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Disintegration Loop 1.1 consists of one static shot of lower Manhattan billowing smoke during the last hour of daylight on September 11th, 2001, set to the decaying pastoral tape loop Basinski had recorded in August, 2001. Shot from Basinski's roof in Williamsburg Brooklyn, this is an actual documentary of how he and his neighbors witnessed the end of that fateful day. It is a tragically beautiful cinema verite elegy dedicated to those who perished in the atrocities of September 11th, 2001
Anyway, I was in Israel as a kind of cultural ambassador
And there were lots of press conferences scheduled around the performances.
And the journalists usually started things off by asking about the avant-garde.
"So, what's so good about new?" they'd ask.
"Well, I'd say, new is… interesting."
"And what, they would say, is so good about interesting?"
"Well, interesting is, you know…
It's… interesting. It's like… being awake."
You know, I'm treading water now.
"And what is so good about being awake?" they'd say.
Finally I got the hang of this: never answer a question in Israel,
Always answer by asking another question.
But the Israelis were very curious
About the Gulf War and what Americans had thought about it,
And I tried to think of a good question to ask and answer to this,
But what was really on my mind was that the week before
I had myself been testing explosives in a parking lot in Tel Aviv.
Now this happened because I had brought some small stage bombs to Israel
As props for this performance
And the Israeli promoter was very interested in them.
And it turned out that he was on weekend duty on one of the bomb squads,
And bombs were also something of a hobby during the week.
So I said:
"Look, you know, these bombs are nothing special, just, just a little smoke."
And he said:
"Well, we can get much better things for you."
And I said:
"No really, these are fine…"
And he said:
"No, but it should be big, theatrical.
It should make an impression,
I mean you really need just the right bomb."
And so one morning he arranged to have about fifty small bombs
Delivered to a parking lot,
And since he looked on it as a sort of special surprise favor,
I couldn't really refuse,
So we are out on this parking lot testing the bombs,
And after the first few explosions,
I found I was really getting pretty… interested.
They all had very different characteristics:
Some had fiery orange tails,
And made these low pooh, pooh, pooh, popping sounds;
Others exploded mid-air and left long smoky, slinky trails,
And he had several of each kind in case I needed to review them all at the end, and I'm thinking:
Here I am, a citizen of the world's largest arms supplier,
Setting off bombs with the world's second largest arms customer,
And I'm having a great time!
So even though the diplomatic part of the trip wasn't going so well,
At least I was getting some instruction in terrorism.
And it reminded me of something in a book by Don DeLillo
About how terrorists are the only true artists left,
Because they're the only ones who are still capable of really surprising people.
And the other thing it reminded me of,
Were all the attempts during the Gulf War to outwit the terrorists,
And I especially remember an interesting list of tips
Devised by the US embassy in Madrid,
And these tips were designed for Americans
Who found themselves in war-time airports.
The idea was not to call ourselves to the attention of the numerous foreign terrorists
Who were presumably lurking all over the terminal,
So the embassy tips were a list of mostly don'ts.
Don't wear a baseball cap;
Don't wear a sweat shirt with the name of an American university on it;
Don't wear Timberlands with no socks;
Don't chew gum;
Don't yell "Ethel, our plane is leaving!.
I mean it's weird when your entire culture
Can be summed up in eight giveaway characteristics.
And during the Gulf War I was traveling around Europe with a lot of equipment,
And all the airports were full of security guards
Who would suddenly point to a suitcase and start yelling:
"Whose bag is this? I wanna know right now who owns this bag."
And huge groups of passengers would start fanning out fromthe bag,
Just running around in circles like a Scud missile on its way in,
And I was carrying a lot of electronics
So I had to keep unpacking everything and plugging it in
And demonstrating how it all worked,
And I guess it did seem a little fishy;
A lot of this stuff wakes up displaying LED program readouts that have names like Atom Smasher,
And so it took a while to convince them that they weren't some kind of portable espionage system.
