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Unstable by design: failure is the central idea

Tuesday, 11. December 2012 | 00:45 (tz: Europe/Amsterdam)

things are in a disarray;

designed to fall apart,
resistance is the privilege.

Accidents are not disruptions in the pattern, they are the norm. Every time things happen according to plan, it is a mistake. And this is not being pessimistic.

Hemant Sreekumar performs Raping an ellipse (She was asking for it) with glitch. With noise that reminds us in a rather harsh way, that escaping, running away didn't help. Here it is all over again. The sign; the reminder; the telegram from the future - it is all going to end. And how! High frequency sounds, feedback, recursion, complexity, fractals. Fear holding you there in the moment - listening because there is nothing else to do.

Systems can be understood as fields where each entity has its desires, own aspirations. System design attempts to manage these aspirations by coaxing, pushing and negotiating synchronous behaviour. But then there is no reason these tactics should work. Chaos is inherent. Chaos is not chaotic, it is a need to let everything be self-absorbed and act according to their own urge. And in this acting, is the unsettling of systemic designs, an attempt to manage.

Hemant’s is a story of glitch. Of how malfunction is also a kind of material substance that reveals the tendencies of the underlying dynamics of the complex system we live in.

Errors in computer software frustrate us. Errors seem to be reflections of the unresolved bugs, the kinks in the armor, the faults. They seem to be a sign of bad workmanship and even professional ethics. But, wait, there’s a glitch. Why are we suddenly talking about software?

For a reason.

All experience is software. Even walls made of bricks vibrate. Vibrations are stories. Stories are software.

Computers are made sensitive systems by a mix of stimulus and response. The media processing the stimulus to a response is software. Else it is all dead, as a brick. Incapable of response, of synthesis.

So speaking of software is speaking of the medium, the lucid-space in which things float, the liminal. And glitch is what makes everything go wrong. It is the symptom.

The glitch is not a new material, especially amongst electronic artists. It is but a curious chaise at a curious moment. Everything that could possibly go wrong is. And it is becoming impossible to resist every reminder, every notion of continuity in the constant sounds of things falling apart. They are seeping in, becoming recognisable, memorable. The material of music. Music not to lull you into sedation, but music to charge you into a resonant beat.

The visuals in the performance were responsive to the immersive chaos of the sound.

DISCLAIMER: Please be warned that Hemant Sreekumar’s performance uses strobe lights and high-pitched sounds. It is not recommended for those prone to seizures, palpitations or experiencing heart problems.

(this note was reproduced every time the performance was mentioned)

Hemant's performance had many different kinds of noise: white, pink, each questioning in different ways. Offering different pathways to being lost and confounded.

The glitch becomes an irreverent tool to talk about the infallibility of machine systems. It is the pop art of digital aesthetics. Noise may or may not be understood fully within the idea of the glitch. It is the basal matter that has something to say to music, and that something is something rude and unprintable. Noise and music are often not even in the same frame of discussion, each the anti-thesis of the other. Noise is basic because it is elemental, unformed; not craving symmetry, repetition or harmony. Material before it becomes a pattern.

Having seem him perform before, it seemed that he is growing comfortable with the idea of creating discomfort. With ease. The formality of the occasion. The perceived impropriety of leaving a performance mid-way to do something else prevented many from refusing the experience. From turning away.  
To other seemingly glitch-free spectacles.

Hemant Sreekumar is a digital artist based in New Delhi.