for you. If you were working on how to make engines faster, then that would be alright…[etc]” Yes, and the world needs more ‘faster’ engines like a hole in the head. (The other two comments/questions include: “How is that going to help anyone?” and “You realise that the only people you are helping is the government crack down on hoons.”)
Although, he did bring up something interesting, plus he did apologise for acting like a dickhead. (His defence was that he likes to attack people when he comes across something interesting to see if they share the passion or if it is some superficial engagement. I had a hard time explaining to him that what I am chiefly interested in is the ‘passion’ or ‘enthusiasm‘ itself, how it circulates within cultural economies, how it is socially reproduced, what is the relation to ‘dominant’ non-enthusiast cultural formations, etc.) The interesting thing he raised was the example of the Sydney motorbike company Deus Ex Machina. There is much to say about this. From the ‘About’ section of their website:
Deus is a completely different kind of motorcycle company. While focussing on the supply of classic motorcycles, parts and accessories, Deus will promote and celebrate a custom motorcycle culture that first appeared in Europe and America in the 1940s and which has recently been revived by groups of young enthusiasts in countries such as Japan.
Deus is the brainchild of a group of passionate and dedicated Australian motorcycle enthusiasts. They are united in their belief that motorcycling has been hijacked by corporate marketing forces and their desire to introduce a new generation of rider to that same pure enthusiasm that kick-started their own love of motorcycling.
After watching the 70’s bike classic, “On Any Sunday” (again) we decided that the spirit of our company would reflect the spirit of the movie. That is, no “bad boy” posturing and mindless clichÃ©s, just pure passion welded to the joyous act of participation. In short, a place where personal passion would be tangible and the ethos of “corporate-design-by-committee” and “we-have-no-idea-so-let’s-do-market-research”, are missing.
The name Deus Ex Machina is Latin for “God is in the machine”. It is the perfect name for a project such as ours. It encapsulates the admiration that we have for the applied marriage of industrial and motorcycle design.
Welcome to Deus.
Talk of ‘pure enthusiasm’ sends a shivver up my spine. Not in a bad way, but in a way that I think must have developed from some kind of flight or fight response. My body goes on hyper ‘red alert’ and I suck in every detail about what is going on around me.
Is it surprising that this company emerges at roughly the same time as the film The World’s Fastest Indian (some more ramblings here)? The same enthusiasm discussed above is evident in the film. The World’s Fastest Indian really does attempt to capture and represent this enthusiasm, unlike, for example, recent The Dukes of Hazzard movie which attempts to capture and exploit a similar enthusiasm.
Anyway, I am really interested by Dues. Not least because of the wierd trans-national flows of subcultural practices from the US, Europe and Australia, to Japan and back again. These constant (re)iterations of different cultures organised around various enthusiasms is the subject of my dissertation chapter on ‘The Rise of the Imports’. Yet here is clearly an example of a double iteration and where what is reproduced is not so much the ‘material’ conditions of the culture, but the enthusiasm around which the culture organises.
Is Dues making art? It is an interesting question. There is certainly a question of aesthetics at play here. However, it is telling that the company is based in the inner-west of Sydney and not the outer-west ‘ring suburbs’. Plus it is very interesting to consider the entrepreneurial pedigree behind the project (from):
Dare Jenning was the founder of MAMBO, the surf and streetwear label that has taken the world by storm since its launch in Australia, in 1984. Nigel Begg has spent the past 20 years building & racing both bicycles and vintage motorcycles. He bleeds oil. Carby Tuckwell is a graphic artist, creative director and partner in one of Australiaâ€™s leading design companies, Moon Design and a self-professed motorcycle modification addict. Together, their pure passion for classic motorcycles led them to create Deus.
It is an enthusiasm-based industry created almost entirely by these fellows. Is it the entrepreneurial commodification of the immaterial or social labour that reproduces the enthusiasm?