So I've done quite a few of these sort of impromptu new music concerts
For small groups of detectives and customs agents
And I'd have to keep setting all this stuff up
And they'd listen for a while and they'd say:
"So uh, what's this?"
And I'd pull out something like this filter and say:
"Now this is what I like to think of as the voice of Authority."
And it would take me a while to tell them how I used it for songs that were,
You know, about various forms of control, and they would say:
"Now, why would you want to talk like that?"
And I'd look around at the SWAT teams and the undercover agents
And the dogs and the radio in the corner,
Tuned to the Superbowl coverage of the war. And I'd say:
"Take a wild guess."
Finally of course, I got through,
It was after all American-made equipment,
And the customs agents were all talking about the effectiveness,
No the beauty, the elegance, of the American strategy of pinpoint bombing.
The high tech surgical approach,
Which was being reported on CNN
As something between grand opera and the Superbowl,
Like the first reports before the blackout
When TV was live and everything was heightened,
And it was so… euphoric.
Laurie Anderson gostava muito de citar o seu conterrâneo Don DeLillo, escritor, quando este dizia que “os terroristas eram os derradeiros artistas contemporâneos, os únicos ainda verdadeiramente capazes de nos chocar”. A partir desta frase poderia fazer um post sobre a natureza da arte contemporânea, mas neste vou falar um bocadinho sobre o terrorismo que, como a Internet, parece ter entrado numa era 2.0.
A Web 2.0 é uma espécie de revolução marxista da Internet: os operários tomam conta dos meios de produção; os bloguistas revoltam-se contra o quarto poder; o youtube põe em causa a televisão; do espectador passivo espera-se que seja um prolixo produtor de texto, som e imagem; os sistemas mais do que difusores de conteúdos pré-produzidos seriam facilitadores de produção e interligação. Em resumo, na Web 2.0, os loucos tomam conta do asilo. A produção de informação, opinião, seja escrita ou audiovisual, democratiza-se radicalmente. Note-se que isto não é um discurso eufórico, pois creio sinceramente que nem todos estávamos preparados para isto. Mas mais sobre isso noutro post também.
Voltemos então ao terrorismo. Tal como a espionagem, o terrorismo era em tempos resultado de uma organização secreta e minuciosa. Quanto mais secreto e organizado fosse o funcionamento das células terroristas, mais espectacular seria o seu resultado. O financiamento vinha de negócios igualmente ilegais, incluindo a droga e o tráfico de armas e os alvos eram geralmente uma ordem estabelecida, com preferência para os mais ricos, mais poderosos ou apenas mais livres.
Quando esta forma de fazer terrorismo atingia o seu auge, em 11 de Setembro de 2001, também a primeira bolha Internet rebentava e lançavam-se as fundações para a tal web 2.0. Uma coisa nada tem a ver com a outra, aparentemente, mas a simultaneidade de ambos os acontecimentos indicia uma mudança de paradigma. Hoje, todos os especialistas nos dizem que a Al Qaeda é menos uma organização terrorista, mas mais um programa difuso que se materializa numa rede dispersa de pequenas organizações voluntaristas, sem grande hierarquia mas com muita vontade de agir. Cheira-me a 2.0.
O recente massacre de estudantes na Finlândia por um aluno que publicou as suas intenções na Internet leva-me a estender esta lógica ainda um pouco mais longe. Hoje, o terrorista está em potencial em cada um de nós. A raiva, a revolta, a baixa auto-estima, a pressão social, o silêncio, a overdose de comunicação, a multiplicidade ideológica, tudo parece contribuir para levar ao limite alguns adolescentes, desde sempre uma idade delicada. A pura demonstração da violência (e não, não falo da virtual e ficcional, falo da real) no trânsito, na vida familiar, nos exemplos que nos chegam do outro lado do Atlântico, mais não são do que um catalisador para a emergência solitária e terrível (passo a redundância) deste novo terrorista.