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SOUND SEMINAR CORRESPONDENCES: on the mad experience

eilis searson brett darling

July 25th, 2019 4:41 min read 1289 words

From: Jon Wozencroft
Subject: Sound seminar playlist
Date: 26 January 2019 at 15:46:59 GMT
To: All Students
Cc: All Staff

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From: HEAVEN IS A PLACE eilis.searson@network.rca.ac.uk
Subject: FWD: Sound seminar playlist
Date: 11 Mar 2019 at 12:44:50 GMT
To: Brett Darling darling.brett@gmail.com

dear brett,

there, on the soft sofa, a few feet away from jon wozencroft, we would sprawl all night, in a petrified paroxysm of rhizomantic [sic] memory, and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to graze our collective consciousness (or occasionally, our knocking knees) against one another, silently. my opalescent mind, full of milky iridescence, would start on a long cautious journey toward the other, whilst their hand, half-hidden in the coats, would creep toward mine. not even the cold amber fizz, under the influence of which we still attempted to communicate, could bring an explanation…

i’m typing about the sound seminar. but the words i used are actually an adaptation of a paragraph1 from an early part in lolita (nabokov). this part always stuck with me. humbert humbert describes his first experiences in having a romantic connection by focusing on that mad feeling when two hands burn so hotly, brightly, next to one another, and each explores / fights / flounders [with] the urge to hold the other. in the early stages of love, sometimes (at best) the match grazes the box. but the hand keeps the touch to a graze out of some sort of feeble, inferiority-perplexed politeness. i’ve always wondered what it is that ignites this mad experience… that which always feels unmistakably mutual, or shared. sometimes, nowadays, i get the same feeling in the cinema. a rare treat. but the sound seminar always reminds me of the feeling, because there’s this wonderful, exasperating, similar politeness to/in the act of listening.

after your first sound seminar, you sent me a text that, for the first time, began to answer my question. you were a little drunk (four pints of that cold amber fizz, i warned you about the fourth…), but, very insightful. for our ref:

“e, i ran your battery down, the thing about the music when handed by jon is that it has its own being, in that it is our experience of ourselves, shared, while still being us, the ‘what just happened?’ is something else being in the room, in which time, association, memory, selfhood swim / originate, the ungraspable, as a gift made tangible, that’s love? b x”

what a message! the moment i read this, i remembered the lolita passage in a paroxysm of clarity. here’s the answer: maybe the catalyst for the hand feeling, the iridescent mind feeling, is exactly what you described. a shared understanding, where nothing is actually understood, just shared. or, a shared memory, (where each memory is different. and, actually, not articulated in words) but, tangible in the moment…

the music, the listening, [the jon,] the wandering, is what sets the mind in this mode.

what i’m trying to reiterate, is, maybe the object of romance, and, in fact, the object of education [love as mutual education… so says the ancient greeks, so says i! same-same, thing!] is to manifest/make exactly this moment where, as you’ve suggested, creation (not learning) happens, explodes in a room, by reminding you of something else… “Learn to peel a potato! Listen to the sound that a tap makes when it turns, like in a movie,” said jon, said you.

even just the thought of being present [in a moment] like this, sets the rhizomes pulsing for water.

any thoughts, dry?

love from,
eilis x

~

picnic comma lightning!


eilis searson ☻

✎ Graphic Design / Vis. Com.
✓ Royal College of Art
✆ 07969038077 


From: Brett Darling darling.brett@gmail.com
Subject: FWD: Sound seminar playlist
Date: 28 Apr 2019 at 00:01:12 GMT
To: HEAVEN IS A PLACE eilis.searson@network.rca.ac.uk

Dearest e,

On the mad experience, aka the midnight sun, The Opposite of Claustrophobia, aka maxims for when Dreaming, Proverbs for death.

