Adventures in the 5th dimension

By Alex Mazey

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A central claim of Baudrillardian analysis is that a semiotic reconstitution has occurred and we’re already beyond reality. We have entered a semiotic dimension and there is no going back. At the same time, it appears like the hyperculture remains in lockstep with the positive feedback loops that sustain it, locked into highly contrived notions of the artificial vs the natural, those who touch grass and those who don’t, a battle played out by opposing factions who remain amnesic to a war that was lost by both sides in an arguably postmodern development where the idealism of oppositions long ago fell into indistinguishability. Adventures In The 5th Dimension is optimistic in the sense that it not only suggests we are still capable of plugging ourselves into a world beyond this one – to digitise ourselves into another dimension – but we are still able to locate the plug. It is for that reason I immediately wondered whether or not Adventures In The 5th Dimension was an autobiographical meditation on a retrospective event rather than an artist saying look, here I am plugging myself in right now? 

Absolutely, and the genius of Baudrillard is that he had the power to envision what is now blatant. To some degree, we are all feeding and curating our digital persona. We are already emotionally invested, and technology will only enhance this experience. As the title suggests, ‘Adventures In The 5th Dimension’ goes beyond technology to depict a realm beyond conventional physics like time and space. The rest is theatre; I transform myself into a minimalistic digital 8-bit image rather than a fully developed CGI avatar that would soon look dated, like all AI art we see today. My videos are not music clips but low-tech installations that would sit better in a ’70s conceptual art exhibition. 

Conversations about transdisciplinary theories of cybernetics tend to sway increasingly towards technology than they do the body and yet a sense of that cohabitation – the relationship between technology and the body – is placed center stage in your track, System Under Attack where we find the complex relationship between technology and the body exemplified in the appearance of the MRI machine. I mention this because when we talk about systems, we often think in terms of the machinic and the societal whilst often diminishing the significance of our bodily systems, how they function in relation to an ever-increasing technological reality, and how they can – perhaps through no fault of their own – quickly turn against us. With that being said, I wondered what it was about System Under Attack that made this particular track perhaps the most autobiographical composition of your career so far?

Yes, Numera Stellas resulted from a nervous breakdown I faced in 1994; System Under Attack is an ‘in your face’ video of my body being attacked that I fed straight into art. The process was exhilarating and liberating. And, of course, led to the question of what is next, or even better, what is left. Adventures In The 5th Dimension is where I intend to live. A time and a space delivering emotions through sounds and vision beyond my physical limitations. On a broader scale, I see cybernetics as primitive tools that will slowly take us to the realisation that we are just energy fields delivering consciousness at an increasing level of self-awareness.   

It’s perhaps far beyond my expertise to make even the most platitudinal claims about the universe but I suspect we’re beginning to understand human life as a process operating in the context of a processional universe rather than human life operating at the centre of it. Either the universe is a process or it is doomed to stasis. I find myself naturally repulsed by the latter option there since it so often those dominant ideologies of stasis that have perpetuated the worst kinds of cultural narcissism in the sense that stasis essentially claims that this is it – this is the best we can do – we’ve hit the limit of human potentiality and it’s time to make do with what we’ve got right now. Do you suspect a cultural and political stasis is an ideology far closer to nihilism than that purported nihilism that seeks Adventures In The 5th Dimension? I ask this question only because the choice to digitise oneself completely is almost always positioned as a nihilistic conclusion for someone to take.

Exactly, we keep breaking the atoms and are left empty-handed; there is no matter, just energy, with no time, space or any other kind of boundaries. I am an apolitical accelerationist with a Lacanian background. 2001’s primate and Dr Dave Bowman are identical to me; the two characters both experience reality and imagination; the difference is just the level of technology. But nobody illustrates the merging points of humanity, technology and consciousness as Isaac Asimov in his short story ‘The Last Question’ (not to be confused with ‘The Last Answer’). The author anticipates the Internet’s impact on society and brings it to the end of time and beyond. According to him, in a sense, the Internet is the portal to, brace yourself, the beginning of the universe. 

Finding an exemplary in rave culture perhaps, it seems like electronic music always stood near a destination that desires dissociation from the self. I think you see this desire in Gen Z’s interest in breakcore too. Whereas with rave and its associated genres, the sense of dissociation was ultimately achieved through the dance floor – in a kind of collective catharsis – breakcore seeks a similar kenosis through not only a machinic dimension but an introspective distance generated between self and others. Emotionally Unavailable, Fleeting Frozen Heart, literally any track by Sewerslvt, as a veteran of the electronic scene, I wanted to ask you why that all too human desire for digitisation – often made manifest in electronic music over the years – comes so agonisingly close to a desire for complete and total dissociation from the world?  

In fact, techno music’s early experience is also nicknamed “The future that was”, a nostalgic view of what could have been. To answer your question, I believe 9/11, the 2007 financial crisis, and COVID-19 accelerated the end of Western society as we know it, almost as a series of trailers ending up affecting the movie’s plot. Youth culture went dormant during the first decade of the millennium, and now that it is suddenly awakened, it is even more beautifully disruptive to the previous generation, as it should be. As far as the desire for technology, the pull is immense; we cannot resist its beauty or fear it, which is the same. But there is nothing to worry about as nothing dramatic will happen until we can make practical use of quantum computing; then, we will move into weirdness. 

We’ve briefly talked about Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. I’ve read both Sapiens and Tao Lin’s critique of the work which consequently led me to err more towards an intuitive suspicion of the book. I suppose that’s why I’ve avoided reading Homo Deus which is nevertheless an important intellectual touchstone for you, I think. Am I right in saying that it’s perhaps less Yuval Noah Harari’s work in particular, and more a necessary speculation over ‘tomorrow’s world’ that appeals to you? Second to that, I’m inclined to ask where else is it we should look if we wanted to take a quick glimpse into a world of tomorrow? To say, where are the prophetic visions to be found today?

I agree with your suspicions and Tao Lin’s critique; Homo Sapiens is a speculative book. It’s Homo Deus where Yuval Noah Harari’s imagination and narrative skills come alive. As far as the world of tomorrow, I urge everybody again to indulge in this ten-minute read, ‘The Last Question’ by Isaac Asimov. At least it touched my chords. I am more interested and attracted by the big picture. Imagining the impact of virtual reality or other technology in terms of baby steps is not interesting to me. If the ultimate goal is to become one with the universe and travel through different dimensions, whether a pair of glasses, an implanted chip or a mushroom gets us there, that doesn’t bother me.

One gets the impression from your timeless emotional neoclassic melodies and fast pulsating electronic beats, from the Supernova Records tracks put out as early as 1994, right through to the present age with these latest releases spanning System Under Attack, La Chanson De La Machine and Adventures In The 5th Dimension, an encoded message delivered from the future that may one day be understood in retrospect. I am beginning to wonder if your relationship with music was always so existentially significant.

Music has been my obsession and reason to live since I was fourteen. I learned with time that I had nothing particular to say but much to share in the form of transcendental experiences. From Supernova Records onward, I found my form of narrative made of emotional melodies, futuristic beats, an informative title and minimalistic visuals to reinforce the aural experience. It took me a lifetime and a couple of shocking experiences (which I am grateful for) to get me to the point where I recognised myself as an artist. And when I say artist, I don’t mean a good or bad artist; that is irrelevant. By artist, I mean someone with the compulsory need to manipulate reality in order to accept its brutality. I am that.

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