Scraps- Quick Drafts

Via Google/Oxford Lexico

Most of my personal journal writing, as well as many of my blog posts, tends to be self-reflective and self-referential, often musing on the nature and challenges of writing. It’s writing about writing, or, often, about being unable to write. Why do we write? Why do many of us feel like we need to write? What do we write about? Does it matter?

After more than two decades of blogging, I still believe I should blog more. I realise it’s perfectionism what often stops me from writing publicly more. I also know that becoming a full time academic also meant being in the crossfire between my ideals for the future of scholarly communications and the conventional expectations around academic “productivity”. When time is poor, it may seem as a waste of time and effort to spend time writing in a format that will not “count” nor satisfy others’ expectations.

However as I find some rare reflective time this Saturday I would like to say I still find it essential to be able to have different channels for expression, sandpits where ideas can be rehearsed and, why not, anxieties exorcised.

As usual (it’s not the first time I write this) I’d like to use this blog for more than making announcements, and to rehearse, to experiment, to “test the quality” of some rough ideas and intuitions. As a way, why not, to remain present and out there, but mainly as a way to train the writing and thinking muscles, and to remain motivated. We’ll see.

La “escucha” del deejay – para Manrico Montero (enero del 2002 para Urbe 01)

I have been reorganising hard drives and the like and came across this article I wrote on 28 January 2002, in Mexico City, for Mexican electronic music and culture magazine Urbe 01. I have copied and pasted it below under the photograph. The dedication to Manrico was in the original.

 

Manrico Montero (1973-2018). Foto via Urbe 01
Manrico Montero (1973-2018). Foto via Urbe 01

La “escucha” del deejay

Para Manrico Montero

 

“Tenemos hoy por evidencia que no hay arte sin oficio, la actividad artística es irreductible a una actividad mecánica  […] Existe obra de arte cuando el instrumento se olvida, supera, casi se escamotea, en bien del gesto inspirado, imprevisible…”

-Régis Debray (2000)

El deejay es sin duda una de las figuras protagónicas de las escenas artísticas de la actualidad. Desde los 70, un progresivo develamiento de esta otrora oscura figura ha devenido en su conversión al stardom, que así como construye ídolos populares al instante también puede derrocarlos en incluso menos tiempo. Hasta hace poco la labor del deejay era motivo de cuchicheos y miradas de reojo: a ciencia cierta, pocos sabían lo que sucedía detrás y sobre ese par de tornamesas.

Ahora, las urbes más vanguardistas del mundo hospedan fiestas donde cada deejay es sujeto de atenta vigilancia de connoisseurs de brazos cruzados que no dejan escapar el más leve cuatrapeo, que reconocen los tracks de incluso los white labels más extraños y que valoran y evalúan el discurso personal de cada montadiscos siguiendo complejos criterios especializados. Cada vez es más común presenciar un par de tornamesas y una mezcladora en museos y galerías dedicadas al arte contemporáneo, las revistas de música y cultura popular les dedican sus portadas, los nombres más famosos viajan en avión de una fiesta a otra la misma noche o trabajan en cabinas diseñadas con materiales preciosos bajo pedido de sus a veces sobrevalorados usuarios.

Sería pues anacrónico pretender explicar en estos tiempos la importancia de la labor, el oficio, el arte del deejaying: a estas alturas, pensaríamos que aquellos días oscuros en que se le consideraba una actividad parasitaria para subnormales ha sido trascendida. (Recordemos, como muestra, el grito de guerra morrisseyano característico de los ochenta sobre la intrascendente superficialidad del dj –hang the deejay– así como las duras críticas del punk de la primera mitad de los noventa que acusaban la pusilánime volubilidad de los que gustosos danzaban al beat del sonido disco –you’ll dance to anything).  Sin embargo, creemos necesario hacer una crítica de lo que se ha denominado overhyping: sólo un análisis de lo que aporta cultural, social, política y artísticamente la labor del deejay podrá permitirnos reconocer cuándo su apreciación consiste en una justa valoración de sus aportaciones y cuándo, simplemente, en una vulgar campaña publicitaria generalizada que ha visto en esta actividad una forma más de sacarle dinero a los incautos.

