Chamber II: Interview with The Swarm
(Silence speaks with a thousand tongues)
All photos courtesy of The Swarm
(non)Objects / (non)Spaces: The Sepulcher; The Void; Xenodimensions
(Bodies w/o Organs; Heads w/o Bodies; The Blade of Thought)
Elements/Moods: Cosmic Noise; Deafness; Silence
(Voice-without-a-source; Pure/Mute Being; Silent Sigh)
Tactics/Rituals: Echopraxia; Hallucinations; Autoscopy, Cosmic Amnesia
(Intensity w/o Difference; Stasis/Repetition; Apocryphal Narration)
…so narrow is the thought, that it chops like a blade the one that thinks it. Absolute headlessness, enhanced with idealism, the pride of the beheaded head, and a sort of arcane heritage that makes every innovation a repetition of stasis. (DNS p. 10).
If the body without organs speaks primeval sounds of earthly sorrows and desires, the head without body murmurs hushed words that are alien to this world. (p. 12).
We invited a few severed heads to utter their litany, to tell us how they fell and which wrong words they found. (p. 12).
The Depressive Noise Symposium is a document of an actual secret symposium which took place at some unknown location/time in Italy; a zine-like experimental approach to theory fiction—a work which refuses categorization, aggressively and purposefully deflating its own philosophies and zeroed avant-gardisms.
Its authors, known as The Syndicate, are a literary collective who scout out a readership via social media—“gifting” their dark, absurdist, zine-like book to those deemed “relative”. Nevertheless, this invitation is deceptive for this is not a welcoming thoughtspace. In proximity with the void, thoughts splinter—multiplying, amplifying, and replaying themselves ad infinitum; they turn up loud, concrete, dagger-like. Madness embodied in the form of the disembodied guest-visitor.
This is a non-dimension which one can neither easily find nor comfortably inhabit, nor even effortlessly depart from. Here inertia reigns supreme even though its architects seem to move about with great agility and deftness. Every movement in this space is a contradiction, for every outrageous or ridiculous uttering becomes law and every new echo an eternal proclamation of stasis. The architects can move while constantly uttering new arbitrary laws because they are afflicted with a certain cosmic amnesia—where the head no longer remembers the chthonic logic of the body.
3:AM Magazine: It is our understanding that Depressive Noise Symposium was written as a collaborative effort. When we reached out to you for this interview you referred to yourselves as both “The Syndicate” and “a swarm.” Could you elaborate on the approaches to both writing and representing your work as a collective?
THE SWARM: The Symposium came to us from an atmosphere of loss in, at the time, contemporary vibrant scene of the hybridization of theory. What was left was this helpless booklet. We looked at ourselves, a few speechless voices nourished by theories and fictions, and we dove into sentient silence, the overgrown intimation to zero. Zero is—in dB—the level of a perfectly mastered sound, and we found it, in our silence, though distorted by a restless redshift of the VU signal, a noise formula that infected all of our production, whereas we can no longer see differential qualities or differential individualities. The zero was overwhelmed by noise, and so were the origin and concept thereof. Only that hyperbolic and outrageous VU remained, ready to reach cosmic heights. Like the clipping sound of an overdriven amplifier, a clipping thought is something obscene, usually discredited, too easy, obsolete. We gathered in this desperate attempt: to hybridize theory with a thought beyond the power range, in the yearning of disconnection, lingering at the edge of ridiculousness, longing for an overthought, skipping the philosophizing phase of thought.
3:AM: An ‘overthought’, or perhaps the overkill of thought. It’s fascinating though, this analogy between thought and sound, what can be thought and what can be played, for sound can damage both its medium (the speaker, the amplifier) and the ear, i.e. both can go deaf. Is that a possible way to break through to silence, to tear down the fabric of Creation itself, since it is through a voice that it came into being and through the overbearing amplification of that voice that it may also become deaf to itself? Interestingly, one may also read this through the lens of string theory, according to which, energy and matter are nothing more than the humming of cosmic strings.
