Interacting with the agendas of Desire Machine Collective is like taking a walk through Professor Canterel’s estate in Raymond Roussel’s Locus Solus. Fabricating edible solar cells go hand in hand with music and dance on a ferry on the Brahmaputra along with capturing sounds from sacred groves on digital grooves to very serious filmmaking and making of politically provocative installation artwork. And if my conversations with the Collective are anything to go by much more in this vein will follow very soon. Desire Machine Collective seek to give expression to the ludic and manic aspects of things coming to life in the undecidability of the environment in which they work while also taking passages through a catastrophically creative landscape towards the ineffable, towards the boundaries of perception.
To understand how ludic play and an investigation of where perception disappears go together in the same creative space one needs to take cognizance of new life forms that are driven by a relentless recording of perceptions as a way of life. The crystalline efflorescence of nature mimics the same for technology as it does the many passages of history through the Indian ‘Northeast’ which in turn is complicated by the dispersals of consciousness by State violence and all the forms of magical lives that bloom in response to such arbitrary violence. There is no way of summing all this up within a master narrative of concerted cultural or political focus. All lessons learnt in school of our favored motto of ‘unity in diversity’ wither in the noise of political confrontations on the frontiers of nations and world political systems. On the one hand such opening up of the senses to passages of hybrid cultural noise create a need to document each strand that makes up the flow of noise. On the other hand the senses seek to escape such noise, in perceptual fatigue, into the realm of valueless perception, where all is calm and smooth flow.
Frontiers defined by passages of goods, ideas, sensations and people going in all directions are good places to be in for they allow us to see clearly all the routes that such passages take. The flower in Assam blooms with petals touching now China, next Burma, next Calcutta, next Saks on Fifth Avenue and so on. In short, we can journey into all the worlds that such a zone of passages feeds and nourishes. Maybe the logic of state violence on frontiers is to precisely keep everyone in the indeterminate state of being carriers of cultural sensations into the global all the time and incessantly so but it also means that this site will throw back at us the monstrous phantasmagorias that such hectic and anxious passages of hybrid cultural noise are bound to produce. The democratization of forms of artistic expression to the carriers now means that the consumers in their homesteads will now need to confront the magical monstrous imagery that passage of raw materials for the objects of their desires entails.
Three machines then - at one end, nature as the machine that spews out the raw materials of the objects of our desire and at the other end, the machine of passive desire that desires by looking at the screen that presents an endless litany of the desirable. And in the middle we have the machine of passages, the machine animated by desire as such in its naked and pure forms, where the raw material of nature and the raw material of desire become one and the same. But isn’t such a space where desire and matter are the one and the same thing the ideal space to start a radical investigation of our dreams that are but passages that seek to shape matter to the designs of our desires? In all dreams there is the noise of the collective that takes our perception of the real in various directions. A desire machine collective is then a public that comes together to set up our dreams for us to see and experience so that we may walk away at the end of the day with the touch of the foundational that structures our senses that somehow remains intact not despite but because of all the noisy dispersals of history.
Residue could be another name for presence, presence as the self clarified of its archaic connections with Thanatos, the self solely defined by Eros. This is not to say that such presence is a once-and-for-all settled affair. Presence will occur again and again as residues of life’s experience as experience repeatedly frees itself from interpellations by ideologies, other peoples’ projects. It’s a tricky affair this repeated clarification of experience to produce presence, rife it is with passages through acute sensory discomfort - this is not where I should be. For one is seldom conscious of the ways in which we so easily get trapped in other peoples’ dreams and greed, if only because the language we speak is not ours but legislated by histories than ours. What guides us through such entrapments towards presence is the love one has felt towards certain aspects of one’s experience that pushes itself towards full expression in clarity and glory. If language pulls us down with its fetishes produced by a violent operation of inclusions and exclusions along the shimmering shiny line of greed for collective survival then our personal organic growth opposes this stasis by connecting wildly with the world in intense and ineffable ways.