Urge preguntarse por qué, a nivel mundial, se considera que ciertos deejays, y no otros, resultan “los mejores”, y por qué, en algunos casos, se les ha construido cultos a la personalidad muy similares a los que anteriormente gozaban los grupos de rock.  Para poder responder esta pregunta, habrá que re-plantearse primero qué es lo que hace un deejay. Si, técnicamente, lo que hace un deejay es re-estructurar piezas de discurso previamente estructuradas por terceros o en muchos casos por sí mismo (es decir, discos de acetato) en un discurso mayor mediante su reorganización a través de la mezcla o superposición de patrones rítmicos y melódicos de muchas fuentes sonoras distintas,  (es decir, un set) ¿cómo valorar su trabajo? ¿Cómo reconocer la diferencia, por ejemplo, entre dos disc jockeys que, hipotéticamente, trabajen con exactamente los mismos discos?

Quisiéramos plantear aquí lo que llamaremos “la escucha” del deejay (así como en la fotografía nos referimos a “la mirada” del fotógrafo). Así como saber oprimir el obturador, revelar e imprimir no hace al fotógrafo, saber empalmar beats no hace al deejay. El set de un deejay como obra de arte tendría, casi, que olvidarse de su instrumento, trascender la técnica. Entonces, ¿en qué radicaría “la escucha” del deejay, su “gesto inspirado”?

 

Inauguration Day

Photo CC-BY Marc Nozell, Flick Commons
Photo CC-BY Marc Nozell, Flickr

One can give nothing whatever without giving oneself – that is to say, risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is spimply incapable of giving.”

―James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

As in previous years, my unwritten new year resolution is to write here more. I started blogging 18 years ago, and about 7 or 8 years ago my ‘personal’ blogging was reduced drastically, no doubt related to the rise of microblogging and new chapters in my life with greater public pressures, workloads and responsibilities.

The sad news of the death of Mark Fisher last week shook me deeply and reminded me how important someone’s public writing can be for others, or at least how much his blogging influenced me and helped me shape my own work ethic and politics.

I have blogged about trying to blog more meaningfully, only to be defeated by heavy workloads and my inability to not sleep or sacrifice even more personal and family wellbeing, so my blogging has been in the past few years largely dominated by updates, announcements and data research related posts.

I look up to colleagues like Martin Eve (and others) who reliably and periodically contribute to meaningful, public intellectual debate through their blog posts. Some of the most thought-provoking writing today is written not to meet targets, not to fulfill mandates, not as part of job descriptions. It’s urgent writing; it works as an invitation for collective thought and discussion. A space of reflection, shared generously, despite constraints. Good writing brings down walls.

Today I cannot but exercise my right to write about what I consider important.

Later today the world will witness Donald Trump’s inauguration as the new President of the United States of America. This morning I cannot but make a pause in everything urgent that I am working on to write this brief blog post where I express my profound concern and total rejection of everything that this political figure represents, both for the US and the rest of the world.

I am a Mexican and British citizen. I have friends and family living and working around the world. I aspire to being a ‘citizen of the world’. I  grew up witnessing at different levels of personal proximity the effects of social polarisation, corruption, stark inequality, discrimination, poverty and even civil war. The level of civic disempowerment that we are experiencing at this stage of the 21st century seems unparalleled; the more access we seem to have to means of producing and disseminating information the more defenseless we seem to become. This contradiction is painful to those of us who grew up being told that information was power and that education would lead to greater equality and with it, greater chances of wellbeing if not peace.

I want to be optimistic, not succumb to paranoia and keep hoping that everything will be all right. However we must also not lie to ourselves and pretend that the ‘values’ (tropes and motifs would be better terms) of the extreme right are not mainstream now. ‘The Brexit Bad Boys’ (sic), Trump, the alt-right, the ‘post-truth’ media ecosystem are not mere multimedia simulacra. It’s not just a dystopian fiction. It’s very much a tangible reality already affecting directly the lives of millions, within and outside the United States.

