Detroit: Techno City

Detroit: Techno City
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
27.07.16 – 25.09.16

First Prize
Entry in English

Step down into a brightly lit bunker.

Monochrome paste-ups neatly interspersed with record sleeves, Trinitron monitors on a white plinth.

A Techno soundtrack reverberates, still in possession of transformative power, blasting open time, breaking through the walls of this sanitised space.

Cybertron, Inner City, Underground Resistance.

Sound transports you to a network of derelict chambers, a de-industrialised zone.

It conjures a city where collective memories warp and condense, as civic buildings strain under the weight of abandonment, the curlicues of a scorched ceiling rose.

Window panes scored with agitated glyphs, the marble floor of an abandoned railway station.

A threshold realm, stranded on the cusp between booming motor city, dystopian life – world, and site, of emancipatory potential.

On an end wall, a photographic mural opens up a monochrome vista of downtown Detroit – Grand Hall, Best Sports Bar, East Grand River; names, conjuring an American city in ruins, a city ossified but porous, possibilities opening in fire escapes, parking lots, the liminal zones behind hotels.

The liminal zone is the site of the shaman, the shapeshifter, the one who guides between worlds.

Techno producers emerging in the 1980s – Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson – occupied multiple liminal zones just as they adopted multiple names, a proliferation of selves, a shattering and reassembling of ego – the breaking apart, in order to re-member. For them the apocalypse had already happened, they were living in a dystopian world. Techno articulated an experience of living among the ruins, it took flight above the fire-blackened buildings of 1967, it hovered over the aftermath of the 1973 recession, looked down from a position of supernatural clarity on a city hollowing in the grip of Reaganomic policies.

Ford’s were laying off men and replacing the conveyor belts with robots. It was these new robots that would become receptacles, vessels imbued with the spirit Techno producers would breathe into them. The futuristic oneiroscapes they conjured were about harnessing powers of strategic transcendence, plotting fugitive lines.

Roland synths appear in this room as fossils, uncannily beached as if recovered from the rubble of a collapsed building. They possess a residual power, an alien presence, 808 as relic, the body when the spirit has departed. If the music is spectral, the synths themselves are husks. Hushed beneath the bright strip lights of this white bunker they appear archaic, nostalgic, a retrofuturist fetish.

The walls are punctuated by a singular pedagogic voice, the tone is sensible, playing down race and class, imposing order.

A narrative, easy to follow – distanced, dispassionate, impartial.

Composite images, fluorescent posters, depicting lost scenes – recording studios, mix-tapes, radio stations. I scan the documentaries; the format: men in recording studios always breaking the spell, dragging the music into the realm of the prosaic.

But the spirit, omnipresent in the soundtrack, still contains distilled moments of potential, it opens up futures, albeit ones we might have temporarily lost.

Techno doesn’t lay crude territorial claim to Detroit, instead it glides through walls, speeds across freeways, becomes a nomadic, haunting presence. Detroit is a city riven by boundaries, 8 Mile Road, Base Line Road, the Northern City Limits – lines of segregation between areas mired by poverty and wealthy upper-class suburbs. It is the awareness of these margins and the capacity to transcend them, to warp and distort them, that gives rise to this mesmerising and unearthly sound.

Embedded within the music is a tangible desire to heal, to remember, to put together shattered elements.

Techno as an immersive, auditory hallucination is an escape, not into blissful ignorance but as a strategy of resistance to a ravaged environment and an impoverished everyday life. In the charcoal shells and derelict factories it escapes ordinary space and time.

This room, this brightly lit bunker is polluted, permeated by the quotidian life of the ICA – sounds from the kitchen, clanks, clatters, the piquant tang of lunch. Bright clinking of glasses and middle-class laughter create a jarring sensation, Detroit Techno in the heart of a sealed and socially-cleansed central London. The sublime potential sizzling in the speakers shoots beyond the locked down 1 and 2 zones and connects in places once called suburbs, the 3, 4 and 5 zones. As the Techno geist circuits through Bleep, Spiral Tribe, the Free Party scene, it can be heard in the loci of the ruin, sites of transience and becoming – Edmonton, Croydon, Barking, Tottenham grime, broken beat, dubstep – the fizzing, kaleidoscopic sounds of liminal London.