Well, dear eilis, I am here, it seems, peering over the curvature of a planet I thought a near impossible obstacle these last few weeks, months… trouble just getting to the keys… for a time I thought any form of transmission was out of the question, the frequencies all wrong, my hand on the coding machine, hovering over a set of indecipherable controls… but, “How’s lunch?” you say, even when you don’t, and it comes through all O’Hara and easy, and I’m able, after all, of speaking and saying something, whatever this may be… your email was/is there, it opened up a moment, it made clear, and ultimately it is generous, so thank you. I hope, at the very least, to maintain some sense of generosity, of love, when looking at being in that room with you, with all of you, and Jon. I thought with that in mind, I better finally respond, or else what I thought was a planet might turn out to be empty space, or worse still, a black hole… but… maybe the only trick when riding a black hole would be the capacity to be in two places, many places, at once… no problem there then… in fact, maybe I envisage this as ending up somewhere toward a proposal for a school in Death Studies, how to live more on the other side, or the moon…. but let’s see… death, death, death, nothing… “where’s lunch?!”

John Berger describes claustrophobia somewhere not as an aversion to enclosed space exactly, but a “lack of continuity between one action and the next that is close enough to be touching.” Are we therefore talking about a hyper experience of discontinuity, rather than mere separation or even isolation felt up close? In that sense this would be much more about a break in the language of space rather than its expression in the architectural - I am here in a room and I’m terrified because it is shrinking - sense… The discomfort felt when lived elements are unable to approach one or another in a severely radical way, even as a rejection or opposition to one another, one in which there is a radical in-translatability of things… events placed up against one another, an opposite of silence that is not sound, but all sounds un-relating to one another, in which, nothing is expressible, events pressed like newspaper pages, a slither thin space between them, stacked as high as the moon and sideways, but every page a wildly different language, syntax, planetary reference, galaxy, concept of gravity, space, being, the lot! (Aka: the Deleuzian undifferentiated, chaos, hell?)

I’m starting here because my initial memory of sitting on the couch in the “Senior Common Room” with you, Jakob, Will, your friend X, most of whom I barely knew or had just met, on a leather couch with great depth, like a ledge, but by no means with the space for all of us to comfortably sit (you rotated, I think, and sat on the floor, although I… treating myself as a guest, not being part of the school, having been ‘snuck in’, stayed where I was). And yet largely, me with my anxious ticks and body clicks, felt, in that position, the opposite of claustrophobia. Not that it wasn’t uncomfortable, quite the opposite in fact.

Maybe, we should rather be searching out discomfort nowadays, instead for finding ways to hide it under the couch (embrace the anti-oedipal, schizoid analysis of D + G? Later maybe, I can’t get that lost just yet). Lets just say that there were too many of us on the sofa anyway, way too many, the too of too many, in fact, being in this sense, good? The room was overly warm, and I struggled to take off my jacket, it being already torn in places, over-worn, over-relied-upon, my favourite blue cotton jacket, despite its negative associations – it was a gift from my ex-wife, a whole, real-life claustrophobic marriage, pure incongruity – I wanted to appear a certain way, who doesn’t, and I love that coat… I remember doing the whole straight jacket unwrap though, the one you might see in cinemas now and again, under the glow of the projector bulb, awkward faces, one arm, then the other hanging, or worse still, half way, sometimes giving up, sweating, you can see them amputated in their discomfort and struggling for popcorn, but not wanting to cause a fuss. London is a city difficult to dress for anyway at pretty much any time of year… Anyway, people were strewn about everywhere, dishevelled, abandoned faces flickering away from phones.

Then the lights went low, lower. The whole thing began, and I’m not saying any of the discomfort at being in a school in which I didn’t belong evaporated, but bubbled. The discomfort spoke within the cacophony of something else that was happening in the room, interwove over something, or was on it, coursing across highways, roads, a set of connections that were not subject + object exactly in associations, but something else. Once the seminar began, although I was squashed and up close, too close, the congruity of experience was there in a way that made those eventualities, bathroom breaks, wriggling, personhoods too close to personhoods, sweat between shoulder blades, lights from neighbouring buildings jarring in their contrast in the windows, the whole should I or shouldn’t I of the room, my sense of your own experience of these things, there as we all were, as something accessible, a language to communicate with, be inside, know.