Those of us who believe in humanism and liberal, democratic values, who crave and work for equality and justice, cannot sit in front of the TV, sigh and merely hope for the better. Politically, it cannot be business as usual. We cannot be shy about publicly expressing our rejection of the politics of division, bullying and hate.

The revolution won’t be blogged, it won’t be tweeted, it won’t happen either on the streets. The Angel of History won’t come for us. In an age of total surveillance (not just from the State, but from everyone around us, including ourselves) the temptation is to continue remaining silent, our heads down, keeping calm and carrying on. (Others opt for constant commentary, noise silencing the signal).

Saying what we feel and believe, however, leaves a testimony, albeit a limited and fragile one. Saying what we feel and believe, openly, also works as a greeting, an expression of friendship and solidarity. When we write we give ourselves, and as such writing (not as an administrative requirement or task, but as a human need to share) is a risk. The risks of remaining silent seem much worse.

One cannot but hope for peace, tolerance, equality, respect. The near future looks very challenging. Information literacy, critical thinking, education are our armory.  Resisting won’t be futile.

Le temps déborde

Chaque jour plus matinale

Chaque saison plus nue

Plus fraîche

-Paul Éluard, La vie, 1926

 

[and with apologies to Mr Cave]

 

 

“I get lucky/I get lucky”

sings the voice:

this morning

always to-day

(was it yesterday?)

as the day dawns slowly

yet impossibly quick- unstoppable.

We get lucky.

Each day more

like a morning

colder

like that morning

in the 10th arrondissement

with Let Love In looping

(could not have been

a tape, could it?)

we wrote “Liberty”

here and there

on the walls

the bridges

every stone

again and again

from city to city

we get lucky

we get lucky

(repeat)

(repeat)

because we try and try again

the world becomes more

like morning

every day.

He spoke to us

of eternity

 

 

A Backward Glance

I become a dumb man.”

– Walt Whitman, 1856

 

How little did I know

about Lazarus’ true feelings

waking up a decade later

dead tired & unable to digest

the universe before him.

A backward glance

does not reveal the past

but the load on neck &

shoulders & the eyes,

the eyes blinded by the light.

¡Levántate, Lázaro! the accent

lacks the strength required

to lift the dead weight towards life.

The singer knew it. The earth

remains jagged and broken–

only to him.

 

 

Réentrée

There is nothing like peer review

to infuse in you the fear for writing.

One has to take the plunge one morning

and write for no other reason but the dew.

Whatever this is it is not autobiographical:

things do not have to be avant la lettre;

things can mean something else

not referring to the speaker, nor to

you, dear reader, of all people.

She did not marry him-

she was someone else,

and he was simply her invention.

That is the thing with poetry,

the focus, as you know, is on words

and lines and all those blank spaces;

god only knows what that void means,

like code, it makes you pay attention:

every character counts for different reasons,

in the context of its space and what is near.

 

Pessoa’s last names were his penance.

 

On Reading the Small Print When It’s Too Late- Access and Licensing Type in CFPs

Calvin and Hobbes: Susie signs a contrat© Bill Watterson
© Bill Watterson

tl;dr

  • In the social sciences, art and humanities calls for papers for collected editions remain a major form of dissemination of scholarship.
  • Scholars get very excited about the prospect of getting their work published in collected editions. Often, the conditions of publication are unknown to them until the work has been created, submitted and reviewed.
  • It is still rare for calls for papers to detail whether the final publication will be softcover or hardback,  paywalled or open access, and what type of licensing will be applied to the published work.
  •  It can no longer be assumed that certain publishing conditions are non-negotiable, always-already the default ones. It can no longer be assumed they will be the appropriate ones for all scholars either.
  • To reflect the current scholarly landscape accurately, and in the spirit of transparency and fairness, complete information about the intended format, licensing conditions and access type should be clearly and prominently included  at call for papers stage.

