Preparing Atopy. A lecture in 6 parts. Part five: Playback
It is common to fault modern media for the demise of practically everything except Apple and Google. New Media are here to stay – once they are invented, they don’t go away.
There was a time when there were no moving pictures, roughly 100 years ago. Then they began to move, and they move until today and they will continue to move in the future. There was a time before the internet, and we all had more time for beautiful things or at least we believed so, but now everybody can chat with everyone without ever communicating at all. But also this is not going away anytime soon.
Of course there is always the question: how do we use these new possibilities? We just started learning to use the possibilities of the internet, some of them are new indeed. At the moment we mostly use these possibilities to copy stuff and distribute it, a thousand times, a million times, be it Shakespeare’s complete works or porn. Mostly the latter of course.
What comes along with this – and this was foreseen by Walter Benjamin (The Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction 1935) quite well – is the loss of aura, the aura of a work of art, but also of people, for example politicians or movie stars. We might say: thank good politicians have lost their aura, so we are spared of new Hitlers. But instead we get terror videos with beheadings and the endless sex escapades of Silvio Berlusconi.
As copy and original are indistinguishable in the digital age the original as a concept is slowly vanishing. But was there ever an original of everything? Is the Mona Lisa an original or is it perhaps the idea of an original? Was she ever an original? These are question we have to pose today.
The Classic CD market has suffered greatly because of the possibility to copy. But what has never suffered is the live concert, which is entering a new kind of bloom. The problem is that artists can’t yet be copied digitally, so they have to fly around the world to be present everywhere, they have to post pictures of themselves on Instagram or Facebook, to fire up the big bonfire of social network vanities.
Perhaps all of this shouldn’t be considered a horror vision (and I admit that I sometimes tend to do exactly that) but has to be taken with a pinch of salt. To participate without taking it too seriously could be a contemporary motto. At least it is mine.
Not taking it seriously also means that one never – not even for a moment – should believe that anything of this cabinet of vanities is ever relevant. Or rather: the self-hyping alone – removed from ideas, content or message, is of course never relevant. This is why pop always eats its own children, again and again, and from the puke of pop new children arise like lemurs.
In the internet the term “long tail” is often used. Put simply it means that even the weirdest stuff will have some fans if I just look long enough and wide enough. So if I go into some shopping mall and spend several weeks there I will finally find somebody who knows the name of Helmut Lachenmann and can analyze his music profoundly. But of course 500.000 people might pass me before I find the one person with this knowledge.
This means that the internet has become a hub of various “geek cultures“ or „fan cultures“, for basically every subject, stamp collecting, pigeon breeding, baseball cards, even “New Music” with a capital “N”. These geek cultures exude security, give tips for scholarship applications, spread their music on Soundcloud.
The problem is not that there are only a few people interested in contemporary music. This I don’t find in the least problematic. There are many things in the history of mankind which weren’t understood by a lot of people and still important, this is without doubt.
No, the mistake of the little sister’s geek culture is the silly belief that clicking each other’s like buttons (or the appearance in one of the common contemporary music festivals) has any kind of meaning. Which of course it hasn’t. Content, ideas, visions have meaning – like buttons don’t have any meaning at all, because with each “like” you basically only want somebody else to like you.
Rare is the impulse to leave the safety of one’s own geek culture, to leave behind the circles of experts and acolytes. One stays among those who one already know, perhaps writing manifestos about a second, third or third avant-garde which still sounds exactly like the first. 100 frigging years ago.
And this is why little sister never comes out of her little closet. What she needs is a little…sunlight.