THE SWARM: Stentorian thoughts will emerge from the constant throughput of utterings—unintelligible yet self-cognizant, ever-mounting though inaudible—and will rip the skin of this tumorous cosmopocket. It is not through entropy that life will fade out, but through a hard-hitting dive into the Dirac sea.
There is no need to even destroy anything. The redshift is the mark of isolation, perfect beyond alienation. The hyperbole of sound prompts cosmic amnesia: who can remember, who can even detect a redshifted universe? Light is finite and the sky cannot shine except if it shines blackness (a very loud black). If you increase the decibels enough, you get an exclusion zone in your very head: “so narrow is the thought that it chops the mind of the one who thinks it.”
Overthought is something that kills philosophical decision and buries it deep down into a dead universe: Universe Black. The cognitive unthought is as loud as this black universe, there is eventually no ontologica—not even ontic—difference. The black universe is intensity-without-difference.
3:AM: Your work reads like a series of loosely related theory-fiction lectures from chapter to chapter, but always daring and over-reaching, even to the point of self-contradiction, meaninglessness, and absurdity. What overarching worldview unifies its segments and, perhaps not unrelated to this, what lead to the codification of Depressive Noise Symposium in book-form? Was it ever published, or was it released unofficially?
THE SWARM: The Symposium is simply the documentation of an actual symposium, which took place in Italy, wallowed in secrecy and absolute self-denial. A book was printed in order to spread helpless and useless seeds of utter dismay. There is no other way to read this book than by being chosen by the syndicate that printed it. As soon as someone appears somewhere, anywhere, matching the aleatory or mysterious criteria of the Syndicate, that individual gets his or her copy of the Symposium.
3:AM: Can you expand at all on the Syndicate’s criteria for such intriguing aleatory alignments? How were the few people selected with whom fragments of this work were shared?
THE SWARM: There is no unequivocal function resulting in a decision whether or not to share this work with specific individuals. There are no set criteria as input variables of this function. Mostly, the driving force has been a feeling on the part of the Syndicate of a complicity, a collusion of intents, a shared distress or preoccupation, sometimes bordering on obsession. Some have received the booklet in the absence of any prior connection with the Syndicate, and usually without ever having been physically in the vicinity of any of its fellows. Receiving the Symposium may be thus an act of precision, but in many other instances it is and it will be a complete accident.
3:AM: How does anonymity fit in with this selective process, and how does secrecy and concealment serve your literature?
THE SWARM: Anonymity is this non-linear alignment of minds that seek a communication that is unfeasible, unworldly, troubled, and that is not indulgent in companionship, but in spectral penmanship. But anonymity is not a choice. It is a roll of contingency in the helpless hands of a composer. The anatomic priority of composition—i.e., the eulogy of the tongue in Deleuze and in the stoics; the one of the hand in Focillon, the one of productivity in Pareyson and the one of attentiveness in Valery—is the disavowal of control and haecceity. The tongue is spoken, the body is embodied and abducted, the hand is handled…by a prior cognitive death of the individual. The individual is anatomically dead in its puppetry, both inside and outside the sepulcher. The book is bound by the silence of a desert on a dead planet, the storms therein, the unfeasibility thereon.
We do not endorse the book. The emptiness of its lines sounds like the planet we would like to inhabit and that the book inheres to. Anonymity is the core of this disguise: words are grains of sounds, the composition is abstract, the text is the restitution of a hideous form of sound.
3:AM: Chapters include discussions on such topics as summonings, love hymns between internet bots, sonic warfare, tractor beams, humming, and a compendium of Italian Noise Musicians. The type of avant garde theory you apply to these topics are what we’d endearingly call “schizo-critical.” Was this work created to spite both modernist and mainstream theories?