Academia might be the only creative industry where authors do submit work for publication without being fully aware of publisher licensing conditions and access type (we could learn a lot from Morrissey’s Autobiography! Moz seems to have never read a recording deal in advance…). Scholars get so excited about the prospect of getting their work finally published, that, traditionally, the conditions of publication (the conditions detailed in a publication contract, that will determine when, where and how the work will be published, what the author and the publisher will be able to do with the output, etc.) are unknown to them until the work has been created, submitted and reviewed, i.e. once it is rather late to do much about it. Understandably, a final contract cannot be signed until something has been accepted for publication and often it won’t be officially accepted until it’s finished. However, the case I’ll try to make here is for clearly informing authors interested in submitting to a call for papers about the intended conditions of publication (format, access type, licensing type) for the content accepted in response to said call.

This creates a situation of virtual intellectual and creative kidnapping, where the author has lost the freedom to negotiate conditions of publication.  The output (journal article, book chapter, monograph, editorial for collected editions, edited collection) has already been created, it has passed peer review, revisions have been made; lots of work by several people went into it and valuable time has spent waiting for it to get finally published. Often the accepted publication will have been already listed in appraisal forms and academic CVs before the output in question has been actually published and a contract has been signed. The author is often disempowered to have a say about what they will be able to do with their own work (for example where and how to share it, translate it, adapt it, etc.) or about who will be able to access it and how.

In the social sciences, art and humanities calls for papers for collected editions remain a major form of dissemination of scholarship. Though some journals in these fields do include clear information about licensing and access type prominently, calls for papers in general still tend not to include information about how the content, if accepted, will be licensed and how and where (in which formats, at what price, open access, paywalled) it will be published.  I invite you to take a look at the calls for papers published here. How many calls for papers detail whether the final publication will be softcover or hardback,  paywalled or open access, and what type of licensing will be applied to the published work?

The issue of publisher takedown notices (e.g. Elsevier’s) highlights how scholars are keen to share their own published work (including any features added by publishers) on their blogs or social networking sites, but do so seemingly ignoring the licensing conditions they signed or agreed to. Publisher’s policies should be clear to  authors before the submission of work, not once they have been broken. If authors wish to disseminate their work in ways publisher policies do not allow, they should be free to either negotiate them in advance or choose a different publisher.

Our disciplines however seem to have somehow relegated licensing and access type to an after thought. As open access mandates from governments, funding bodies and institutions become the rule and not the exception, it is time we start changing this practice and start including licensing and access type information at call for papers stage. Now, it is of course understandable that some editors will not know yet if there will be interest from a range of publishers they might have in consideration, and often what happens is that they wait until they have a body of work so they can make their full proposal. This workflow places academic editors at a disadvantage as well, as they will have already worked hard on compiling and editing a collection (or on ensuring contributions) way before a publisher’s offer detailing conditions has been made.

These positions assume that scholars (editors and authors/contributors) are at the service of publishers and not the other way around. For authors, particularly early career researchers hoping to develop a publications portfolio, the power lies on editors and peer reviewers, themselves dependent on publishers, who most of the times are free to impose conditions that may seem to authors and editors to be ‘the way things are’, i.e. as non-negotiable conditions. In practice, it should be perfectly possible to negotiate these conditions (many authors have done it), if one knows how and one is interested. Luckily for publishers, the conditions are rarely interrogated and even less negotiated. Editors and authors are simply happy to get their work published, and see no option but to sign any standard conditions imposed by the publisher.

Open Access is not only about bringing down the barriers to access and reuse of scholarly publications. Behind it lies the desire to re-connect scholars with the fruits of their own work and to empower them to choose how they want their work to be published (and this implies choosing the conditions for their distribution, accessibility, and reuse).

To reiterate: what has been an after thought, the small print many authors discover once it is too late, should be detailed first thing at call for submissions stage. There is no content without form, and there is no content without the conditions of access and dissemination. I know I am not alone in hoping that more and more colleagues will take into consideration not just editorial reputations and  thematic and disciplinary approaches outlined in calls for papers, but how a submission will see the light of day in the end (if it does at all!).

