Friday, 26 September 2014

Arika: Episode 2, A Special Form of Darkness

In Episode 1, Arika continued their escape from experimental music, staging a series of films and discussions that centred around the hidden political assumptions about art and creativity. Episode 2, A Special Form of Darkness delves deeper into the nature of the indivudual self, taking cues from noise music, HP Lovecraft, existential dread and bodily fluids.

"It's to do with the usefulness of nihilism, the positives of doubt," affirms Barry Esson, Arika's co-curator. "It comes out of how we are thinking about experimental music now, to put it in a context that is provocative and really exciting." SFoD features performance inspired by French Grand Guignol – perhaps the most bloody theatre since the Romans used condemned criminals in tragedies – the meditations of literary critic Fredric Jameson, who worries that our very identity has been reduced to a series of tropes defined by advertising and consumerism, De Musicorum Infelicitate, a composition that attempts to express the self-loathing of composer Walter Marchetti through an impossible score and a finale set from Keiji Heino, the legendary Japanese noise musician who will be using just his voice to wail a blues beyond brutality and alienation. Yet Esson insists that there is more to this darkness than just despair.

Discussing one of the weekend's themes, Esson suggests that potential might lie in unexpected places. "Over deep time, human consciousness is absolutely insignificant. Since the Enlightenment, we seem to have spent 200 years scrabbling around to find human meaning," he observes. "It may well be better, as an evolutionary step, to recognise that there is no meaning. Understanding that might allow us to overcome some of our hang-ups."

The works at SFoD, alongside the conversations, discussions and philosophical chats, embody this idea of creation in the face of absurdity and nothingness. Glasgow's Iain Campbell will be wandering Tramway, wondering about how best to do nothing and continuing his journey from maximalist rocker to challenging live artist. On a more academic trip, Thomas Metzinger, an important philosopher of the mind and consciousness, will discuss Being No-one – both his book and the concept.

Esson succintly explains why Metzinger is such a bracing voice. "Metzinger identifies the self as a series of subconscious processes to allow our limited minds to cope with the information around us. They are so transparant that we mistakenly come up with the idea that we have a self. It's a special form of darkness: we stumble around in the dark, we think we are making decisions."

By mixing up immediate, visceral performance and more intellectual approaches, SFoD consciously rejects the model that makes a festival a mere series of consumerist spectacle, rather aiming to provoke as much as it delights. Arika's political episodes – most noticeable in the final Instal, where the event that brought Glasgow The Boredoms and Jandek handed itself over to the audience – struggle with the gap between inclusive rhetoric and the reality of audience participation. This embrace of horror avoids these contradictions and opens up the experimental work to broader audiences. As Esson concludes on the themes of the weekend: "Horror and doubt and scepticism: isn't that everyday British life?

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