THE ONLY POSSIBLE RELATIONSHIP TO AESTHETICS TODAY IS A CRIMINAL ONE — a bad reproduction, a sniveling simulacrum, an amnesia scan of Moten & Harney
AS as simile,
as device of commensuration and comparison,
as simulation and symmetriba
as appropriation and extraction,
as the imprimatur of reproducibility and the material amnesia it extorts,
as another life inscribed as palimpsest onto a referent — a referent gone A.W.O.L.,
as the representational forfeiture of facelessness,
as the daemonic choreography of embodied discipline,
as the chain harnessing facticity to the world as picture and its schematic stigmata,
as the securitazation of the unrecuperable and unlicensed,
as the carcerality of the unilinear,
as that which — militarized and lumbering — 0domesticates the chaos,
as the foreclosure and criminalization of the vestibular (the outdoors and the rewild),
as the rerouting of the submerged into the spectacult,
as the conquest circle of sticky grammars,
as speech gone too wrong.
Another Life sounds like (or as) a lot of things: festival EDM, warehouse raves, Garden of Delete, Chino Amobi’s more abrasive work, happy hardcore. And that’s the point, at least I think. Matching Amnesia Scanner’s own maddening methodology, I will proceed with an extended simile of my own.
Like (or as) the bad faith bad politics bad joke matrix that is Wolf Eyes’s John Olson’s Instagram account @inzane_johnny, Amnesia Scanner unapologetically crib, jockey, falsify: to aesthetics they steal, and there they steal and steal. Siphoning the affective resonances and cultural capital invested in the cachet consolidated and brandished by dressing like you make records for Posh Isolation or posting about dumping Trumpf or hating the Grateful Dead and compressing a freighted web of attachments and intensities into a fixed set of fungible formats of enunciation and reference, inzane_johnny has managed to sear an overexposed and deadening blue filter into a certain optical unconscious.
At stake in inzane_johnny’s popularity and relatability is not just representation or tastemaking or anti-virtue-signaling virtue signaling, but a way of seeing whose blue grain and resolution obliteration make sound, speech, and conduct into a deviant art of exchange value circulating along the perverse circuits of digital labor as a technology of the self (the self to whom I cling when minimum wage is intolerable and I cannot see my coworkers as anything but normies and my dissatisfaction congeals around a sardonic syntax of disidentification and disavowal). But if a hermeneutic of generosity go under erasure in inzane_johnny’s flattening and flagellating similes, what emerges out of the margins is a possibility of identification and interaction developing into a wry consensus, a sniggering assembly of sympathies: another life irreducible to the vice of the scroll or the fungibility of the aestheticizable.
Emerging out of the rote grammars of disavowal and exchange in inzane_johnny’s visual output is a proprioceptive poetics of use value, of utility and phenomenon, of the haptic and the intramural that scribble off the platform and into hands, mouths, arms, chests, esophagi. The radical underbelly of the disaffected antipathy of inzane_johnny’s plunderoptic blue materializes in the belly laugh shared among friends, conspirators, relations. To cling to this anatomical metaphor, the butt of the jokes become the atomized and aggrieved ego whose extractive gaze authorizes and conducts the bitter ironization of everything. So glad I grew up doing this, not this; displeased Drake, approving Drake; chain punk, egg punk; the Venn diagram: the very mechanisms of commensuration and evaluation, in their insufferable pretension and presumption, their mythos of masculine ratiocination and equanimity, their violent regime of why can’t you take a joke?, their panoptic distancing, default when incessant repetition and reproducibility reveal the absolute unoriginality and imagined persecution motivating their invocations. The rapacity of their primitive accumulation, plundering affect and community into the exchangeability of aesthetics, flickers through the cool Clarendon rendering unattributed to whoever submitted the image in the first place.
What is subversive about inzane_johnny is not the account’s penchant for satirizing extremely niche subgenres or skewering Morrissey, but the criminal orientation it asserts to be the only possible ethical relation to aesthetics. In the ludic hands of inzane_johnny, similes swivel and denature: a decomposing, overexposed photo of John Mayer is inscribed with “GERRY [sic] GARCIA” in big block letters; a photo of Brett Kavanaugh with “SWANS.” Mechanisms of equation and equivocation stutter and stumble and crumble on inzane_johnny, corrupting the very authority to make comparison, to devalue, to distance. The tenor and the vehicle of each simile split asunder, snarling, snickering, delinquent.
Like (or as) inzane_johnny, Amnesia Scanner terrorize the simile. Another Life, chameleonic as it is demonic, aggregates its influences and kaleidoscopes them into earworming shards of electronic puncta, a diabolical mimesis whose loathsome grin belies its functionality as dance music. Under the dissimulating surface of accelerationist avant-gardism — the simulation of the simile — Amnesia Scanner carefully construct a somatically accessible sonics whose basic though intricately intercalating rhythm schemes tessellate through the contrapuntal harmonies of the distorted voices squeaking and shrieking and earsplitting all over the place. Rather than articulating a disavowing disidentification with the mainstream, Amnesia Scanner telescope the ironic distance of experimental music into a functional invitation to dance, to channel the molecular movement of sound into the cellular movement of dance. “AS Chaos” is like four notes arpeggiating over each other in a giddy pirouette. In an economy of movement, it’s — quite simply — useful (credit to Jessie for suggesting this idea of use). “AS Faceless” offers one of the most straightforward proposals on the record, its tremendous tremolo churning out marching orders with a galvanizing kick. “AS Unilinear’s” four-note minor key melody, cut out or muffled for most of the song’s Transylvanian tension, likewise condenses both its instruments (each note sounds a myriad of overlapping overtones) and its rhythm into a distillation of jacked up use value. “AS Another Life” swings across the poles of the stereo, its explosive hits and breaks torching the possibility of passive listening in its incendiary unfixability, its literal bounce across its sites of enunciation.
Vituperating the pomposity of simile and its authorizations, Amnesia Scanner suture and huddle, practicing an ethics of hapticity and proximity, of embodiment and conjugality ungovernable by the logics of comparison. The amnesia scan they enact derides the unfuckability of irony and catalyzes the saturnalia — the chaos — of identification and cohabitation. Rewilding the horizon of experimental electronic music, Another Life stages a coming-together that stays unmappable, unfuckwittable, fugitive. All around you, it’s just chaos: the intimacy of criminality collapses hamstrung armcrossing into arms strung and slung and hamstrings flung. Principles of taste divided into the undefined: Another Life exhumes the remaindered intensities uncaptured by the catastrophe of aesthetics and gorges us on them.
To end where Another Life begins, “AS Symetriba” sounds almost like the pixelated sound emanating from that notorious video of cyber goths dancing under a bridge, their tassels twirling over the neon gas masks and jet-black goatees. The devious gesture Amnesia Scanner are making in this sonic contiguity here — and more generally throughout Another Life — is a wry one, at least as old as Duchamp: a mockery of authorship and a robbery of the value that it conducts between concept and object.
But this is a shitty simile — and Amnesia Scanner know it. While Duchamp’s toilet stood on a pedestal in a gallery unused and unusable, Amnesia Scanner’s toilet invites us to dance like those goths and their fingerless gloves, invites us to use it, invites us to shit in it. If the art kids with the bowl cuts and the dangly earrings don’t want to let loose when the beat explodes into clattering syncopation and flanged exuberance, then let them keep their distance, let them hold it in, let them shit their pants while the toilet bowl gleams right in front of them.