[Cairn Desk; 2016]

Styles: post-marxist discourse, anti-clickbait, ontological mimesis
Others: Arx, Chorus Music, Nick James, Edy Bower, User

In his book Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide, Italian media theorist Franco “Bifo” Berardi posits that we have arrived at the advent of an age of semiocapitalism, a streamlined and hyper-accelerated information capitalization wherein labor-units are split into infinitesimally divisible chunks of cognitive labor-time. This is the time that you, a human, a prosumer, spend with your brain plugged into the hive-mind, time that is valuable because it produces information, which is currency. All cognitive labor-time is not equal, though, as some of us produce gigantic, tidal swells of information-flow when we plug in, while the majority of us are but humble data miners, clicking away at the assemblages of links that will a posteriori constitute a salable identity. Berardi’s book problematizes the profoundly alienating and insidious qualities of this meritocracy of identity, i.e. the cult of the Personal Brand, that the exploitation of cognitive labor (which is happening to you right now, as you scroll through this very page) positions us (humans) in such relation to one another that we are never not in competition, and that this renders us both profoundly lonely and politically impotent. In the age of identity politics and everything-is-chill startup culture, our passion and rage alike are co-opted before they can blossom into action.

Enter YOUTH WAGE SURPLUS, the latest cross-media work of Aaron Dowdy, post-Marxist theorist, composer, and founding member of The Actual School and its musical counterpart Asystems (of which our own SCVSCV is a part), who has produced under the guise of Arx and Chorus Systems since the beginning of the decade, and now as Dow One onYOUTH WAGE SURPLUS. One quick glance through the prolific output of these various anti-institutions and I encounter more label-offshoots than a D/P/I side-project — like a benevolent, playful laundering of identity — and more theory jargon than a TMT review circa 2011. YOUTH WAGE SURPLUS comes prefab as a ready-deconstruction of itself.

Post-Marxist jargon, like some oblique version of street slang, resists interpretation except on the terms of its own philology. According to the written text of YOUTH WAGE SURPLUS, “youth wage and its exchange with certain abstractions that are derived from surplus … have mimesis as an ontological function.” Youth wage is cognitive labor-time, multiplied by the mimetic cult of identity and personal brand, which is a function of the surplus value inherent in labor — surplus because labor is wage, which is money, which, like information, possesses the peculiar quality of being able to generate more of itself.

YOUTH WAGE SURPLUS begins with a smattering of tonal percussive hits, reminiscent of the noise your computer makes when you click on something verboten to the operations of the system. An anti-click. Let us not forget, clicks are the a posteriori unit of measurement of the value of cognitive labor-time in semiocapital markets. The abrupt, almost-distorted ping of the anti-click pains the spirit upon initial encounters, the sound of a door closing on the mimesis of self. Yet as the piece develops, the anti-click retains its role as fundamental compositional kernel, subsuming into the aesthetic schemata of various “peg-hole genre”-resembling movements and subsequently re-emerging into shocking blank vistas of white space, spare, staccato cascades of anti-clicks aping the melodies and rhythms of the preceding movements in a counterbalancing, subverting gesture.

This repeat, central gesture on YOUTH WAGE SURPLUS recalls discursive modes outlined on the Asystems homepage: flexion, or “the agility to participate in public communication while also reflexing to a place of anarchy,” seems an apt way to describe how Dow One communes with generic touchstones — New Age synth, classical, dance music proper, chiptune — only to bring them to a halting, absurd dissolution wherein they are deconstructed into homogenous particles of anti-click, anti-value.

Toward the end of YOUTH WAGE SURPLUS’s second movement, “SURPLUS: design web, hege, third labor,” the anti-click becomes so salient, so congested a compositional stroke that the flux of information itself takes on a pointillist, impressionistic tendency: “song” dissolves from melody locked in step with rhythm into pure atonal texture, “sound,” and then a dumbass, plunking keyboard melody clambers up from behind the wall of abrasion and peeks out a shit-eating grin. And out of the maelstrom emerges but one particle, a click, an anti-click, a physical, phenomenological grain and its counterpart. Out of nonsense and surplus, genre, identity, and brand were born, and to nonsense and surplus, they shall return again. Dow is phonetically indistinguishable from Dao. And so where our Twitter feuds and our indignant outrage have been exploited, our immutable, non-reactive attention remains intact.

Links: Dow One - Cairn Desk

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