Speakers here are set at polite volume, the music retains its mesmerising power, but can’t possess the body; it lacks the visceral seizing force of the sound system. I yearn for the electrical charges up and down my spine, those scuttling sensations across my skin.

Record sleeves are pressed behind clip frames, little museum pieces neatly archived, hemmed in. I think of the lost network of London record shops, the basements with racks of jungle, hard house, tech-step and the moody petrochemical scent of vinyl.

First time I’ve really examined these sleeves, my understanding of this music was never encyclopaedic the way it was for my male colleagues in that seething hive of shops. My knowledge came from the rave scene, the proliferation of scenes that radiated from Techno when it landed in Europe, or more specifically when it landed in the North of England. This landing, this cataclysmic moment of emergence resonated across a region that bore an uncanny resemblance to Detroit.

I remember hearing Underground Resistance’s ‘Revolution for Change’ for the first time, in a former pit village in South Yorkshire, in 1992; the track was being blasted from a sound system outside a housing estate. I remember looking out across derelict marshalling yards and the abandoned Cortonwood Colliery, I remember the toxic waste seeping through the ecosystem. The apocalypse had already happened.

Techno, as it emerged in Detroit, was an alchemical conjuring – a series of inversions. It occupied a zone between the louche recklessness of P-Funk and the precision and mathematical ordering of European electronic music.

In the industrial cities of the North of England it encountered a co-ordinate of its inception, a multifaceted range of influences – A Flock of Seagulls, The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire – signals broadcast in Europe, received in Detroit, mirrored and returned.

Blake Baxter – Deep Space Soundworks – Xray – a litany of names taking me back to those Smokescreen parties in Sheffield, to the A1erdark club in Morley, to DiY sound systems in the quarries and fields of Yorkshire in the early ’90s. Industrial infrastructure became host, as moribund mills, factories and clubs were inhabited by countercultural scenes. In that moment, elements of working-class culture were subverted/elevated, the ruins of textile, steel and mining areas were illuminated by a sequence of epiphanies. If Detroit was steeped in the musical imprint of Berry Gordy’s upbeat Motown, Techno disassembled that, it clambered over the ripped-out conveyor belts, it scavenged and rearranged the remnants of the production line and listened to the new rhythms of the robots; in the North of England there was an innate understanding of that.

The question I was asking then still obsesses me now: If grand civic and industrial buildings are the physical containers of our collective memories, what happens to the auditory textures of those memories, when iconic structures lie in ruins?

Techno is the closest I have come to finding an answer; with its rerouting of spatial narratives, the hypnotic rhythms and shamanic beat, it articulates the territory we search for, the site of emancipatory potential. Techno is an echo from a future moment, it appears like a hallucination before it exists in the physical realm. Techno summons multiple futures, by sifting and reassembling fragments of the past, by re-membering those glimmers of light, embers lying dormant in the rubble and dust.

I am reminded of a quote by Fredric Jameson: ‘It would be best perhaps, to think of an alternate world – better to say the alternate world, our alternate world – as one contiguous with ours but without any connections or access to it. Then, from time to time, like a diseased eyeball in which disturbing flashes of light are perceived or like those baroque sunbursts in which rays from another world suddenly break into this one, we are reminded that Utopia exists and that other systems, other spaces, are still possible.’1

