“One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns, or to utilize smooth spaces as a means of communication in the service of striated space. It is a vital concern of every State not only to vanquish nomadism but to control migrations and more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire “exterior,” over all flows traversing the ecumenon. If it can help it, the State does not dissociate itself from a process of capture of flows of all kinds, populations, commodities or commerce, money or capital, etc. There is still a need for fixed paths in well-defined directions, which restrict speed, regulate circulation, relativize movement, and measure in detail the relative movements of subjects and objects.”
– Deleuze and Guattari
The charms of Monopoly — half Rich Uncle Pennybags, half Empire — are devastating. Children and adults alike vie for paper money, games are rarely finished, and power dynamics develop into vectors that trace the tragedy of contemporary life. Tears and insults abound, as the first exhausted loser remarks, “You do know it’s a game, right?”
Imagine the pieces on the Monopoly board: the top hat, the thimble, the scottie dog — the battleship, the racecar. The cast little pieces form a perimeter around the grand boardwalk of desire, gamifying representations of free-will in a highly restricted context, under the banner of leisure, enjoyment, playful domination. Monopoly is a leisure tool that emulates the capture of smooth space. If the immigrant nomad — a cell of cast nickel — is meant to avoid capture from the apparatus of chance, dice roll, jail, competition; they’re forced into an economic ontology fiercely stripped of the nomad’s original freedom to move, without the evocation of nomadic life, without the narrative of their struggle, without any solidarity in finding new spaces to occupy outside of a color-coded continuum — paper money, passing go, flipping the board in anger.
Inga Copeland’s deadpan delivery and obtuse electronic compositions — her “dilettantish approach” — is a war machine, a tool of the nomad through which capture can be avoided and smooth space preserved. A game obscured but wholeheartedly and authentically played, Live In Paris is the presentation of conceptual wandering, a bedroom affair broadcasted as a common concern for the freedom to move, perhaps folding violently upon the urban Parisian landscape in 2015/2016.
A 35-minute composition originally released on Vimeo but now available on physical formats, Live In Paris is, ostensibly, a performance captured on several unsteady camcorders as a giant Monopoly board was projected on screens across the perimeter of the performance space. The “show” proper begins with “Time In the EU” — the sound of a clock bellowing deeply as Copeland rings a handbell inaudibly in the reverberations. Red Bull logos fold into the Monopoly iconography. Fleet Street, jangling change, footsteps, a community chest, are heard in the essayist bounce of “Chance,” as Copeland reads “Marylebone Station, Leicester Square, a hundred million quid, chance, jail…” lazily over the riddim. A single bass squelches over a primary beat, as the materials of electronic music are laid painfully bare: pads and arpeggios, kick and snare sloppily arranged as a 2-step in the streets of London, as a concert in Paris. Copeland’s smearing of sonic and geographic territories is comprehensive.
“Rage” begins with honks and the sounds of urban confusion, as Copeland remarks “but what about the concert…?” This is a question of space, of the smoothing and striating of urban geography, of the location of the concert — in Paris, in London, in New York — a location lost in the broadcasting of the performance as a Red Bull event that located Copeland’s nomadic artistic message somehow Live in Paris. This appropriation of nomadic life, forced into striated space by numerous State apparatuses and represented by her use of monopoly iconography, brought this message to be importantly located in Paris itself in the aftermath of the Refugee crisis and The Paris Attacks. The subordination of the monopoly piece into property spaces is inevitably what gives war its direct object against the immigrant, the nomad, the refugee. Copeland has obscured and wholeheartedly critiqued this subordination, proclaiming viscerally “I Am Your Ambient Wife (Live)” amidst the glowing monopolized panels.
“Wheel Up My Tune!” flips a riddim wildly with flashing colors in a sudden flourish of coherent production; yet, otherwise, the tunes here are obtuse, lethargic, entrancing numbers, continuing the Lolina knack of, as Adam Devlin describes, “doing even more with even less, navigating between contrasts of warped bass and chintzy dancehall piano and tying it together with sinister-sultry vocal work.” As such, “The Logic” dresses a walking bass in flange and pointillistic synth accents, as more loose change rattles, more field recording asides create intrigue and chaos. The constant tension and modern unease swirl in vibrant synth colors and absurd moments, visually conjuring the bold primary colors of the monopoly board, even conjuring the feel of Parisian bon dessin, perhaps a nod to the gunning down of Charlie Hebdo in early 2015, a violence extended to terrorist attacks happening in a live Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris on November 13, 2015.
The immigrant, the terrorist, the state apparatus, the monopoly squares all form a dark commentary being flippantly observed and performed by Copeland — a laissez-faire wandering of an immigrant through deeply territorialized space. After all, the sprawling Parisian territory is defined by immigrant suburbs; even the word for them, banlieues, has become derogatory, meaning a ghetto dominated by immigrants. Large, grey concrete housing projects built during the postwar decades, in the Brutalist style of Le Corbusier, were conceived as utopias for workers. Graffiti and music divides this striated space, and perhaps one can make out the colorful segmenting of a Monopoly grid, with graffiti of a scottie dog scrawled in the vulgar and crude style of Charlie Hebdo, a crushed Red Bull can, more scrawl saying #JeSuisCharlie, a newspaper describing how two French brothers with Algerian names, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, had executed 12 people at the Hebdo offices in revenge for covers caricaturing Muhammad.
Copeland’s absurdist sound-cartoons rail against how “the State” operates through the capture of movement and space. Her “Last Days Of Being A Wanker” is also her rebellion against a State concerned with dividing space or building into it a hierarchical system of relations that places the occupants of each strata at odds with those of other strata. If the State harnesses energy of the nomad by creating inequalities, this is the same energy Copeland’s music smears and obscures in its graceful wandering through an infinite plain divided by absurd, invisible, terrifying lines. She dice rolls through them all.