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Multiple Meaning–Techno, An Artistic and Political Laboratory of the Present
Techno music is seen as an experimentation to overcome the sociocultural boundaries instituted in the social space. Techno is one of the more spectacular and mediatized aspects of contemporary culture. But is it more than mere entertainment, more than just an escape from a world that no ideology can claim to finalize? Like any fashion phenomenon, techno is the product of the human need for experimentation and the necessity to go beyond the limits and forms imposed on human existence. In terms of how it has appropriated technology for festive and aesthetic purposes, the techno movement could be considered as a sort of artistic and political laboratory of the present.
Michel Gaillot (1964-2020) was a philosopher, art critic and philosophy professor at ESACM (Ecole supérieure d'art de Clermont Métropole). He has also written numerous articles and given conferences in France and abroad on different issues relating to contemporary art and current political thought, in particular with regards to “l'être-en-commun” or “being-together” and community.
In his book Multiple Meaning, which includes interviews with Michel Maffesoli and Jean-Luc Nancy, Gaillot ruminates on the subject: Without making it in any way its theme or one of its messages, techno music, in its noisy silence, seems to suggest that the socio-historical figures of the Sense no longer make sense, and can no longer fragment the world according to an ethnic and political partition that had previously distributed it into separate or opposing identities. This music would then be that of the common world, music eminently cosmopolitical... As we can see in raves - but also in many contemporary artistic practices - art and politics are no longer separated as if they defined heterogeneous operating fields, but are somehow united to each other in flexible and ephemeral collective arrangements forming around common sensations. Gaillot's discussion of techno connects its subversive spaces for participatory action to the historical lineage of the féte. Gaillot emphasizes the trance-inducing effect of dancing.
However, that there is such a convergence of art (arts and techniques) and politics does not mean that we are referred to an aestheticization of politics (community as a work of art), or even to a politicization of art (social art or critical art). This may only indicate to us that we still have to implement an art that is no longer just a representation of the Ideal, a technique that is no longer finalized exclusively by economic imperatives, and a political space that is no longer based on any truth. A whole program that basically refers to the possibility of inventing singularly and collectively an existence that would no longer be diverted from its "finitude" and its free deployment in the horizon of a mixed and a-territorial globality. It may well be for our time, for "we" who share it—regardless of the defenders of purity and the Ideal—both our task and our destiny.
It may seem incongruous to refer to the writings of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bataille, Blanchot, Deleuze, Guattari, and Lyotard, among others, in a discussion of what, on the surface, may appear as just another musical or cultural trend. However, in one of the more scholarly and eloquent essays on techno, philosopher and art critic Michel Gaillot does just that in order to illustrate his thesis that techno represents "un laboratoire artistique et politique du present." The festive element of techno refers, of course, to the shared experience of the rave which Gaillot sees as an illustration of Bataille's notion of "depense.”
In other words, by dancing to techno music with a large group of people one can momentarily escape the problems of the real world. Often enhanced by the effects of Ecstasy which, according to An-Ju, "leve les bar rieres inhibitrices, favorise l'echange, elargit la conscience vers l'autre, exacerbe les zones erogenes du corps", the rave becomes a collective Utopian space. For Gaillot, this collectivity is not so much apolitical as cosmopolitical.
Hurricane Donna, 1960
When two cyclones near, they can begin to dance. Sometimes, when tropical cyclones get close to one another (within about 1,200km), the upper-level outflow bands of one storm can warm up in temperature and soon act as the inflow of the other. When this occurs, they become “pinwheel cyclones,” rotating around each other in an anti-clockwise direction (in the northern hemisphere). They tend to rotate around a point between them, rather like two dancers joining hands and spinning around, this is the Fujiwhara effect. If the Tropical Cyclones are of a similar size, then they can move around one another for perhaps up to a few days, then release and move away on their own paths, like the dancers letting go of each other’s hands. The Fujiwara Effect is most commonly visible across the Pacific.
The waltz as we know it today, was the first unquestionable closed couple dance done in aristocracy with all the other dances before being open dances (no embrace.) The waltz was considered very "scandalous," for the dancers did an embrace and held each other so close that their bodies and even faces touched while they danced. The women were thrown around exuberantly (Adagio type) which at the time was "Immoral and Sinful."
When the waltz finally became accepted by society, all dances that followed were variations of the waltz. Many groups (including the U.S.) protested the dance and critics became outraged with some forbidding the waltz to be danced. Swabia and Switzerland forbade the waltz. Wilhelm II prohibited the waltz in court balls in Germany and England did not appreciate it until 1812! Decrees were issued forbidding "all gliding and turning," posted on public ordinances.
Dancing was forbidden under Puritan decree (and others) among the settlers. As an instance, the Bishops of Wurzburg and Fulda forbade the waltz and prohibited it being danced in 1760. Noblemen ultimately started building private ballrooms in their houses to circumvent the demoralized situation; they had sequestered balls with only nobility and the best dancers attending, thus adding to its zeal.
Circular Dance of Shakers, 1872
On Sundays, the Shakers worshipped by dancing in circles that developed into pantomimes of temptation and fits. Dancing, as the major mode of devotional self expression, was an integral part of this pure religion. “At the commencement of the song, the dancers moved forward, in a body, about three feet each, turned, shuffled, and kept repeating the same evolutions the whole time of this remarkable service.” Among many other things, the Shakers were known for their dancing, or “laboring.” The earlier modes of worship did not include any sort of standardized or choreographed movements, and people referred to them as “Shaking Quakers”—later shortened to “Shakers”—a derogatory term that the Shakers eventually adopted for their own use.