1. Fredric Jameson, Valences of the Dialectic, Verso, London and New York 2009, p. 612.

底特律:Techno之城

“底特律:Techno之城”
伦敦当代艺术学院
2016年7月27日2016年9月25日

踏入明亮的地下室。

单色招贴和唱片封套互相点缀,白色的基座上一台特丽珑显示器。

一首Techno音乐回荡着,依然具有颠覆的力量,将时光炸出一道裂缝,越过了这被消毒了的空间的围墙金

Cybertron乐队、Inner City、地下抵抗。

声音指引你来到数间相连的荒废房间,去工业化的空间。

它还原了一个城市,在那里,集体记忆扭曲并浓缩,正如民用楼房承受着废弃的重量,

烧焦的天花板上的装饰纹上升,

窗玻璃上铭刻着蠢蠢欲动的字符,

废弃火车站的大理石地板。

一座临界之域,搁浅在蒸蒸日上的汽车之城、反乌托邦生活世界以及具有解放潜能的场所三者之间的边缘。

一面展墙上的单色大幅摄影打开了底特律市中心的风景金大礼堂、好运动酒吧、东大河,这些名字构成了一座废墟中的美国城市,一座石化了的却未必不透风的城市,在它的防火通道、停车场、旅馆后面的阈限空间( liminal zone )中,可能性被打开。

阈限空间是萨满的场域,是变形金刚的,属于那个可以在不同世界之间引领方向的人。

Marie Staggat, Downtown Detroit Marie Staggat《底特律市中心》

Marie Staggat, Downtown Detroit. 《底特律市中心》.

Mark Blower, installation view 装置

Mark Blower, installation view. 装置.

Techno制作人在80年代浮现金胡安阿特金( Juan Atkins )、德里克梅( Derrick May )、凯文桑德森( Kevin Saunderson ),这些人占领了多重阈限空间,就像他们拥有多重姓名,多产的自己,分裂后重新组装的自我金分裂为了重新组合/记住( re-member )。

对他们而言,末日已经降临,他们居住在一个反乌托邦世界。Techno突出了生活在废墟中的体验,它飞过1967年大火烧黑的楼房,盘旋在1973年经济衰退的余波之上,从一个超自然清晰的角度俯瞰这个在里根政策下苟延残喘,最后被掏空了的城市。

福特不断地解雇员工,并用机器人代替了传送带。而正是这些新机器人,最后成为了容器,Techno制作人为其注入精神。它们创造出的这未来主义的梦之景是关于对策略性的穿越力量的驾驭,埋下无常的故事。

罗兰牌合成器在这个房间里就像一块化石,仿佛从大楼倒塌后的碎片中抢救出。它们具有某种剩余力量,疏离的存在,型号808仿若遗迹,灵魂已经离开了的身体。如果音乐是幽灵,那么这些合成器就是被抛弃的躯壳。在这个白色地下室的明亮顶灯下它们看起来就像是来自远古的,怀旧的,复古未来主义的恋物。

一个孤立的,说教式的声音不断地敲击着围墙,那音调是清晰的,使得种族、阶级,以及所有强加的秩序都显得不重要。

有一个叙事,很容易懂金遥远,平静,公平。

复合的图像,荧光的海报上描绘着过去的辉煌:录音工作室、集锦专辑、电台我浏览着纪录片,在里面,音乐人在录音室里的画面似乎打破了魔咒,将音乐带入平淡之域。

然而在音乐中,它的精神还是无所不在的,那些凝结的瞬间充满着张力,打开了各种未来,虽然这些未来我们暂时遗失了。

Techno并不对底特律进行生硬的领土占有,而是穿梭于墙壁之间,在公路上飞驰,成为一种游牧的、神出鬼没的存在。底特律是一座被界限撕裂的8英里路、基线路、北城区,它们隔离了贫穷和富有的上层郊区。而正是对这些边缘的意识,对穿越和扭曲这些边缘之能力的意识,创造出了此般美妙的天籁之音。

在Techno音乐之中有一种明确的治愈的欲望,去重组/记住( re-member ),再一次拼凑起那些支离破碎的元素。

Techno是广阔的,听觉的幻象,它是逃逸。它通向的并不是狂喜的无知,而是作为对残暴环境、对一贫如洗的日常生活的抵抗策略。在木炭壳和荒废的厂房中,它逃离平凡的空间和时间。

这间房间,这个灯光通明的地下室被污染了,被ICA( 伦敦当代艺术学院 )的日常生活所渗透金从厨房传来的声音、叮当哐啷、午餐的欢雀感。玻璃杯相碰的清脆响声和中产阶级的笑声成为了刺耳之音。位于封闭而清洁的中央伦敦的底特律Techno。然而它那壮阔的,潜力无限的节奏从扩音器中传出,弥散到被封锁的1区和2区,并将那曾经被称作为是“城郊”的地方打通,也就是3区、4区和5区。Techno精神在Bleep、Spiral Tribe以及Free Party这些场地间循环,废墟是它的轨迹,在无常和生长的地方,在爱德芒顿、克洛伊顿、巴尔金、图腾哈姆格莱姆,broken beat、dubstep,阈限伦敦传来绚烂的声音万花筒。

