This show will baffle visitors for many reasons. For one, there is a lot happening within it that will seem chaotic and pointless. Then there will be the interference between noise and image. This relationship between noise and image occurs either within frames, or between frames of performance. To make things worse, none of this is to be explained by the authors of the show, especially in terms of telling people what things within the works mean. Let alone meaning, the authors do not even wish to tell the audience what the things we see or hear are. Much that is familiar is distorted to the point of non-recognition and there is a lot that is unfamiliar. Such distortions will make easy ‘recognition’ of elements of the work as referencing the familiar or the known historical close to impossible.
Why does one witness such a performed opacity of meaning by its authors? Mriganka Madhukaillya and Sonal Jain of Desire Machine Collective (DMC) provide the simple answer which lies in the name of their– Noise Life. How can one tell people the meaning of noise? How can one make out the constituent elements of the chaos of noise? Thus, the impossibility of simplifying the idea of noise into comfortably separated elements that make us feel there is order within noise. No, DMC wish visitors to the show to take in the noise as life as we really experience it, noisy and undefined, chaotic and scary. Noise Life is a tautology of sorts – life is noise. This noise is held together by a kaleidoscopic knot of pure intensity of sensations that is blind, deaf and pointless. This knot cannot be wished away from experience of life and art, just because we want to run away from the irrational force of chaos. One would have to, in order to understand the full extent of the aesthetic dimensions of life, face up to this pointless intensity of sensation, which might blind or deafen us or cause us to collapse,by the sheer force at which it comes at us. One is welcomed to what art critic Claire Bishop would call an ‘artificial hell’, except that for DMC this hell is a literal one.
Of course, one knows that a show such as this coming from filmmaker artists such as DMC will have political import. Their works Residue and Nishan I were shown at the two editions of the Being Singular Plural show at the Guggenheim Museums in Berlin and New York .In addition to this Residue was also shown at the India Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale.The works explicitly reference contemporary Assamese and Kashmiri histories. Noise Life too is grossomodoabout a certain political history of Assam but is above all what the authors call an auto-ethnography…far deeper and intimately personal than their earlier works. Not only this, this auto-ethnography references the works of the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari…Noise Life is an explicit exercise in what Deleuze and Guattari called schizoanalysis. In some senses this show finally makes explicit DMC’s aesthetic program from the time they began – they take their name from Deleuze and Guattari’s formulation about life and history consisting of relationships between ‘desiring machines’.
Schizoanalysis champions sensations, sensory intensities and sense above meaning and territorial embodiment of the self. It takes for granted that the experience of life can only be noisy and chaotic and no defined meaning can ever emerge from it. Instead, we are overwhelmed by the chaos of received sensations and are always in flight from life to find a temporary sanctuary where we make complex sense of our lives and express our experience as art. We are always ‘schizo’ in our perceptions and in moments of repose the body auto-analyzes and auto-expresses the noise of life within us as art. Much more so in our sensation ridden media age that DMC here seek to present: a political history of Assam as experienced by them in multiple planes of sensations.
Thus the show produces a vertiginous series of plateaus of sensation – from within the corporeal bodies of DMC, through the media noise around them,that expresses the mass noise in its desire for fascism. This fascism includes an archive of historical events that were previous episodes of mass fascist desire,. These episodes converged on to the point where the mind goes into cosmic delusion. Therefore nothing is to be historically defined or explained as familiar, since we are always in the middle of sensations in our media age. These sensations make every sensory perception of life vague and incomplete. In a Noise Life video, things will move from interiors of buildings to river banks to garbage dumps in and out of sharp focus and dissolution. All thisis continuously overlaid with the restless white noise, made up of sounds and voices,from histories from across the world. These sounds, that maybe the cosmic or the deeply visceral, areall garbled.Another installation will project stills on to video images, where the forensics of colonial anthropology will mingle with the forensics of criminal investigations by the state.In this way the audience engages a palimpsest strained through barely recognizable bodily and cosmic images.In our deluded fantasies,apostered wall absorbs the noise that was initially constituted by political struggles but exists only as pure noise now. Meanwhile a table absorbs the texts the typewriter placed on its types, but as pure sound. And all of this will need to be taken in at once, taking in everything happening in the show.
The show has a nightmarish quality to it and not much else. It’s a sensory auto-ethnography marked by ghastly alertness of the senses to a violent world outside, memories marred by insecurities, confusions and anxieties. These are residues of a violent political history of Assam of the last three decades. Nothing more can be claimed in terms of an account of that history. To do so would be to deny, lie or obfuscate. Things follow lines of flight from one plane of experience to the other, we become the wall, the wall becomes us, and history will lose its specificity and regain it from time to time in the confused senses of our media age.
All is vague because the crucial point we need to understand about schizoanalysis is that it is first and foremost about our unconscious where things are things are shadowy having sense but no formalized meaning or historic provenance. They are also chaotic, unformed, noisy since the unconscious does not take in things one at a time in judicious ways, it takes in everything at once in one tangled mass of sensations. Perceptual materials jump between planes of experience driven by internal logics of such material itself, whilst being outside our conscious control. Perceptual matter are coded material, codes that run within us despite our intentions and destabilizing categories of life by jumping perceptual material from one line of the defined to the other, from the erotic to the political, from the political to entertainment and so on. As Deleuze and Guattari put it, the unconscious is not a theatre, with us playing roles as conscious selves,but a factory where once the machines of perception are switched on they function by internal automatisms and in plateaus of action in series with on another, the famous Deleuzian rhizome.
But the greatest discursive intervention that DMC are making into the intersections of media and politics today is the fact that in schizoanalysis everything is being absorbed into one another following media codes that capture us. We are helpless in Noise Life to remain the politically correct against the politically incorrect, the good against the bad etc.. We are all implicated in the noise equally. But also it is pointless making distinctions between the personal and the political in our unconscious, between artist bodies, the local, Assam, India and the global and beyond and always manifolds within, things falling backwards into the micro. And hence we are back to the point about not defining what Noise Life is all about. It is aschizoanalytic archive in progress that will never be completed because the unconscious can never be mapped fully. Nor will it be defined by a name since all is in flux here…a lesson we get from the banks of the Brahmaputra. Rivers are always themselves in flux and cause everything around and within them to be in flux. They leave nothing defined…things are always being built and broken, things are being shifted from one plane of formation to the other, things drift many miles up and down from one cultural code to another. It is a factory, it is full of spectacular cosmic noise that we seldom perceive in our everydays.
– Dr. Kaushik Bhaumik(Asst. Prof JNU) for Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai.