formula for the emergence of the new
essay by Chris Rose
powers, whatever their message might be, brush up against the doors and rejoice
already from the fact that they will arrive soon.
Linda Wallace's video lovehotel is about the emergence of new spaces of interaction, of new technologies and of formations of desire; it is about the meandering of an "Aberrant Intelligence" which hovers above and insinuates itself into our familiar habitats (physical and cyber) like a kind of inscrutable and formless spectre of the future. lovehotel establishes its domain - the abode of this AI - in the midst of a multiplicity of narrative lines and semiotic elements, using excerpts of the "Fleshmeat" text, written by and also narrated here by Francesca Da Rimini as a displacing or dislocating double for the on-screen movement of the images. It is the house without edifices or the floating space-time of the spectral emanation that sneaks through the spaces between images, between words and images, escaping our cognition but leaving us with a sense that what we see is a distorted dissimulation of something new. It is a zone of potential in which unhinged desire and new vectors of communication fabricate a space for the perverse arousal of the workaday puppets who swerve into its domain. The problem lovehotel gives itself is to render palpable this transient abode which bursts out here and there inflashes, leaving in its wake a strange feeling of disturbance and a sense that the new has slithered into and distorted the conventions and codes ofeveryday life. lovehotel clears a space within which aberrant desire - the fleeting face of the everyday - perverts social conventions ofcommunication and feeling. In this way it announces the question it seeks to formulate: the question of the emergence of the new.
Yet in a sense lovehotel is not a work about the new at all. A hesitation can be detected in the stride taken by the artist towards the question of the new (what is it? where is it?). We are all too familiar with the unhesitating form of this approach: here the new is swept up in a wave of enlightenment or techno-scientific optimism by being shackled to the ideal of progress (Nicholas Negroponte as the 'newest' or most recent incarnation of this familiar tradition). lovehotel separates itself from everyapproach which conceives of the new as merely the most recent of established phenomena. The new is not to be discovered at the end-point of a sliding scale between what has been established for the longest time and what has been established for the shortest. The frontier is to be sought in the very midst of things where experience rubs shoulders with something spectral or formless, something which disturbs its familiar texture and opens it up to an indeterminate and as-yet-inexpressible future.
If the new could be seen or thought merely as the most recent, then the activity of the artist would barely differ from that of the journalist: the new arrives first, the journalist arrives second (or at the same time,'real time'), the public, finally, arrives third. The journalist's progression toward the new is catalysed by the perception of a difference (that today brings with respect to yesterday), but this difference is made to bow to the weight of readily transmissible discourses and forms of expression. The journalist's step is a progression, but in the process the new regresses into the framework of the established, of 'yesterday' - a progression towards a regression.
The first step lovehotel makes in its formulation of the new is a non-step.The stride towards the new proceeds by way of an initial hesitation, which derives from the fact that the new never actually arrives on time. It is simultaneously that which has just arrived and that which is yet to occur.As Gilles Deleuze says (following Bergson), the new is not the perceived thing but the tendency which expresses itself through it. The new arrives as a tendency which achieves a masked expression in the conventional signs or images it has at its disposal. Importantly, however, the tendency distorts the conventional image, giving us the feeling that while it may have arrived (as distortion and inscrutable sensation) its time is still yet to come. So hesitation accedes to the new by suspending the relation to the familiar object by treating it as a cloaked expression of an unfamiliar tendency. The new does not emerge on time and already formed: it emerges as a tendency which dislodges the subject's relation to the familiar and puts it in touch with new sensations and an unforeseeable future.
Perhaps this is why lovehotel omits any images of new technologies, preferring instead to isolate old ones (trains, telephones, chairs), but in such a way as to maximise their estrangement from themselves. This is done by juxtaposing them with what, at the time of their emergence, they will have been - the chair and the telephone that will have been the condition for an unforseen and unforeseeable mobility. . . Things begin to lose their recognisable shape when viewed in terms of tendency. Habitual movement begin to lead to different doors - or different "visitors" - as they twist imperceptibly to the barely audible, not quite whispered, demands of the Aberration within - the house or hotel. An insistent something taps with misshapen fingers at the door of my house - or my keyboard. . . It is theemergence of the new which compels a hesitant rather than stridentformulation which would capture the movement of emergence itself, rather than its bare result. The new announces itself as a disturbance of expectation and perception, a suspension of habitual reaction and an opening through which the subject is pressed up against the morphing and deformed face of the future. Hesitation isolates that zone in which, mid-step, the forces of the future clasp the foot which would have fallen on the same old ground...
lovehotel conveys a disarming sensation that the future recordable historyof today's space - its inhabitants, its apparatus - is already being whispered in a diabolically foreign tongue. History allows us to see a modem at the end of an antiquated telephone line. But what is it to glimpse the line before it has unfurled, before one contingency or another has determined it to unfurl this way rather than that? A phone-line to the future, swerving through an innovative inflection (modem) and in a sudden shimmering flash, exposing the seated body to an array of hither to unimaginable sensations, visions, dreams and exchanges? The perceived thing, the functional object, gives a semblance of sense or direction tothe tendency coming into being in our midst but also opens out onto indeterminacy (the future, the new) which the sensing or "feeling" of this tendency puts the inhabitant in touch with. The indeterminate, virtual line to the future is coexistent with the line to your friend's house.
lovehotel is the name of a formula which discerns the deformed and deforming face of tendency in a time of hesitation. It articulates the conjunction of carnal desire, of flesh palpating with 'unspeakable dangerous tendencies' with the deterritorialized space of encounter that makes of every hotel room the pure possibility of something happening. Hesitation-suspension corresponds to the sensation of an irruption of potential into the hallways of the familiar. Yet something is taking place in the very midst of our movements, mid-step, in the space-time of the'just arrived-not yet here'. It is as if a door or screen separated the inhabitants of two spaces. A knock, a beep: a call to communication. But the mere initiation of encounter is also an invocation of unseen possibilities. A scratching which suggests other forces at work accompanies and merges with the knock. Coextensive with the 'transparent' communication, a communication of unnameable tendencies. A strange contrapuntal communication ensues, each inhabitant responding to words and gestures tensed between, on the one hand, the clarity of their meaning and distinctness of direction; and, on the other, their aberrant tendency, their tendency to mutate and mean something or move somewhere else. It is like a telephone conversation on a line unravelling towards another time, seeking new flesh-formations to engage in different ways. 'love' and 'hotel' finally come to mean the same thing: a coupling of tendencies which is also a meeting-place. lovehotel: a 'shimmering doorway', a glimpse of the future between words, gestures and images; but also a choreography of mutating sensations responding to the deformed gestures of an Intelligence or Body which can only express itself as an aberration of the conventional - for now...
general philosophy department, sydney university