If I relate this to your sense of hands close to holding, this whole mad experience, could we say then that it is not merely the ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ of touching, the hyper experience of proximity/separation to the other we get out of love, but that love, the seminar, the whole thing in the room we are driving at here, gives us a continuity - a communing without speaking - that means we actually experience something akin to a relatedness that cannot be accessed directly, that which we are starved of elsewhere in our lives, and all too often in the lecture hall, classroom, etc, due to the measurability of things, the scientific, a reliance on the gauge, the benchmark, the outcome… Is this the route of a direct/indirect communion with our self/multiple selves? I should probably take a few steps back…

So, that something happening in the room? Can I speak of a beginning for a thing like that? Is there an order to a process? Or, is does the outside of time element of such a thought leave linearity at the door? Certainly, I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wasn’t quite a guest, or so I thought. You had to make up a story to get me through the barriers and into the building. To be standing in the middle of a busy road and not know the direction of traffic is to be a flee, a fly, a wasp, to be becoming traffic signals, to be an eight year old peering up at a dead road and wondering about love. To be a million reflections at once in passing car windows. I signed the visitors’ form, which as it turns out could have all been official from the get go. We had muddled a trespass, made one up, the “I’ll get you in” of forgetting, guests can be admitted.

It takes a number of steps to form the feeling of what went on on the sofa, and so I am beginning with the first. But maybe it would be better to be geological, astrological, stratospheric. You met me around the corner, beyond the doorway to a silent church. There was an alley beyond that, although this might as well have been, in its closeness, the bar downstairs from the seminar room that was too full with fashion students to move. One floor in this world could easily lead to another, to nowhere. You open a door to the basement, and there is a roof, you shout out a window, and hear yourself under the bed. The sound of my voice speaking when we first came towards the seminar room was too full, too loud, since you hadn’t warned me of the absence of a door separating the corridor and where the seminar would take place. We were running late, wrapped in a silence of expectation. Jon was already speaking, my voice cut short in reaction to his, the words I spoke were already becoming his words, his words were becoming the silence we expected right before the music began, all of us were becoming the notation paper for a map the seminar would be written upon. I struggled to my seat. As ever, you forced me to sit where I believed no seat to be, sometimes a seat is a floor, for you, after all, in this case, a tightly packed sofa with no space. The art school is in an area where class separations are amplified, a place I would never visit ordinarily, royal schools, music, halls, ticket touts, the usual mass lurking at bus stops, the park already a black expanse of night, a border that forms at dusk, a wall of no sound. To create a body maybe a number of initial dislocations are in order, certain discomforts, maybe pleasure isn’t the thing at all, as I said… in the end it will all be about space, the space of death…

In Aristotelian ancient Greece, as you referred to, knowledge was not an object. It did not exist outside of the self. It wasn’t something that could be bought or sold, or more importantly, measured. Knowledge, rather, was brought about through the communication between the intellect and the soul. It was an internal process. Maybe brought about is already incorrect, it was a process, was communication itself. Experience was the experience of this communication, and this could only take place thanks to the imagination. Imagination for ancient Greeks was a far more highly regarded thing than it is now. Imagination nowadays has a tinge of luxury to it, an additional feeling, whereas then it was right there in the middle of things, between the modus intelligilis and the modus sensibilis, the modus imaginabilis brought about a communion that was the true experience of the self. It was the communion between the intellect and the soul (for our purposes, can we use heart?) Therefore, if you want to experience something, your intellect needs to be able to communicate with your soul while the two remain very separate entities. The imagination is the lubricating element of the program. It cannot be precise, in that it is not a tangible thing which you can put your hands on, it is part of a process, it is that process. Imagination in this sense has nothing to do with something ‘unreal’; there is nothing unreal about imagination, allowing elements of yourself to speak to one another. No hocus pocus, no hidden, unobtainable secret, no dream of inspiration to be hidden in studios, seminar rooms, painters garrets etc, but rather a communion between the intellect and the soul that was a necessary element of the experience of subjectivity in everyday life. Everyday. That’s important. …A good place to think about, love?

Knowledge in this sense is an intangible experience of yourself rather than an object to relate to. You cannot give, transmit, teach (sic) (the process that is the communing aspect of) knowledge in this conceptual form, any more than you can give, transmit, teach (sic) the experience of being ‘in love’. Consequently, for antiquity, the central problem of knowledge is not the relationship between subject + object, but the relationship between the one and the many (elements of the self).

Can we in the modern age find this sort of knowledge without certainty as a collectivized experience of communication and difference in an art school, anyway? Is that what I’m trying to lead towards?

The entire thing has shifted from a process to a thing.

What is the body without organs?