Scholars today know better than ever before that publishing can no longer be the end of the road but the beginning of a conversation. There is a plethora of both legacy and pioneering publishing platforms and scholarly methods of assessment and review available to scholars today. Paywalls and hardbacks are not the only venues for publication anymore. Access and licensing type are not synonyms of research quality: and no single access type has the domain over quality. Scholars should be free to decide where they submit their work for consideration, and should be able to negotiate licensing conditions whenever possible. Scholars should be free to submit their work for consideration wherever they please as long as they have been made aware of the access and licensing type well in advance before submission. Licensing and access type is a factor many authors today have in mind before submitting work, and yet this information remains largely absent from calls for submissions. If the known or tentative publisher(s) are detailed in the call for papers authors can locate their policies via SHERPA/RoMEO, but informing potential contributors of the policies should also be the publishers’ and the editors’ responsibility. If the author ends up having to do detective work to find out something as important as this then something is wrong.

Indeed, the current model of academic publication still remains strongly aligned with paywalled access models, but calls for papers that will paywall accepted submissions (or publish them in expensive hardback editions only) should not take for granted that paywalls and hardbacks are the only available model. Authors today must be informed of complete information and assess, in advance, before even considering making a submission, how and where, under which conditions, their work will be published if accepted.  This implies interrogating the current power structure: it should be authors who have the agency to decide. Declaring licensing and access type as small print well after authors have had their work accepted for publication removes authorial agency, and quietly, falsely positions traditional publishing methods as the default.


Colleagues interested in knowing more about negotiating licensing and access conditions may be interested in the following two guides:

Collins, E., Milloy, C., Stone, G., Baker, J., Eve, M. & Priego, E. (2015). Guide to open access monograph publishing for arts, humanities and social science researchers. OAPEN-UK project. Available at http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/12373/.

Collins, H., Milloy, C., Stone, G., Baker, J., Eve, M. & Priego, E. (2013). Guide to Creative Commons for Humanities and Social Science Monograph Authors. 0OpenUK, JISC Collections. Available at http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/11863/


Disclaimer

I am not a publishing lawyer nor copyright officer. Needless to say, the information in this post is not legal advice. If you need more details on your  author rights or legal advice about what action to take, please contact your  publisher, librarian, copyright officer, an adviser or solicitor.

On Being “Productive”

I often find it hard to do everything I want to do. Sometimes what I want to do is what I am supposed to be doing, other times what I want to do is work that goes beyond my current job description. I am very much aware that I am very privileged to have the job I have, and that this being an academic job of a certain characteristics I am also very privileged to be paid to do things I actually enjoy very much (often “enjoying” is an understatement, as I get paid to do work I truly love doing).

One of my constant concerns is how much effort it requires to remain “human”. I suppose most people in very high profile jobs have armies of minions who do all the chores that the rest of us have to deal with in order to not fall into complete chaos. I am also fascinated by how much time and energy is invested in doing necessary work that does not necessarily feel “productive” in its definition of “generative” and “creative”.

For many being creative is what happens doing hobbies, not everyday work, or the work that pays the rent. I believe we can be creative doing almost anything, and it’s a bit of a shame that the definition of “productive” has been co-opted by managerialism, to the point that the adjective is endlessly deconstructed in treatises and postings composed with academic top-of-the-range laptops and tablets in every corner of higher education institutions in the ‘developed’ world. One has to be careful these days about using the adjective (“productive”) because one may come across as some kind of managerial bureaucrat robot working for the Dark Side™.

There is a tension then, between “work” and “creative, generative work”, and a tension between enjoying the work one does to get paid and not enjoying working for free/working when you feel you shouldn’t be working even when you fully enjoy the work you are doing. It should not be a requisite to enjoy a break from work to have to fully dislike the work one does. In other words, holidays/breaks should not only be for those who dislike working on what they work. If you enjoy working on what you do, you shouldn’t be expected to work all the time on it just because you enjoy it. Or: enjoying your work does not mean you don’t need to have a break from it.

This is also connected, in my brain, with the idea that one needs to be working all the time. All the time. Do people in academia really work all the time? And, how many hours of the time we say we are working are we really being productive, in the sense of being generative and creative? Of course these could be research questions, but I am not asking these questions as a researcher, I am just asking them because I have thought about these and because I want to ask them. I feel it’s important to think about these things, about why we as academics, at least some of us it seems, spend so much of our time worrying about not doing enough, or about doing too much, or about any of its combinations.