First then, growth opposed to language. And secondly, the clarification of growth drives away from reaction to language’s violence towards the creation of a personal object that sustains sense without reference to external justification. All imagery passes through ghostly forms - volumes of the sensory expanding and collapsing to let growth find its proper and singular expression in the last instance. Cultural noise is magnetic and to steer oneself through all its sticky sweet surfaces and emerge in full growth requires a certain capacity to relentlessly keep questioning oneself and moving on. This can be noticed across the body of work of artists, the various struggles they stage between self and the world at various points in their lives, or within the space of a single film, as in say, the films of Jean-Luc Godard after his Kino-Pravda phase. These residues of growth’s struggle with noise are what we call the artwork. What we are working towards is thus a world littered not with nations and cultures but with heterodox residues of artists at work, each residue being a concretization of history as it passes through the artist’s life reconciling collective and desire. The thing fabricated is then left where it was finished and one moves on to the next thing.
Such attempts to clarify growth in art again and again will be repeated again and again until the last person standing has full access to the world in freedom…if not literally then at least one works in the now as if this were the case. For in a person’s drive to express growth in singular and autonomous terms there is a denial of a wholeset of social and cultural habits that underlie the obscuring of the world to our senses.
What we have here is a fundamental re-orientation of the relationship between memory and desire away from stasis towards relentless movement, away from categories of human expression such as the nation that favour stasis, towards a definition of the world by residues that redeem the furious mobility and speeds of growth in individual experience which today are irredeemably plural. This process towards expression of growth entails an explosive wrenching away of the forms of history from contexts of communitarian definitions to redeem territories held prisoner to such definitions.
The site depicted in DMC’s film Residue thus stands in ironic counterpoint to the idea of the artistic residue delineated above. It stands at the chiasmus between the insurgent forces of State modernities fueled by Capital’s relentless drives to territorialize and deterritorialize matter and experience and the artist’s experience of history marked by territorialization and deterritorialization as well. For long there has been some complementarity even synergistic overlaps between these drives but with art becoming an autonomous force of production in contemporary times this relationship needs to be thought through in oppositional terms where for once the artist can lay claim priority to his or her version of displacements of matter and experience over that of the State-Capital combine. When we have worked our way through Residue as a comedic horror film meet Tarkovskijan dystopia what we realize is that the negative residue of history turns in film into a residue of artistic experience that pulls the site depicted into a very complex field of historical aesthetic experience that any particularistic discourses such as that of nation, culture or community can encompass. The discarded residue of the State’s developmentalism could become the site for new insurgencies, new magic millennialisms or the site for cheap exploitation film industries.
Indeed it is already the site for all kinds of residues which then converts the dead space of stately neglect into a site through which other histories - communal and personal pass, some of which might even belong to regions beyond the nation-state’s territorial limits. We have layers of material presented from the natural to the human-made as we have layers of sounds from natural ones to ritualistic chants that might recall ‘Assam’ or the lives of the labour force that worked at the factory site, or the lives of the people who now imagine the space in its dereliction or pure ludic play on the artist’s part. Equally intuitively grasped might be the artist’s grasp of certain world cinematic techniques invoking within us many films we have seen elsewhere. And so on…the list could go on for me and could be multiplied manifolds by what others would read into such a film. One would do scant justice to Residue if one restricted the invocations of uses and lives possible that the artistic technique elicits from the matter at hand.
The shaman's chant at the end of the film which is the same as the sound of the machine is an ambiguous thing. On the one hand it points towards the insurgency of the opening up of consciousness to the world that resides at the heart of growth’s quick and magical movements. On the other hand it announces the perils of finitude for such movement, a finitude that can merely mimic the immobile core of all organic life, what we call the Real. What matters is the space that growth must occupy, announced in advance in the sonorous sonic chamber created by the hum and the glint of light in the voice that makes the emergence of singular presence from the Real possible.
From the exhibition catalogue published by MAXXI Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo (2011).