…screams of white noise automatically reloading the onslaught continues as possession trance is manifest. Believe you are possessed by a god or deity. Something other has entered you, nonhuman. It is the nonhuman we are now in communication with.
Noise artists and contemporary experiments in audiovisual performance offer us a means to communicate with the nonhuman, entering a world of hypnosis or ‘possession trance’. Audiovisual catharsis is achieved via light shows and noise, exploring what can be created with DIY electronics, technology, physical performance and strobe lighting.
Ryan Jordan (ryanjordan.org – his website will greet you with a blinding strobe, intense even in this screen-bound format) is a UK based artist working with such materials and concepts. I will admit now that I have never seen Ryan perform, so I cannot speak about his work from experience. However watching footage of his noise art performances gives us some idea of his work, albeit incredibly diluted – darkened rooms, black except for bursts of bright white strobes, flashing on and off with the piercing noise:
Live Ryan Jordan set @ Noise Corruption II London, on 07/09/2013
Noise art can be made in many ways, however Jordan specifically uses the direct amplification of electrical signals given off by objects and materials such as processed metals, derelict technology (old computers, microwaves etc), earth, rocks, and more. Wires are connected to these objects and materials, hooked up to speakers, and when an electric current is sent through them, noise bursts from the speakers. Other noise artists such as Merzbow (the name inspired by the dada artist Kurt Schwitter’s work Merzbau, meaning ‘art made from rubbish’) have explored numerous other composition processes, such as amplifying very quiet sounds to extreme volumes so as to distort them, etc.
Almost uniformly, the intention of noise art is that it is brutal, very loud and completely overwhelming. Merzbow reminds me of travelling on the tube or metro late at night; it’s quite empty, and the carriages are windy and rattling, and the tracks beneath you are screeching so loudly as you speed along under ground. All you can hear is the loud screeching carriage as you stare straight ahead at the dark window opposite, body swaying. It’s very easy to zone out to noise.
These situations in which you just sort of zone out… In noise and strobe art, they are amplified, often to states of to hypnosis and hallucination. When noise is combined with simultaneous visual stimuli in the form of strobe lighting, powerful sensations emerge in the people present. Complete immersion of the self can take place, both cathartic and hypnotising, a little bit terrifying, often hallucinatory. The purgative quality of possession trance is fully realised in the combination of repetitive electronic noise and strobes. An experience like this is precious; it is so unlike anything we would experience in day to day life. It is spiritual, yet also temporal; an earthly experience that explores the hidden systems of human perception, technological process and environmental phenomena. We are inclined to interpret these experiences as spiritual for their rarity and intensity. Noise artists like Jordan attempt to bring our subconscious to the awareness of our conscious reality. Bombarded with noise and strobes, our ego is killed, albeit temporarily, and we experience pure biological existence and perception, an ancient and primordial world. An openness is manifested.
Strobes make me feel very sick and panicky; they make me feel like I might pass out. There is huge power in something so simple as a light turning on, and off. The effect of exposure to repetitive flashing lights can create vivid visual hallucinations; close the eyes, and a world of colour and pattern emerges. In this way, noise art – when combined with strobes – is incredibly visual, though this aspect of the artwork is spontaneously created in us, by us. So the audience is inextricably part of it; we participate with the work on a very personal and inclusive level.
In researching this piece I have scoured Ryan Jordan’s website for more information, anything to subsidise and increase my understanding of his work; however in all honesty, I don’t feel I understand him any more than I did when I started. For me at least, it’s the kind of thing I will need to experience in order to understand; which is frustrating when trying to write about something, but perhaps an important thing to recognise. Crucially though, the art of noise and light seems to me to offer people a kind of wasteland to explore. This wasteland is made of space, colour and potential, but also nothingness, darkness; its essential purpose possibly being to break down inner and outer environments, in order to rebuild them. Following a cathartic experience like this, people are left with the feeling they have been both witness to and part of something important, affecting and real. The experience of being in contact with a deeper part of yourself.
“I always wanted to try LSD but after this performance, there is no need for it anymore.” (- Someone who was at the [Ryan Jordan] gig at Lothringer 13 Halle).
“…this abominable light-show and the sound of industrial breakdown
blasted out from the stage. The effect is mentally destabilising as you try and
process what you’re presented with. Then that lizard part at the back of your brain
takes over and you start to hear the throb of something behind the battery, the light
show stops blinding you and starts breaking down into jagged images that make you think
you can see the tracery of your own retina…” (– Charlie Bailey)