Artist Paul Chan has a new audio project up online. He talks about it in a recent email conversation with NEWSgrist (below):
My own private Alexandria (v.1)www.nationalphilistine.com
Free DIY MP3 audio-essays | Over 16 hours of readings | 2006
I'm so tired of this war and numb from the fear of the slightest sound and shadow. I just want to leave. Escape. So I read. It helps to think about the history of philistinism and the uses of silence and how color is sex but it's not enough. So I start to record myself reading. And I realize how little I know the reading I'm reading. It gets better. I can't pronounce German, French, Russian, Chinese, Brazilian, Latin, not even English sometimes. I don't care. A task is what I want: to measure the time spent escaping into words that string together sentences that become essays about potatoes and trousers and aesthetic revolutions. I listen and they sound okay. I even like the stammers. But they need music. So I make some. I love Garageband. Here they are.
New York City
Paul Chan in conversation with NEWSgrist (Mar-Apr 2006):
NEWSgrist : To perform the words of these late greats (in "competent English and mangled French, Chinese," etc.!) and make them freely available is a really cool thing: it functions simultaneously as an archive, a public service, an homage, and as performance. Making the readings available online calls up copyright issues including the ongoing file sharing wars and the recent Google Print controversy, yes, but it does so in a most interesting way, with a twist. It's personal and it's an artwork; the parameters and
choices you've made have to do with the writers and thinkers who have influenced you. This is your art. You are not selling anything, except maybe other people's ideas, and then only figuratively speaking. You are promoting and distributing the copyrighted expression of their ideas free of charge, where no one else has.
The project as a whole is a remix: an archive of remixed performance. Or: Personal Archive as Remix if you prefer. On the other hand, the fact that the citations are accurate and genuine, even providing ISBNs, makes it very much like a library or archive (you are providing access), but instead of amassing and organizing actual books and offprints, you have amassed and organized your performances of excerpts. Most important, you are forming a bridge, contributing to the education of the "Ipod Generation"; you are providing a unique kind of access to otherwise remote texts to a certain demographic of listeners who consume information in a certain way...
NG: ...This project reminds me of a seminar talk at NYU given by a "forensic musicologist" [Lawrence Ferrara] who consults for both record labels and musicians alike, and who worries privately about the effect of copyright law on the creative process. There is a real fear that artists won't be able to make work that even tangentially touches on our increasingly commercialized world because every part of it has been bought up and copyrighted. What do you think about this idea of using copyrighted material as part of the work and the legal battles against cultural "ownership"?
PC: I think of this not in terms of Law, but Aesthetics. Theodor Adorno believed how we could tell if something is beautiful or not, or even more fundamentally, whether something is art or not, by a certain relationship the work has with nature. It doesn't mean Adorno only championed landscapes filled with trees and rivers. Only that like Kant, Adorno believed we can only judge the force of art by how much it takes in certain notions we get from nature; namely a kind of overwhelming plenitude that escapes our dehumanizing exchange relations. This was a time, of course, when people thought they couldn't own mountains, or the water we drink, or air. A time when nature still had territory not polluted (in the environmental and commercial sense) by us. Nature provided the philosophical model for articulating the almost speechless sense we feel in front of art worthy of that name: something that--as we experience it--perpetually renews itself and gives us, without asking for anything back, a sense of boundless plentitude and potentiality. In other words, Art as an image of absolute freedom.
But now we have a very different relationship to nature. In fact it is almost impossible to find nature without a frame of culture. On the other hand, Culture has become so pervasive that it in fact feels like a kind of "overwhelming plenitude" that we once associated with mountain ranges and oceans that stretch beyond our vision.
This might seem so obvious but worth stating: our nature (now, at least for my generation) is in fact culture. The illegal DVDs being sold in Chinatown are like so many pieces of coal harvested from the mines in Allentowns everywhere. And the fight about who owns culture and who gets to use its resources is like the early 18-19th century battles to control and colonize natural resources.
NG: Do you know of Ubu Web?
PC: Sure do. Economy of the gift is certainly one of the things I'm thinking about. I think Ubu is wonderful, not only as a site but an ethic.
NG: Ubu is wonderful. Funny, when I was first poking around online in the 90s, discussing on various net.art list-serves, the gift economy was discussed endlessly... and now? the discussion has shifted away from social ideals and alternatives for the "future of the web"....
PC: The future of the web is bright. It belongs to contraband.