On 10 April 2014 I created and shared a one-question “quick and dirty” poll on Twitter, asking the following question:

In average, how many hours per day would you say you are being “productive”, in the sense of “generative; creative”, in the field of your professional expertise?

I received 7o responses during a period of 20 days. Then I stopped receiving them when the retweets stopped.

As today is a bank holiday Monday in the UK and we spent it mostly doing work (work as in, ahem, “work”) I thought it would be nice to share the results before more time passed. The survey was supposed to be quick and dirty after all.

Here’s how the responses look:

Results, pie chart and table In average, how many hours per day would you say you are being "productive", in the sense of "generative; creative", in the field of your professional expertise?
In average, how many hours per day would you say you are being “productive”, in the sense of “generative; creative”, in the field of your professional expertise? [Click to enlarge]
Between 1 and 3 hours 13 19%
Between 3 and 5 hours 34 49%
Between 5 and 8 hours 16 23%
8 hours 2 3%
10 hours 1 1%
More than 10 hours 3 4%
Other 1 1%

[“Other” had the clarification “it depends on the day”.]

I found it frankly astonishing 3 respondents said that they were “”productive”, in the sense of “generative; creative”, in the field of your professional expertise” in average more than 10% a day. Needless to say I also find it hard to believe anyone would be in average “generative; creative” in their own field for more than 8 hours a day. So many other things need to be done during an average day that the thought of a professional being “generative; creative” in a professional field for more than 8 hours in average means, to me, they probably don’t have to deal with any of the other things that require our attention every day.

Anyway it is clear I am not doing anything scientific here. It is not my intention. I am just sharing these thoughts with you because I felt like it.

I refuse to think I am lazy (I am not, I am one of those who feels he is working all the time after all), I’d like to think I am just being honest that other stuff that is not necessarily “generative; creative” takes a lot of time, and often it is just basically necessary to remain “human”. Perhaps the rise of “life-logging” will mean that we can perhaps start seeing more metrics about how much time we spend doing some stuff, like taking out the rubbish, walking between say the toilet and the desk, deleting spam emails or editing blog posts. People like Thoreau, Whitman, Darwin, wrote they were being productive when they walked. They were not being “productive” by sitting at their desks worrying about not being productive.

But I digress. Let’s get back to work.

 

1997: “Dudo que la electrónica sea el futuro”

Cómo hemos cambiado… no sin vergüenza comparto este escan… ¿qué andaban haciendo ustedes en 1997?

Musica_Ciberespacio_Priego_1997
“Música y ciberespacio”, El Financiero, Cultural, Jueves 7 de agosto de 1997

Now playing on vinyl: El Guincho, Piratas de Sudamérica Vol. 1.  (Young Turks 2010).

2004: “Écoute: Algunas notas sobre el deejaying”

[As originally posted on Never Neutral, 13 May 2004].


(“Tenemos hoy por evidencia que no hay arte sin oficio, la actividad artística es irreductible a una actividad mecánica […] Existe obra de arte cuando el instrumento se olvida, supera, casi se escamotea, en bien del gesto inspirado, imprevisible…”

-Régis Debray


Del “gesto inspirado” a la escucha

El deejay es sin duda una de las figuras protagónicas de las escenas artísticas de la actualidad. Desde los 70, un progresivo develamiento de esta otrora oscura figura ha devenido en su conversión al stardom, que así como construye ídolos populares al instante también puede derrocarlos en incluso menos tiempo. Hasta hace poco la labor del deejay era motivo de cuchicheos y miradas de reojo: a ciencia cierta, pocos sabían lo que sucedía detrás y sobre ese par de tornamesas. Ahora, las urbes más vanguardistas del mundo hospedan fiestas donde cada deejay es sujeto de atenta vigilancia de connoisseurs de brazos cruzados que no dejan escapar el más leve cuatrapeo, que reconocen los tracks de incluso los white labels más extraños y que valoran y evalúan el discurso personal de cada montadiscos siguiendo complejos criterios especializados. Cada vez es más común presenciar un par de tornamesas y una mezcladora en museos y galerías dedicadas al arte contemporáneo, las revistas de música y cultura popular les dedican sus portadas, los nombres más famosos viajan en avión de una fiesta a otra la misma noche o trabajan en cabinas diseñadas con materiales preciosos bajo pedido de sus a veces sobrevalorados usuarios.

