Sunday 30 January 2011

‘Invading Present Time’ – A Lecture at ERG in Brussels

‘the invisible brothers are invading present time’ – William Burroughs, ‘The Invisible Generation’, 1966
On Wednesday February 2 I shall be in Brussels giving a lecture at the Ecole de Recherche Graphique as part of their public symposium Corps/Machine.

From the 1950s into the 1960s and beyond, there was a tendency to read magnetic tape as an analogue for human identity as it existed in time. Individual experience became a recording that could be rewound, reviewed and, if necessary, rerecorded. Perhaps only a writer like William Burroughs would publicly contemplate how such processes might be transformed into an offensive weapon. Set against the impending threat of the nuclear blast, which irradiated much of his work, no technique was worthy of attention unless it could claim lives in some way. By equating word, image and virus as aspects of the same basic programme, Burroughs was able to formulate a project for social change by which past, present and future are forced to collide in a single moment of recognition

‘Invading Present Time’ will explore how advances in audiovisual technology transformed the suburban ‘pushbutton’ lounge in the West into a strategic space during the years of the Cold War. It will look at the attempts made by William Burroughs to transform the domestic tape recorder into a weapon, impacting bodies and behaviour, before examining the rise of Machine Code among teenage hackers in the 1970s and on towards the recombination of these elements into videogames such as Halo, America’s Army and Assassins Creed, together with their relationship to what Tim Lenoir has called ‘the military entertainment complex’.

The lecture is due to start at 14.30 hrs, so strap your body armour, on and I’ll see you inside the reality studio.

For further reading and information, see also:
‘Invading Present Time: the Politics of Simulation’
From Gameboy to Armageddon
Full Spectrum Dominator

Please note that a video of this lecture is now available on Vimeo: to view it, please click here.

Pictured above: Corps/Machine flyer; Nagra tape recorder, courtesy of Northern Paranormal Research

Sunday 23 January 2011

‘Welcome to the Labyrinth’: A Lecture on Design and Modern Thought

On Wednesday January 26, I will be giving a lecture to BAGD students at Central St Martins based on some of the themes explored in the opening chapter to my forthcoming book, The Bright Labyrinth. Titled ‘Welcome to the Labyrinth’, the talk will take place in G12 at 16.15. I hope to see you then.

‘It is no longer possible simply to communicate a precise body of knowledge founded on a rigid status quo,’ wrote the architect Konrad Wachsman in The Turning Point of Building, first published in 1961. Recent advances in the real-time processing of information not only ensure that old hierarchical relationships between text, music and image are being dismantled but that newer hybrid forms are constantly coming into being. Our cities have become swirling clouds of unseen data. Reality becomes a videogame that runs itself. Not even the Minotaur is safe inside his Labyrinth.

As platforms shift into one another and design becomes more about the manipulation of sound and vision, language and movement, the standard disciplines and techniques blur together; forms become little more than confines, restrictive and anachronistic. Design is therefore unable to render itself transparent through the translation of modern thought. However, being able to see the network in the labyrinth and the labyrinth in the network, we can begin to develop a new series of attitudes towards research, making connections across disciplines that will ultimately inform and enrich our practice. With the power to give shape to what has hitherto only existed in the mind, design is modern thought.
Further research, links and reading material for this lecture can be found by clicking here. To read an extract from the first chapter of The Bright Labyrinth as it appeared in Journal #3, click here.

Pictured above: KH at the 2010 Frieze Art Fair, photo by Hana Tanimura

Monday 17 January 2011

J.-K. Huysmans Against Nature

A new translation of Á Rebours by Roger Baldick
This translation first published 1959

Found inside the book between pages 105 and 106: a London Transport bus ticket number 0573, route 105, stage boarded 09 – fare paid: seven pence.

Friday 7 January 2011

Edison Speaks from Beyond the Grave

And other marvels of the mechanical age:

In 2008 a BBC radio announcer made a personal apology to the family of deceased Hollywood screenwriter Abby Mann after dissolving into uncontrollable laughter while relaying details of his death on a morning news bulletin. The inappropriate hilarity had been provoked by the item immediately before it: a recording of a human voice made in 1860 had just been successfully reconstructed in a California sound laboratory, making it the earliest in human history. Registered by French typesetter Edouard Léon Scott de Martinville on a device of his own invention called a ‘phonautograph’, it had existed for almost 150 years as little more than the representation of a sound wave etched onto a sheet of soot-covered paper. Played back digitally in the twenty-first century using a ‘virtual stylus’, what had originally been picked up by the phonautograph as a rendition of the French folk song ‘Claire de Lune’ sounded in a BBC radio studio more like ‘a bee buzzing in a bottle’, sending the announcer into a barely-suppressed fit of the giggles. A spectral set of associations hold such moments together. The barely discernable voice retrieved from a smoky deposit with its accumulated cloud of a song; the dead writer’s obituary and a sense of time passed; even the historical overlay of different media upon each other, from script to the mechanical sound recording, cinema and broadcast radio: all work together to provoke precisely this kind of hysterical response. Ghosts can’t help themselves: they are always where they have to be, not where they want to be, calling out to us from somewhere beyond our own senses. To laugh, under these circumstances, is a useful means of expressing incomprehension – which, in itself, covers for a reluctance to believe.

The Wire writes: "Revisiting his family farm with Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Michael Esposito captured the sounds of his ancestors for their wax cylinder project, The Ghosts of Effingham. Ken Hollings spools back to the days of Thomas Edison to investigate how obsolete recording devices and the dead voices captured on them have changed our perceptions of the material world."

Buy it. Read it. Believe it.

Pictured above: the Ghosts of Effingham wax cylinder from Ash International; the cover for The Wire #323, January 2011

Saturday 1 January 2011

The New Year Comes...

And nobody is home...

I have been working over most of the Christmas holidays, catching up on deadlines and finishing another chapter for my new book, The Bright Labyrinth. Regular posts should start appearing on this blog again very soon. In the meantime this is to wish you all a very happy 2011.

Pictured above: Vienna pension, April 2010