DELEUZE + GUATTARI

“You never reach the Body without Organs, you can’t reach it, you are forever attaining it, it is a limit. People ask, So what is this BwO?- But you’re already on it, scurrying like a vermin, groping like a blind person, or running like a lunatic: desert traveller and nomad of the stepped. On it we sleep, live our waking lives, fight - fight and are fought - seek our place, experience untold happiness and fabulous defeats; on it we penetrate or are penetrated; on it we love.”

Why this now? What am I getting at? If the wasp and the orchid form a rhizome that for a time holds upon a certain strata, they make a map of one another, form a new map, this avoids the limiting and power game imposing an aspect of a tracing, the whole domination and subjugation element of teaching, but the plane of intensity can only go on for so long…. Where is this headed[?]…

I’m jumping around this weird ground because, as I said at the beginning of this messy email, if we’re going to talk about that other thing going on in the room, we’ll need to address who it is experiencing the thing without avoiding any uncomfortable facts about the self. I am multiples of multiples, Whitman said, and in that room we all have our own multiple experiences, feel the music is coming through for us, we realize this, and the fact that others are in there too, having their own personal experience. So, there’s more than one of us, me, on the couch, that’s a given, but what about desire? Don’t we need it? Here our messy threads begin to clog up, get joined in strange ways, to leap, tangle up…

“At any rate”, Deleuze says, “You make one, you can’t desire without making one.”

So this is where the body without organs comes in, its a level ON WHICH things happen that might remove a concept of exchange capitalistic concepts of education demand, of one person giving a lesson to another, measurable and with outcome.

….

“The BwO causes intensities to pass; it produces and distributes them in a spatium that is itself intensive, lacking expansion. It is not space, nor is it in space; it is a matter that occupies space to a given degree - to the degree corresponding to the intensities produced.”

But, what, I hear you ask for the hundredth time, about love?

If we want to “horizontalise” education, it may well be necessary to question that fundamental of absolute knowledge and the authority making system that we use in order choose who teaches who, in order to not merely slip into power fantasies of authority by worshiping those who transcend that system. Instead it seems vital that we give authority to those who we believe capable of facilitating a BwO in which levels of intensity can be experienced. In this way, the student body, takes on a proportionality better suited to its name. We shouldn’t throw out old concepts of those who know, only re-imagine what it is that they know in terms of what knowledge is. The knowledge of creating a BwO is that of making a self that for a time can be one who desires. This is the fundamental exercise for education as I see it, a place where selves can be made via intensities, which can then experience. The richness that is then taken outward, and can supply the intensity of experience in order to reawaken the imagination in the wider world? Maybe, of maybe, this is far fetched. There were people growing restless in the crowd toward the final third, and one guy started flashing photographs over the shoulders of other students… At one point a burning smell was reported, right before the break, and in the distance that existed between the songs, sounds, there were one hundred bees, buzzing under the turn table. Jon wobbled his arms, danced, and asked us to vote on whether we believed in love at first sight. Only a few people raised their hands.

The difference between a slogan and a maxim or proverb, is that a slogan is something that sells an apparent certainty, that makes something aspirational and measurable accessible through language. A maxim or proverb no longer has any value, since experience is dead. But, could we, in the darkness of a room like that, not come to again believe in maxims? Love at first sight seems infinitely more tangible than ‘Make America Great Again’, even if they both deny scientific fact. Maybe, maxims are only to be said with our eyes closed, or at least our outer eyes. Maybe we need whole new maxims, maxims for sleeping moments, maxims for after you’re dead, a proverb to recite in the after life of dreaming…

In the absence of the exchange of being in that room, where maybe nothing was ‘given’, but ‘everything happened’, the many, multiples of multiples, the aspiration of reverting to a ‘pure communication’ rather than a ‘pure knowledge’, maybe we can come closer to something that, even if we can’t really know it, can’t actually sum up the total value of a man selecting and playing sounds and songs to a group of people attempting to be infinitely receptive while remaining somehow critical and cool, maybe even if that can’t be counted, measured, funded, recognised or memorialised, it can be certainly be loved.

Love,
Brett


From: HEAVEN IS A PLACE eilis.searson@network.rca.ac.uk
Subject: FWD: FWD: Sound seminar playlist
Date: 27 May 2019 at 10:26:50 GMT
To: Jon Wozencroft jon.wozencroft@rca.ac.uk

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