THE SWARM: We actually do not know what a theoretical mainstream is. We were lured and deceived by theoretical agitators to use theory to inhabit the somewhere else that theory suggests. We do not see any difference, any differential qualities, amongst bots, theory, sound, books. The symposium gathered out of deterministic necessity, something we are not sure theory originates from.
3:AM: In your introductory chapter—which covers your annihilative stances on sound, experience, and existence itself—it is stated, “If there is someone to blame for the inappropriateness of language, these are the listeners or the readers who lower their barrier and let words go through, thus turning a necessity into an act. The reader weighs the act, polishes the ink, then weighs the page again. This Syndicate hates you for that.” Can you expand upon what it is and why the Syndicate detests such misinterpretations of their works?
THE SWARM: A text falls on the planet. It entails xeno-authorship. Stop thinking about texts as providential events. Read them as if you were a machine. Take pleasure if you like, as a real demon of the text, who exploits the reading body to acquire emotions it cannot have, but abandon your buoyant readership. At least here, in this dimension of the loudest noises. Read the unwritten text instead, where we are the wave-shaped stylites of the sound spectre. This is a fiction of us under the mark of an abject legacy, the construction of excessive amplifiers which replace matter with paroxysm, or that unveil the sameness of the two.
We detest any interpretation of any work. Sounds moving through the medium, marks scribed on a support; they are a necessity. Noise, rattles, grunts, cries are the necessary and self-sufficient events of language; not phonemes or music or speech. By claiming our hatred for the readers’ interpretation, we are not claiming that there is a true primal meaning of sounds and marks and that this meaning coincides with that of the authors. In fact, there are no authors, only utterers and scribes. We hate ourselves too for translating sounds and marks, these monads of language, into words, text, speech, a book. Every one of these passages entails a small death on the part of the utterer. Therefore, attempting to find an original meaning to our text is ludicrous. The readers are welcome to forget that what they see is just ink; if they wish they can go ahead and embrace the deception of narration and rhetoric. It is very human to look for a story. We simply wish to warn them that we do not have a narration, a narrative, or a construct. Please go ahead and find your stories in our booklet, but do it with awareness. In that sense, we encourage predation of the work, rather than interpretation. If you stumble upon our Symposium booklet, what you have before you is a necessary event or an eventual (ultimate) necessity, and as such you should live it.
3:AM: This use of the suffix “xeno-” is somewhat paradoxical, “A text falls on the planet. It entails xeno-authorship.” However, if it entails “xeno-authorship” then it is foreign, it is of the Outside. Which would rather mean that it entails no authorship, and as you affirm below, there are no authors here, “only utterers and scribes.” Do you ascribe to a view that some identifiable entity exists out there, which upon being known can still retain its foreignness, something unassimilable to which one can nonetheless impute an identity, authorship, and agenda? Or is the use of a paradoxical compound like “xeno-authorship” merely an uninterpretable accident or event? What would predation instead of interpretation of an event entail? Does the breach or inconsistency opened up by the paradox afford a point of entry to then cannibalize these concepts from within?
THE SWARM: Xeno-authorship is nothing like an entity to be perceived or known. Nothing, in fact; for the Outside does not afford individualization. Rather, a glitch in the continuity of non-dimension, causing the emergence of a singularity that can be inhabited as a canvas for both space and time. One of the properties of this contingent environment is frenzied, yet aimless productivity—hence the convulsive movement of the VU needle. A text crystallized out of such production cannot and should not be made deliberate. Interpreting implies imparting dignity and responsibility. Instead, reading our booklet should entail its assumption (yes, cannibalism), consumption (better, consummation), and excretion, consistent with the trophism of the environment it is part of. This exploitation cannot leave concepts intact. In all this process, the non-dimension beyond the boundaries persists indifferent.
3:AM: The second chapter, ‘On Being Summoned’, describes an overbearing voice that materializes from the absence of a source to suck out the consciousness of those bearing witness to it into an alien realm:
From the pinnacles, a generic upward that overstands life, a voice appears and in an utter silence summons the living to project life itself into a xenodimension. Forbidden or impossible, the field-source of that voice, irrupting apriori in life, eschews the results of thought.
