DJ Spooky

Back in NYC, Dinner party at Da Silvano’s, discussion on experimental theater, “la réalité virtuelle”


Today. Situation>signification: Theater of the Rhyme, Theater of the Time.

Skip>fade>enter?delete>>>cd:dir:goto> Mediamatic.

Time. I don’t have much of it. There’s only 24 hours in the day, and basically I find that I usually am occupied during the full day and night dealing with the sundry variables of contemporary life flux, and last night was no different. Put simply, last night was a beautiful evening. Syntax of gesture, semantics of repetition, open text in a world bombarded with messages. Sometimes I look up and see the stars–which is rare in NYC, ‘cause of the pollution blurring the sky, but then realize that the stars that I see are merely satellites in low orbit. Living and breathing on a world put in parentheses by man-made objects in the sky, living in the invisible messages passing through the urban landscape at every moment, the sense is one of continuous flux, a kind of psychological dematerialization–if you think about it too long, well, the situation becomes almost too giddy to bear …

NYC returnz>> Clear sky (for NYC at any rate), cool breeze blowing through the city’s packed streets, fine ladies walking through the Chelsea gallery district where I have my studio … What more could I ask for? I had just returned from vacation and several friends called up to figure out where to hang out. Skip to Sixth Avenue and Houston Street, to an outdoor sidewalk cafe situation at Da Silvano. A restaurant we meet at a lot, Da Silvano has in the last couple of years become the meeting point for the crew of folks I roll with, and that’s that. Me and two friends–Arto Lindsay, the experimental Brazilian-American artist, and Diego Cortez, an NYC art dealer, are trying to figure out how to get a record label started, and basically last night’s meeting was to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of doing your own thing rather than licensing material out to another, larger label. Other friends passed by and eventually the table got really full. First it was the artist George Condo, who was having dinner and talking about the new show of paintings he has going up at downtown powerhouse galleries PaceWildenstein and Deitch Projects. Then Sandro Chia, another painter, strolls through the mix. Arto was late, so the discussion ambled around aimlessly, and in the middle of a discussion on the artist Shirin Neshat’s work (she just won an award at the Venice Bienniale, and I had just written an article on her for Parkett magazine), the topic of the computer worm/virus that everybody has been talking about came up.

Spreading in a way that’s ultradestructive to almost anyone involved with digital culture, the worm gets in your e-mail files as an attachment and deletes documents from memory. Tabula rasa, palindrome, over and out. Gone. Period. It’s a kind of reflection of the cultural moment we live in, a meta-metaphor about communication and social/civic continuity: The virulence of the intention of whoever programmed the worm and how it attacks memory and files usually used as backup remind me so much of the sense of Orwell’s 1984 linguistic scenario: Language is a present-tense structure, and we live and breathe a mediated medium–William Hooker, the blues musician, had a phrase a long time ago: “Who speaks through you?” Today, as the conversation ebbed and flowed, I talked about how much we were focused on a world culture: from the Iranian artist we were talking about to the music we make to the images we consume–the degree of separation of time, space, geographic perspective seems collapsed. It’s kind of intense how control of memory–everything from Palm Pilots to the mix tapes and Jaz disks I use to record elements of my mixes–it all seems to be a reflection of how much we’ve externalized core elements of “humanness.” I’m no Luddite–in fact probably the opposite, but the worm/virus issue really strikes a chord. It shows how much the people who are linked are enmeshed in the social simulation that we call contemporary culture. cd:dir>Mediamatic. The word echoed through my mind as the conversation unfolded, over and over and over. The repetition of how it all breaks down from mix culture to the networks–whether digital, wireless, analog–reflects a phrase I remember from Artaud’s The Theater and Its Double in a section called “The Alchemical Theater.” Contrary to what many people think, it was Artaud back in 1938 who came up with the word “virtual reality.” And it was in a context of human interaction through symbols that the idea was generated:

All true alchemists know that the alchemical symbol is a mirage as the theater is a mirage. And this perpetual allusion to the materials and the principle of the theater found in almost all alchemical books should be understood as the expression of an identity … existing between the world in which the characters, objects, images, and in a general way all that constitutes the virtual reality of the theater develops, and the purely fictitious and illusory world in which the symbols of alchemy are evolved …


Today. Situation>signification: It all flows through my mind as the conversation unfolds, loops within loops, constructed amnesia. I look up at the sky and see the satellites, their reflected dim glow barely breaking through the NYC summer night air.