continent. maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking, traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, biopolitics and art.
Issue 2.1 / 2012:

The Cracked Share

Hangjun Lee, Chulki Hong

continent. 2.1 (2012): 2–5

To begin with, as we understand from a remote place like Seoul, there have been two different conceptions of materiality in the Western experimental ?lm history: materiality of cinema and of ?lm. The former has been represented by the practitioners of the so-called the “Expanded Cinema” and the latter by the tradition of the “Hand-made” ?lm. Whereas for the Expanded Cinema, the materiality or the “medium-speci?city” includes not only the ?lm material but also the entire condition and environment in which the cinematic experience is situated (i.e.: screen, projector, audience and theatre); for the Hand-made ?lm, it is the whole ?lmic process prior to the screening in front of the audience (i.e.: hand-processing and optical-printing). The two practices share in the materialist turn that opens up the radical possibilities of aesthetic (and even political) interventions into a process previously considered seamless and transparent. What can be called to attention through the materialist turn includes the aesthetic-institutional process in the projection-spectator relation and the (non-) representational process in ?lm-making. Moreover, these interventions bring their own temporalities back to those processes, and this returning emancipates the temporalities from their subordination to the cinema-as-commodity.

Hangjun Lee is a ?lm-based artist whose practice is concerned with Hand-made Film and Experimental Cinema. Given these interests, Lee questions the linkage between materiality and temporality. This was his preoccupation around 2006, the time at which he started to collaborate with Chulki Hong, the noise improviser. The improvisational nature of their audio-visual performances opened means of detouring from the conventional editing techniques. Their collaboration also afforded critical investigations into the performativity of the practices in both the darkroom and the screening room, as well as in the private recording/practicing studio, and public performance spaces for the improvising musician. In fact, it was a kind of common interest shared by both us from the outset. In our collaboration, we avoid sacri?cing/concealing/minimizing one form of performativity (the performative nature and temporality of compositional process) for the sake of the other (i.e. those in improvisational and executional process). In the ?eld of experimental music and sound, this kind of approach has been comprehensively called “cracking” or “hacking”. The concepts are ?nely formulated in the coinage of “Cracked Everyday Electronics” (by Voice Crack) or more generally “Handmade Electronic Music” (by Nicolas Collins).1 And this was a pure but perhaps necessary coincidence. the original title of the work of our collaboration and, retrospectively, of the set of our working principles at the same time, “The Cracked Share” was named by Lee after Georges Bataille’s masterwork, The Accursed Share, with the substitution of the adjective with “Cracked” as a synonym for ‘reticulated’ in the photographic image.

We think the ascetic and subtractive aesthetic turn of the contemporary non-idiomatic improvised (and even somewhat non-improvised) music2 pushed us further towards more radical dissociation with the empty temporality of commodi?ed audio-visual experience. It can be called the aesthetics of “without,” and exemplars include Yoshihide Otomo’s Turntable Without Records, Sachiko M’s Sampler without Samples. There are also other radical experiments even with the (non-)improvised music without noise and sounds that neatly meet the rules and idioms of the existing/established experimental music. For us, this thread among the experimental music currents weighs in its emphasis on subtractive and dissociational power unique to improvisational action.

Surely, the tradition of the Cracked and Handmade improvised music teaches us the crucial lesson that “[m]edia and mediation are never transparent” and that “[m]ediation actively transforms data from one form to another and is never passive.”3 We couldn’t agree to this statement more. However, without the removal and withdrawal power of improvisation that poses and keeps both subjects (performer and audience) and objects (projector and instrument) in “inferiority,”4 generalized cracking and hacking practices—or simply “glitch”—in music and visuals would be either sublimated into the mystical and ritualistic forms of “Film Alchemy” and “Noise Music” (to which both of us still strongly feel a belonging but also, more or less, ambivalent sentiments), or else assimilated into the logic of the commodi?ed audio-visual communication. Today in music, this principle of improvisational performativity should be formulated as the dis-organization of sound against the associational de?nition of (electronic) music and it needs to be translated into audio-visual experiences.

In other words, cracking practices of free improvisation need not be limited in artistic creativity, in a darkroom, in a studio, or on the stage; the principle of the dis-organization of sound should be the principle of dis-organization (or cracked organization) of audio-visual performance space itself.

NOTES
1) Norbert Möslang, “How Does a Bicycle Light Sound?: Cracked Everyday Electronics,” Leonardo Music Journal 14 (2004): 83; Nicolas Collins, Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking (New York: Rutledge, 2006).
2) We refer this not to the historical style or genre but rather the idea and practice that ?free improvisation? stands for. On the distinction between idiomatic and non-idiomatic improvisation, see Derek Bailey, Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 1993). On radically politico-histrorical interpretations of free improvisation and noise music from various present viewpoints, see Noise and Capitalism, (eds.) Mattin & Anthony Iles (Arteleku Audiolab, 2009).
3) Caleb Kelly, Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009), p. 29.
4) I borrow the term from my long-time collaborator, Choi Joonyong. See Ryu Hankil, Hong Chulki & Choi Joonyong, Inferior Sounds (Balloon and Needle, CD, 2011).

References

Bailey, Derek. Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 1993.

Collins, Nicolas. Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking New York: Rutledge, 2006.

Kelly, Caleb. Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

Norbert Mslang, How Does a Bicycle Light Sound?: Cracked Everyday Electronics, Leonardo

Music Journal 14 (2004).

Noise and Capitalism Edited by Mattin & Anthony Iles. Donostia-S.Sebasti, Spain: Arteleku

Audiolab, 2009.

Hankil Ryu, Chulki Hong, & Joonyong Choi, Inferior Sounds, Balloon and Needle, CD, 2011.

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