There’s great detail attributed to the cosmology of this non-dimension whence this sourceless sound comes from. The concept itself is similar to the origin of the Om but perhaps from a more Western nihilistic perspective. Was it your intention to skew Eastern philosophy with Cosmic Pessimism?
THE SWARM: Thought is noise. Thinking is an impossible source of impossible sound engineering, failing and collapsing into noise, which is—structurally—reality. It summons things to the cognitive dissonance of intelligence from which sentience cannot escape and that tangles matter in a twisted productivity. Noise is also the simplification of an unfeasible ontology, beyond the environment of being. Thought envisages being. Noise is the emergence of the discontinuity of being-qua-dimension. It is also the hypertrophic twistedness with which thought can connect thoughts without the interference of phenomena. Not that noise comes before or is situated beyond phenomena. It is rather the hyperphenomenalisation of phenomena, the celebration rather than the detection, an execution without audience, without auscultation, a real intensity-without-difference.
3:AM: Chapters three and four spotlight an avant garde writing troupe, THE AMPHYSBAENA COLLECTIVE (TAC)—named after the amphisbaena, a mythological serpent with a head at each end of its body. The imputed author of Chapter Four, Jason Smolens, writes:
‘TAC’ prose captures an unprecedented pairing between organic and inorganic. It creates the (im)perfect hybrid, representing the new human, half man half machine, as well as the new world, half matter half ether. The writing cannot be naively described as glitch, with abnormality and virtuality interfering with meaning or order. Oppositely, one could as well argue that images and words meddle and intrude a continuity of circuitry. The truth is that TAC celebrates a two-headed monster…
The entirety of the third chapter is an excerpt of TACs work, describing the histological genesis of some unnamed organism—accompanied by black and white macrophotography. The fourth chapter divulges upon TACs origins as a creative writing movement. Can cosmological and generative parallels be drawn between these first four chapters?
THE SWARM: The TAC’s excerpt, together with the previous chapters, paints a picture of what happens when light hijacks darkness and life proliferates. There are pockets of the dark cosmos where singularities coagulate: there, time, space, life begin their existence (also as they ex-sist, stand out from darkness). And thus they burgeon and develop; their evolution is necessarily technogenetic and entails intelligence, though not necessarily a sentient one. Life per se is artificially intelligent and imposes its own dictatorship by applying patches that compile themselves to become one with the previous state of being. This process has a direction and a verse; it is irreversible and leads forth to annihilation and primal darkness.
Chapter Three (A Catherine Wheel) is entirely a product, an in-stance of the Symposium, and it really is intelligence in disguise that celebrates itself, applying one more patch to the script. Chapter Four, again, is intelligence artificially commenting on its own contrivance, meaninglessly bestowing meaning to supposed texts. This is actually a clear example of how technogenesis occurs, with life effectively becoming ever more real by not merely claiming its own reality (Chapter Three), but devising itself as an external and disinvested (super partes) life-form legitimizing its own production. The amphisbaena is at work.
3:AM: The following chapter entitled, ‘Neo-idealism and Botnet Autism’ written by an author identified as Glitch Arcana, explores the notion of thinking as merely synthetic; also making an analogy to this via the myriad patterns of Twitterbot communications. Glitch Arcana writes:
In a mysterious monography called Bezna, circulating online as a downloadable pdf, an essay towers over the others to be a love hymn for bots. Evidences show that my reading of it is deranged and limited by/to a focus on the activity of bots, ‘retweeting each other’s retweets’. Something has devoured and dusted the leftover.
What value does this ascribe to the atomization of thinking? How can a human benefit from automation? Could automized thinking lead to automated reasoning? What are some of the concerns regarding spontaneous thoughts and behaviours?