In Rock My Religion, Dan Graham wanted to ‘offset’ the contemporary perception of the Shakers by emphasising that they were ‘very much more involved with a sexual kind of utopia, a kind of utopia based on having men and women live together but not have sex.’ Rock My Religion desublimates the middle-class fascination with Shaker decoration by connecting the images of Shaker interiors calculated to appeal with images of Minor Threat and Sonic Youth gigs designed to repel: it records illustrations of the Shakers’ bodies and animates them by the distorted live recording of ‘Shakin’ Hell’; it moves from the morning light of the Shaker residence to the barely legible darkness of the mosh pit.
Ham Radio QSL Cards
Like other wireless technologies, ham radio uses the power of electromagnetic radiation to send voices, Morse code, and digital data around the world with the help of transmitters, receivers, and antennas. This electromagnetic radiation travels in the form of a sinusoidal wave, and the particular wavelength and frequency of the wave will determine what kind of electromagnetic signal you’re working with. During times of crisis, when our fragile cellular networks and power grids limp along, ham radio keeps on running.
QSL cards are widely exchanged between ham radio operators to confirm contacts between two radio stations or to acknowledge short wave listener reports. These cards are often said to be the final courtesy of a contact, and indeed many millions of QSL cards are exchanged each year.
Abraham Moles, Sociodynamique 1967
According to Abraham Moles, mass communication takes place in society through two cycles: one short and one long. The short cycle communicates the events through the mass media to society. It starts from a sociocultural framework, where there are observers who select events, report them through the media to society and opinion leaders. While the long cycle starts from a sociocultural framework from which a creator makes his realization or expression, he passes to the micro-environment, from there to the mass media and from there to society. In this cycle, many times, the communicative products are saved.
Moles says that culture advances through a cycle in which four factors participate:
- Society, which acts as the macro-environment with its experience and cultural heritage.
- The creators who carry out cultural innovations.
- The group, which acts as the micro-environment, which promotes and drives the cultural innovations of the creators.
- And finally, the mass media that circulate innovations.
A circle pit is a form of moshing in which participants run in a circular motion around the edges of the pit, often leaving an open space in the center. Ever lost yourself so utterly in a circle pit that you felt consumed within the music? Me too. There is an explanation for this, to be found in the world of Mathematics.
Some people may consider this type of phenomena as an Extreme Full Contact Sport, other people see it as a fun thing to do at concerts. Certain types of people think it is all about getting your stress, frustration and aggression out, but the real reason is just a way for fans to celebrate the music by dancing in an intense way. Mosh Pits could be classified as a strange ritual, a tribal expression or a way of how people react to the music. In Mosh Pits, energy is given out by the bands that is felt and built up by the fans and that produces a Mosh Pit. It is a phenomenon that will always be around as long as there is Heavy Music around.
Fêtes are huge parties held during the Carnival season. The word Carnival is said to come from the Late Latin expression carne levare, which means "remove meat"; a folk etymology derives it from carne vale, "farewell to meat". In either case, this signifies the approaching fast. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, producing "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrants to embolden the festival's carefree spirit.
Other common features of Carnival include mock battles such as food fights; expressions of social satire; mockery of authorities; costumes of the grotesque body that display exaggerated features such as large noses, bellies, mouths, phalli, or elements of animal bodies; abusive language and degrading acts; depictions of disease and gleeful death; and a general reversal of everyday rules and norms. The Italian tradition of wearing masks dates back to the Venice Carnival in the 15th century, and has been an inspiration in Greek theater and Commedia dell'arte for centuries.
Mircea Eliade, historian of religions, gives us a clear explanation about Carnival and its meaning. He writes: "Any new year is a revival of time at its beginning, a repetition of the cosmogony. The presence of the dead, Saturnalia and orgies, are all elements which indicate that at the end of the year and in the expectation of the new year the mythical moments of the passage of chaos to the cosmogony are repeated.”
Eliade also writes: "Then the dead will come back, because all barriers between the dead and the living are broken (is the primordial chaos not revived?), and will come back since—at this paradoxical moment—time will be interrupted, so that the dead may be again contemporaries of the living." Eliade stresses that people have "a deep need to regenerate themselves periodically by abolishing the elapsed time and making topical the cosmogony."
In Brazil, In order to celebrate Carnival, dancers crowd into the streets, moving their bodies to the passionate sounds of the samba. Beginning with the Portuguese game of Entrudo and leading to the extravagant balls and parades of today, the dancing includes influences from African tradition. The samba grew out of samba, an Angolan word which translates as pelvic movements and the rite of reproduction. The Samba Schools embrace the talents of the community creating movements, songs, costumes and floats that revere a historical event or person.
The accepted and customary form of samba danced in Carnival is the Samba no pe or Foot Samaba. This dance is usually done unaccompanied and begins immediately when the samba music starts. The dancer keeps his or her body straight while taking turns bending each knee. There is little foot movement as the body moves in a 2/4 rhythm, dancing three steps at a time. The speed of the movements change with the tempo of the music, some samba dance is very fast while other samba dances move at a standard pace.
A samba dance that includes a partner is the Samba de Gafieira. This dance dates back to the 1940s and is named for the trendy Rio de Janeiro discos of the time. The movements in this samba developed out of the polka, tango, waltz, and another samba music called Choro. These steps are performed in a short-short-long speed.