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DJ Spooky

[1] Several quasi-philosophical essays by the versatile artist, Paul D. Miller (alias DJ Spooky), can be found at the DJ Spooky website. In 'Uncanny/Unwoven Notes towards a New Conceptual Art', many famous names from the canon of Western philosophy and high art turn up regularly. From Ovid to Deleuze, from Kant to Freud, from Duchamp to Artaud and Beuys, from Chomsky to Hegel and Derrida. The references whiz past one's ears.
Main theme of Miller's essay: An analysis of the condition of contemporary art and its engagement with the real. Miller wants to open some alternative perspectives on the reality in which we live. For Miller, reality is a social construct and we need to rethink this construct from the perspective of our global tele-mediated culture. Today we live in an 'electric-modern reality', a 'proscenium of presence and absence'. (It is not so difficult to imagine that virtual reality in particular raises questions about presence and absence.) New technologies have led to fragmentation, continuous transformation, and a 'plurality of reals'. ('In the electronically accelerated environment that we call home, a turbulent cloud of paradoxical meanings arises whenever the notion of consensus is engaged'.) Miller writes that art was, and is, our guide to these new terrains because of its special and rapidly changing relationship with reality. He mentions the conceptual art of Bochner and Duchamp as a starting point. Their recontextualization of everyday objects (an ordinary urinal turned into a work of art) meant a transformation and an extension of meanings of these objets trouvees or 'ready mades'. According to Miller, conceptual art opens up a world of cross-referenced double meanings, '…a world of Derridean textuality where the double ... becomes the foundation for art and the way we experience its textuality'. The binary opposition art versus reality, art representing the real, is contested, perhaps even deconstructed. Art is not representing reality anymore, art is reality. The opposition is no longer adequate. Furthermore, art teaches us that no signifier, no object, has a fixed meaning. Meanings are floating, continuously changing. And so are we, living in an 'electric-modern' world of multiple realities, playing different roles in different situations. No fixed identity. ('The 20th century has bequeathed to the creative mind a panoply of identities'.) What only a few decades ago was the exclusive domain of the arts - playing with different identities and meanings in different contexts - has become a part of the everyday reality in which we find ourselves immersed. All this because of technological innovations and the opening of alternative perspectives that reflect on and affect mankind (post-structuralist philosophy, the linguistic turn). In Derridean style, Miller writes, 'the 20th century has been a realm of disappearance and re-inscription, an electro-magnetic dance between the real and the unreal - a place where presence and absence become two signifiers of a condition of dispersed identity'. Neither subject nor object has a stable unitary reference point, but are counters [pawns] in a system of relational, associative, and referential meanings. Il n'y a pas hors contexte ['There is nothing outside context'].

[2] A confused story ('If you're looking for a smooth clean linear analysis ... look someplace else')? Superficial? Not very innovative despite Miller's own opinion about this ('This essay will engage in radically different perspectives on the reality we all live in')? Of course, there is a lot to be said against Miller. For me, however, he serves primarily as an illustration. An illustration of someone who uses post-structuralistic views, Derridean language and analyses in trying to make clear his idea on how present-day disjunctions in reality and in identity have had their predecessor in artistic developments. For Miller, philosophy, art, and modern technology are three equal domains through which the world in which we live can be analyzed. He places the thoughts of jazz musician Charles Mingus next to those of Freud, the poetry of Phillis Wheatly ('One of the first African Americans to write a book') next to a quote from Derrida's The Truth In Painting, a Richard Wright haiku next to a discussion on Hegel's thesis about the end of art. (Could we compare this to Derrida's Glas in which he juxtaposes the philosophy of Hegel and the literature of Jean Genet and where he questions philosophical notions of how knowledge should be passed down through rigidly controlled channels?) 'Uncanny/Unwoven Notes towards a New Conceptual Art' can be regarded as an example of different cultural utterances (different levels?) interacting with one another, assuming different meanings when recontextualized, as they say in the DJ world, 'in the mix'. The ideas of Derrida and others are used (misused?), borrowed, grafted and (thereby) transformed and disseminated. Iterability. (cf. (D)(R)econtextualization) . Although music is mentioned, it is neither an essay about music, nor an essay about deconstruction in music. However, let's say in a Deleuzean way, there are many 'lines of flight' or 'rhizomatic structures' (and this page is one of them) that connect Miller's writing to (his) music, Derrida and deconstruction. Lines of flight: the movements by which 'one' leaves the territory and makes new connections, differential relations internal to deterritorialization itself.