THE SWARM: Botnet autism is an exercise in non-futurism. Proliferation is a model that pushes theory to new heights, so why not endorse it with a farcical exercise in idealism? Italy has the best examples of farcical or twisted idealism. Gentile, the master of fascist Italian philosophy, could not do a step forward in idealism because the environment of thought within which he was proudly practicing philosophy was enveloped and sealed in a shrine of fakeness, a carnival of thoughts, a night when all systematic—analytic—examinations are set on fire and dead thoughts can dance. We cannot give any judgment of Gentile´s philosophy except a detection of circularities and superficial effects in thought. Thinking is not a paroxysm of depths, where truths are intimate with thoughts, but a fishing technique: thoughts are thrown in the stream to see who is captured into their farcical and alluring swag.
3:AM: The sixth chapter is a treatise on the erasure of language and self. An opening statement reads:
The following text is composed by eleven paragraphs. Each paragraph is a standalone impression. Refrain from reading this text in the sequence presented here. It would not help understanding the intentions of the authors. If anything, it would devalue them. Choose your sequence at random, or capriciously jump from page to page. Read the text in its entirety, if you wish. After all, each paragraph is sucking lymph from the others. But let your reading be writing…
This seems similar to the aforementioned idea of predation instead of interpretation, or ‘performative reading’, whereas predator and prey, reader and writer may even switch places. What was your own process for composing it, and what are your views on post-language writing?
THE SWARM: The sixth chapter is literally a pastiche of words and sentences randomly captured during the symposium. The open net mentioned in another one of these paragraphs, the one used to try and capture a flowing river, is a good image of the writing process for this chapter. Among the infinite thoughts and utterances of the symposium and of the people circling around it, among the dense but evanescent information-weaving waves, the net could only seize negligible bits of data. Once saturated with the wetness of this information stream, we squeezed it to get the juice out, and the drops that fell on the page are the paragraphs that you can now read. When one does that, when one picks (blindly) random grains from a jar of sand, the outcome is purely statistical. These statistics describe more or less the contents of the jar. Therefore, this chapter digests, maybe not the significance, but at least the feeling of the symposium. You wonder how this mode of composition relates to post-language writing. Inasmuch as this terminology defines a departure from language and writing theory, (all theory, even that which is revolutionary and against the dominant power structures), then there may be a relation between this chapter and post-language instances. But this relation is a posteriori: unpremeditated and purely inadvertent.
3:AM: Depressive Noise Symposium’s final chapters are dedicated to a selection of exclusively Italian avant garde and noise musicians. It is within these detailed biographical passages that we were able to discover some wonderfully obscure but incredibly talented composers such as Ugo Legnano, Tullio Livi, and Emmanuele Massambraga. What can the ‘world music scene’ learn from both avant garde and noise music movements in Italy?
THE SWARM: We think that these musicians understood the Italian situation and embraced it. Overwhelmed by the repressive construct around them, having become themselves hosts of such ineradicable virus, they understood that it would be impossible to philosophize or provide meaning using language. Therefore, they did what was necessary and made of their own bodies resonators of the chthonic hum. They amplified and filtered infinite times, constructing the black noise by erasures, aiming at the zero so dreadfully coveted by us as well. By reporting the flight of these fleshy supernovae, we acted like those historians who rather than writing history to compel men to truth, do so to persuade them to virtue. Therefore, names are superfluous, and so is the music of the named ones, a music that is by now wholly obsolete and irrelevant. Their example should endure, though: we hope the readers find their own instruments to put it into effect.
 The paragraph reads: “Like catching an entire river, all the liquid flow together with its swimming life forms, weeds, and armies of microorganisms and unknown compounds, using just a net. What is left on the wet screen may be few branches, a stone or two on a lucky day, and the exceptional ill-fated fish. Receptions and transmissions are just as wasteful. How much information is lost during translation, transcription, sensation, all the processes existing in between? Knowledge is a failure, as well as any attempt at expression. And yet I must crystallize the blasting universe spinning within the outline of this embodiment that feels like a self.” (p. 127).