ArticlesBook ReviewsDatacide 5

Straight Out the Jungle

review of
ADILKNO, The Media Archive, published by Autonomedia

Pierre Bourdieu’s book ‘On Television and Journalism’ that recently caused a shit-storm of resentful, defensive near-introspection amongst French journalists and the shifting of many units from the bookshelves into the hands of media users who always already knew the score – but who wanted it intensified – provides one of the most lucid analysis of television, the ‘journalistic field’ and the manner in which they interpolate all forms of communication with compelling but meagre imperatives to pre-formatted comprehension. The book, a transcript of two TV broadcasts specially produced by the Collége de France make a lively and considered contrast to the cretinising methodology fixation of classical media and communications studies. Which, with nothing ever on its mind more than the opportunity to give the whole disobedient world a one-to-one tutorial will remain forever straightening the ghost-creases in its professorial trousers and muttering into its fingers. Both characterise certain aspects of critical relations to media.
In The Media Archive we are offered something rather different to either. ADILKNO: the Foundation for the Advancement of Illegal Knowledge’s previous publication in English was ‘Cracking the Movement, squatting beyond the media’. This book is a ‘movement history’, coming from the inside to trace the heroic, whimsical, and politically inventive parallel universe-in-creation of the Amsterdam squatter movement. Now, an overkill of communications gadgetry and too many books starts to ooze its own intoxicating vapours into a world where bicycles are still possible.
Whilst Bourdieu’s book explicitly aimed at setting the grounds for beginning, “…in practical terms, to universalise the conditions of access to the universal” enabling communication in the media is about as far from the Media Archive as you’re likely to get. As net.artist Heath Bunting ( suggests, ‘Communication is Conflict’ – an insight rephrased here by Adilkno in the text ‘Virilio Calling’: “Virilio, too, knew the antimedial dilemma that democracy must break all its ties with the media, but that it cannot exist without data transmission”. The Media Archive doesn’t add more-power-now buttons to your remote control, it doesn’t make it weigh a ton like some righteous Uzi or turn your selves on to some heavy-duty chat-room revanchism. It does however pull you into a generously poured circle of salt before calling up the hidden demons of media and turning them loose on a world richly deserving of pain and confusion.
Adilkno texts are written two to a keyboard – two at least – sometimes a word reaches the screen by the intervention of forty, fifty fingers. From out of this busy clatter come texts influenced by the ready-to-swallow pharmacopoeia of Baudrillard, Guattari, McLuhan, Virilio, but with a different kind of energy. This is high density theory for sure, but written with an extra urgency that suggests it has to be gotten out before the computer breaks or burns. Aphorisms scraped fresh from the cheeks of Wilde or Nietschze pile high on top of each other in order to fit their necks into the ready noose of a gut-loosening gallows humour.
Compared to what is a peculiarly popular propensity to capital-lettered monology, by which everything becomes interpretable in terms of a singular and always exceedingly ‘novel’ integration within, (one after the other): Media, Foucault, Self-Organisation, or Interface, the contents of Media Archive is refreshingly choppy. This is because rather than willing a formatting of itself as the function of which it becomes the hylomorphic template through which all documents will hereafter be churned, when Dionysis goes nose to the page with radical negativism paradoxical positions are the only ones feasible. In an apocalyptics that is never damned, Adilkno teases itself together an itchy brain by cross-wiring the corpses of media-after-effects.
At times this means it constructs an edifice so arch that its perilously internalised in-jokes call the whole venture into question. The architectural sublime of an endlessly recursive tunnel of navels to be stared at. Often enough thankfully it’s at this point that what would be derided as escapist, or fantastical, or irresponsible by standardised critical operations re-enters the atmosphere and installs itself on planet earth.
Like McLuhan they pluck amazing consequences from the observation of what has become invisible. But unlike McLuhan, who always attempted to fake the kind of omniscient point-of view of no-point-of-view that even his god had failed to provide himself with, the sheer impossibility of which provided McLuhan with the inconsistency which he made so fruitful, ADILKNO take this impossibility, this quicksand, as their very foundation. Hence we are treated to quick-fire analysis of: the door as media and as trauma; critiques of media before they leave the lab; the data dandy; freak bodies produced in music; a continent besieged by the ideology of leisurewear; electronic solitude; World War Two as an extended traffic accident; the vestigial effect of meaning to be bestowed on text considered as a string of ASCII, by designers, interpretative software or context…
As a book that itself happily takes up its position as part of some directory tree which locally perhaps consists of publisher, series, title, index, section headings, essays, references, the form and politics of the archive is implicitly crucial. From Public Enemy’s sampled, “The race that controls the past controls the living present,” to a host of revisionisms ranging from the brutal to the crucial it has never been more imperative to get your future into storage and in effect before the past happens. The development of the archive as a structure itself is discussed in a piece on Media Ecologists concerned to maintain a distinction between primary and secondary texts, between the authentic, the timeless and on the other hand the hybridised and mediated effluvia of culture levelled by the technics of information. According to ADILKNO, proponents of media diets whose intake consists solely of that aged in the most ancient of European cellars always too easily conflate storage with Memory and thus with the Canonical. That such an appealingly simplistic diet has become only one of many on the scrollable menus of a storage system that swallows anything provides – as paradoxically as an Amish web-page – the best chance for the survival and propagation of such a minoritarian interest as universally valuable culture.
For ADILKNO, Bourdieu’s somewhat over-confident “universal” becomes cosmic, off-planet. One of their key devices is a category of texts named Unidentified Theoretical Objects. At their best they are hilarious asteroidal nuggets to gobble down and smash your teeth on. There’s no sense in which these fictions are verifiable except to try them out, see how they fit, whether they hook you into something that’s going on, or give you a way of escaping it. Sensible argument is pointless with a UTO. You either steal its power or attempt to ignore it. Only in hyperparodical self-belief will they ever become sincerely and unreservedly true. In Bourdieu’s entirely accurate but less suggestive version of the televisual and journalistic media ecology the most admirable operators are, in their moments of introspection, exquisitely miserable that even media themselves are overwhelmed by the field. But this field is of course the information landscape as nurtered by Monsanto. Diversity is provided by the students on the streets, the thinker in his gravitas. By contrast, the Media Archive is as thick with vegetal will to mediation as a rainforest. Only by total obliteration within media will we achieve the chance to contemplate nothing.

The Media Archive is available by mail order from Counter Productions, PO Box 556, London SE5 ORL

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