Sería pues anacrónico pretender explicar en estos tiempos la importancia de la labor, el oficio, el arte del deejaying: a estas alturas, pensaríamos que aquellos días oscuros en que se le consideraba una actividad parasitaria para subnormales ha sido trascendida. (Recordemos, como muestra, el grito de guerra morrisseyano característico de los ochenta sobre la intrascendente superficialidad del dj –hang the deejay– así como las duras críticas del punk de la primera mitad de los noventa que acusaban la pusilánime volubilidad de los que gustosos danzaban al beat del sonido disco –you’ll dance to anything). Sin embargo, creemos necesario hacer una crítica de lo que se ha denominado overhyping: sólo un análisis de lo que aporta cultural, social, política y artísticamente la labor del deejay podrá permitirnos reconocer cuándo su apreciación consiste en una justa valoración de sus aportaciones y cuándo, simplemente, en una vulgar campaña publicitaria generalizada que ha visto en esta actividad una forma más de sacarle dinero a los incautos.

Urge preguntarse por qué, a nivel mundial, se considera que ciertos deejays, y no otros, resultan “los mejores”, y por qué, en algunos casos, se les ha construido cultos a la personalidad muy similares a los que anteriormente gozaban los grupos de rock. Para poder responder esta pregunta, habrá que re-plantearse primero qué es lo que hace un deejay. Si, técnicamente, lo que hace un deejay es re-estructurar piezas de discurso previamente estructuradas por terceros o en muchos casos por sí mismo (es decir, discos de acetato) en un discurso mayor mediante su reorganización a través de la mezcla o superposición de patrones rítmicos y melódicos de muchas fuentes sonoras distintas, (es decir, un set) ¿cómo valorar su trabajo? ¿Cómo reconocer la diferencia, por ejemplo, entre dos disc jockeys que, hipotéticamente, trabajen con exactamente los mismos discos? Quisiéramos plantear aquí lo que llamaremos “la escucha” del deejay (así como en la fotografía nos referimos a “la mirada” del fotógrafo). Así como saber oprimir el obturador, revelar e imprimir no hace al fotógrafo, saber empalmar beats no hace al deejay. El set de un deejay como obra de arte tendría, casi, que olvidarse de su instrumento, trascender la técnica. Entonces, ¿en qué radicaría “la escucha” del deejay, su “gesto inspirado”?

De las tornamesas como prótesis y el dj como cyborg [un paréntesis]


“La relación entre el organismo y las máquinas ha dado pie a una guerra de fronteras. Las zonas de litigio de dicha guerra han sido los territorios de la producción, la reproducción y la imaginación.”

-Donna J. Haraway, A Manifesto For Cyborgs

El acceso al recurso tecnológico se vuelve prótesis, extensión del cuerpo y de la mente: quien no tiene acceso a estos bienes está incapacitado, se vuelve vulnerable, explotable, ninguneable. Irreconocible por el resto del mundo. Destinado a desaparecer. (Sólo se es dj si se tienen discos de acetato y una mezcladora y un par de tornamesas). Catalizador de la diferencia, acentuadora de la polarización, la tecnología hace evidente la virtualización. La nueva metafísica post-desconstrucción es la de un mundo todavía dividido: el espacio de la información, el ámbito mass mediático por un lado, y el mundo común y corriente, vulgar, duro y craso, por el otro. La esfera mass mediática es puro flujo: se convierte en la posibilidad de la creación: pero no de la resolución. El proceso es en sí mismo flujo: la resolución es estática. Engolosinada en su misma simulación, los mass media se conforman con crear sólo lo virtual y en consolidarlo. No es que el medio sea el mensaje: es que sólo habrá mensaje si hay los medios, y los medios, se diga lo que se diga, no son para todos.