这里的扩音器被调到礼貌的音量,音乐保留了它令人入迷的力量,但是无法使身体着魔。它缺乏一种声音系统紧紧抓住人躯体的力量。我渴望音乐将我的脊椎上下充满电,一种爬满皮肤的躁动感。

唱片封套装在卡纸相框里面,一些博物馆物件整洁地排列着。我想到已经消逝了的伦敦唱片店圈子,满地下室的唱片架就像丛林,hard house、tech-step,还有满屋子令人感怀的唱片那石油化工的味道。

我第一次审视这些封套的时候,对这种音乐的理解并没有很深刻,也不像我的男同事那样蜂拥到唱片店。我对它的了解来自rave圈,那是Techno初来欧洲时金更具体地说是初来英格兰北部时金辐射出的丰富产物。当Techno抵达这里时,那是一个催化的瞬间,在一个地区吊诡地浮现出了与底特律的相似。

我记得1992年第一次听地下抵抗的《为了改变的革命》,我在南约克夏的一个前矿产村,一家人家的房子外放着这首歌。我记得一眼望去,荒废的集装箱堆场,还有被弃用的科顿伍德矿场,我记得剧毒的工业残渣渗入生态系统。世界末日已然来临。

出现在底特律的Techno是一种炼金术般的魔法,带来一系列倒置。它占据了一个中间地带,一边是不顾一切叛道离经的P-Funk,另一边是注重精确和数学秩序的欧洲电子乐。

在英格兰北部的工业城市,它遇见了同伴,以及范围多元的影响金海鸥乐队、人类联盟、伏尔泰酒馆金从欧洲发出的信号,底特律接收到,镜面反射又折回。

布雷克巴克斯特( Blake Baxter )、深空声音( Deep Space Soundworks )、X光线,冗长的名单将我带回90年代早期谢尔菲德的烟幕排队、莫利的天黑俱乐部、约克夏石矿上和田地间的自制音响系统。工业基础设施成为了主场地,而那些垂死的作坊、工厂、俱乐部则被反文化现场占领。在那些时刻,工人阶级文化的元素被颠覆,人们振奋起来,纺织、钢铁、矿产地区的废墟被持续的顿悟所照亮。

如果说底特律曾沉浸于贝利戈迪( Berry Gordy )那乐观的汽车城的音乐印记中,那么Techno将其瓦解了,它爬上被撕烂的传送带,将生产线的残骸清扫并重组,倾听机器人的新韵律;而在英格兰北部,这样的理解仿佛与生俱来。

我曾经问过的一个问题至今依旧困扰我:如果说宏伟的居住和工业楼房是我们集体记忆的物理承载,那么当这些标志性结构成为废墟时,我们记忆的听觉质地又是怎样的?

Techno是我能找到的最接近的答案。它在既有的空间叙事基础上另辟蹊径,它催眠的韵律和萨满般的的节奏表明了我们在追寻的领地,那是具有解放潜能的场所。Techno是未来刹那的回声,它像是一个还未诞生在现实领域的幻觉。Techno通过细究、再次组装过去的碎片,通过重组/记得( re-member )那些躺在垃圾和尘埃中的光束和灰烬,来召唤多重未来。

弗雷德里克詹姆逊( Fredric Jameson )写过:“最好构想一个另类世界金最好说出那另类世界,我们的另类世界金仿佛那个世界与我们的世界毗邻,但是没有任何联系和通道。而后,时常,就像残缺的眼球能够接收纷扰的光线,正如突然从另一个世界闯入的巴洛克阳光,我们记得,乌托邦是存在的,而别的系统、别的空间,仍旧可能。”1

1. 詹姆逊,《辩证法的多维性》,2009,第612页。