DJ Spooky

Movies, experimental theater part II, ethnicity versus identity:


Today. Situation>signification: Rhyme and Reason Skip>fade>enter?delete>>>cd:dir:goto>Retro/Metro Loop to loop, straight out da coop, a nonsleeping evening, live and direct from the current zone, in the city, watch the world teeming … Insomnia mode>Late night at Florent 2 (Washington and Ganesvoort, West Village), maybe 3 a.m., and I don’t really feel like looking at my watch, so I make a guess at the time and look away into the faces of the people surrounding me. I’m in the middle of a conversation with a couple of friends, the usual for this time of the evening, and the night is flowing, diffusion zone>open:text. This is a week “off” from DJing, and I’ve been doing my writing for the most part. The day had passed uneventfully, and the evening was a mirror of the same: It’s rare that I get a chance to actually be alone in the city–usually the phone is ringing like mad, there’s a zillion projects to get done, and on top of it all, there’s something that’s as constant as death and taxes in NYC: what I call “NYC energy,” which drives the engines of the imagination here in this hyper metropolis. NYC Energy: It’s a strange terrain of collective bizarreness that seems to manifest in NYC like no other city. It’s a landscape made purely of the mental processes of the people of the metropolis–part deep neurosis, part paranoia, part gleeful spectator sport–in short, a geography that must be negotiated very carefully, and with full attention paid to the slightest details. Working in the music, art, or writers’ “scenes,” I have checked out how weird people can get–the pressure and stress of the hypercompetitive environment, the sense of deep entitlement and its corollary of deep bitterness when things either happen or they don’t, or when people get what they want or not … Most people come to NYC with some illusion of what the city is “all about” but at the end of the day, get channeled into whatever niche they associate with–anything can set off a mental bomb and the fuse variables are legion. It’s an aspect of human communication I’ve been trying to figure out over the last couple of years, but in NYC people have broken it down to a fine-tuned science, so I may be a little behind on the learning curve, but I’m working on catching up.

When I DJ late at night and look out at the crowd, the first thing I see is the body language. Movement, gesture, syntax–all converge in the theater of the dance floor, and in so many other complex interactions. A person walking near one person draws a stare because of the way they’re dressed, or the way their eyes look at or away from … eyes wide shut or something like that … a mix tape plays in the background at the restaurant, an anonymous theater arena in the loudspeakers spreads throughout the room, and some words from Martin Luther King, “free at last, free at last …” ripple through the mix. I wonder cd:dir:>>the other day, the civil rights veteran Rosa Parks received a Congressional Gold Medal for her action of not giving up her seat for a white man back in 1955, a gesture that started the civil rights movement and led to a widespread remix of American culture. I remember reading about how hardcore things were then, and how they still are today. There’s a classic moment in W.E.B. Du Bois’ seminal The Souls of Black Folk where he breaks down how strange America was for him:

born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in the American world–a world which yields him no true self consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, the double consciousness, of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder …

the quick and the dead
someone said
beyond the ghettoes of the mind
in the theater of the rhyme
outside the frame
the breakbeat spells my name
code word
script release
hear the words of the analog deceased
the mix electropulse rhythm speak
high from the virtual peak
world without end
sound within sound
the mind unbound
the is the thought
I send

cd:dir>goto>There’s a tradition of multiplicity in America that few people acknowledge, and it seems that was Du Bois’ message so long ago: There are the networked minds we inhabit today where people generate and invent different personas at will, and where most people live through the eyes of a pop culture based on African-American values. It’s amazing how schizophrenic our culture seems. Mind within mind, names within names, a coded dance of identity and ethnicity that speaks at some of the most primal levels of American culture at the moment … The mix tape segues into an instrumental hip-hop track with small bits of a voice saying “atomic, supersonic …” over and over again, a machinelike hum attached to each syllable. Maybe the cassette that’s playing, in a Burroughs-type/situationist-type, detached process of accumulation, speaks the words of the people gathered, a dream for the sleepless, on a rainy summer nite in NYC. I look around again, and think, well, maybe not. All I can say is that people like Rosa Parks–I’m glad they exist.