Digámoslo: no hay nada más humano que la técnica. La escritura y el arte, como máximos y más antiguos ejemplos de techné, potencian la virtualización, de por sí potencia, incluso aún más. Es en el campo del arte contemporáneo, incluida la escritura, donde la virtualización, entonces, encuentra su fuerza, su obvio movimiento. La expresión se vuelve dependiente del recurso tecnológico: el acontecimiento real se vuelve representación de la representación. El que lo que vemos en el monitor posea el aura de lo virtual no lo hace más real: la simulación no está exenta de consecuencias objetivas, actuales. El terrorismo y los fundamentalismos son la actualización en pleno: la repetición de las imágenes videograbadas y transmitidas a todo el mundo via satélite, la transmisión de la muerte en vivo y en directo, el teatro del mundo representado en T.V., el suicidio-asesinato de las dos torres gemelas, las fotos de la vejación de los iraquíes por el ejército británico o el video-loop de la decapitación del prisionero no son pura simulación: es la muerte, el asesinato, la trascendencia de lo virtual: pura, terrible, irreductible, injustificable actualización. ¿No hay terrorismo también en la transmisión -y, por lo tanto, reproducción y recepción- del acto terrorista mismo? Los medios son indestructibles: es el entorno en el que vivimos, en el que habitamos. Y no es que sólo habitemos: el hábitat nos habita.

El arte contemporáneo busca, de nuevo, la excedencia y la exterioridad: el performance, el happening, la intervención, la instalación, el graffiti, los bombs y los tags, el arte sonoro y la música electrónica, el cómic y los videojuegos construyen realidades todo el tiempo: juegan dentro de una lógica mayor, institucional. Vamos a ver el museo, no lo que hay dentro del museo: los tours virtuales por galerías, espacios museográficos y universidades desde una computadora conectada a la línea telefónica en cualquier parte del mundo sustituye el estar ahí: pura repetición; el original ha perdido para siempre su aura sólo para recuperarla con más fuerza. Porque para estar ahí ya no es necesario estar ahí, quienes vuelvan a las “presencias reales” tendrán nuevamente la supremacía. Peligro inminente de la virtualización y del vértigo cultural por el escape, por la exterioridad y la excedencia. El arte, quizá, tenga que enfrentarse a este desafío: superar la técnica, olvidar el recurso tecnológico, utilizarlo casi como si no estuviese ahí. El photo shop, el hipertexto electrónico y el arte electrónico, analógico y digital sólo hacen más evidente lo que siempre ha sido cierto: la representación estética es tan real como cualquier acontecimiento, y al mismo tiempo más sublime, perteneciente a otra esfera. El “gesto inspirado” del artista sería parte del proceso doloroso de la identidad: superar la técnica, trascender el medio se antoja como una empresa quimérica.

Las identidades nacionales también se construyen en la virtualización. Las fronteras, sin embargo, se vuelven más duras y más evidentes que nunca: los consulados y embajadas niegan visas y pasaportes. Estar ahí, actualmente, se vuelve cada vez más difícil para el grosso de la problación. Las identidades de los pueblos ven en el arte contemporáneo y popular sus expresiones quizá más delatoras. La música híbrida, el sampleo y loopeo del archivo sonoro de la humanidad sólo manifiesta lo actual de la hibridación y la imperancia de las sociedades mestizas.

Y, de todos modos, lo que impera es la polarización y la búsqueda de lo homogéneo: lo que se busca es la regularización de un discurso, no importando de donde provenga. (Pensemos: Nortec, Sr Coconut, Tosca, y un larguísimo et al). Definidas por la técnica y el recurso tecnológico, las identidades nacionales, políticas, se construyen sólo en repetición, perpetuación y copia. Por eso, ¿cómo reconocer a un dj de otro, cuando se mezclan los mismos discos, cuando se distribuyen globalizadamente, cuando la herramienta es la misma, homogénea, unívoca? ¿Cómo se construye la identidad del disc jockey, del músico de laptop?

Pero esto es tan sólo un paréntesis.)