«Listening to deathly voices in the dark, from Quixote's moment on the hillside onwards, technologics has suggested, to those who want to listen to its broadcasts, a new, dynamic way of understanding literature – that is, of understanding what it is to write, who (or what) writes, and how to read it. Where the liberal-humanist sensibility has always held the literary work to be a form of self-expression, a meticulous sculpting of the thoughts and feelings of an isolated individual who has mastered his or her poetic craft, a technologically savvy sensibility might see it completely differently: as a set of transmissions, filtered through subjects whom technology and the live word have ruptured, broken open, made receptive. I know which side I'm on: the more books I write, the more convinced I become that what we encounter in a novel is not selves, but networks; that what we hear in poems is (to use the language of communications technology) not signal but noise. The German poet Rilke had a word for it: Geräusch, the crackle of the universe, angels dancing in the static.»
In last weeks Guardian, Tom MacCarthy promotes his upcoming novel “C” with a fascinating reflection on writing, technology and melancholia. By quoting literary critic Laurence Rickels, he elucidates the idea that each technological device thought of as a prosthesis in Freudian terms embodies an absence or loss: “every point of contact between a body and its media extension marks the site of some secret burial”. McCarthy traces this notion back to Alexander Bell who lost a brother in his adolescence: “As a result of this, he made a pact with his remaining brother: if a second one of them should die, the survivor would try to invent a device capable of receiving transmissions from beyond the grave – if such transmissions turned out to exist. Then the second brother did die; and Alexander, of course, invented the telephone.” That the dead can be detectable in airwaves via wireless devices is still widespread today, as can be observed in the 3 CD-set “Okkulte Stimmen – Mediale Musik” with recordings of “unseen intelligences” 1905-2007. McCarthy takes James Joyce’s novel “Finnegans Wake” as a literary example of “a long radio-séance, with the hero tuning into voices of the dead via a radio set at his bedside, or, perhaps, inside his head.” As Joyce scholar Jane Lewty suggests, the “hero” might even be the radio set itself. McCarthy concludes, that the literary work can be comprehended “as a set of transmissions, filtered through subjects whom technology and the live word have ruptured, broken open, made receptive. I know which side I’m on: the more books I write, the more convinced I become that what we encounter in a novel is not selves, but networks; that what we hear in poems is (to use the language of communications technology) not signal but noise. The German poet Rilke had a word for it: Geräusch, the crackle of the universe, angels dancing in the static.”Tom McCarthy is not only a writer but also an artist who occasionally sets up art projects connected to his ‘semi-fictitious organisation’ called the International Necronautical Society. In this video he talks about a broadcasting project for a Swedish art gallery. More information about him can be achieved over his webpage “surplus matter“. Also worth reading is Zadie Smith’s comparison of the two novels “Netherland” by Joseph O’Neill and Tom McCarthy’s “Remainder” which is a stunning meditation on reality in a postmodern life that is a good read along with the much-hyped “inception” movie about dreamstates becoming reality.
Come per l'evento londinese ispirato all'Orphée, anche nell'evento svedese tutto ruota intorno alla trasmissione via radio di messaggi di natura oracolare, poetica. Nel testo di Bick - incredibile coincidenza - appare il riferimento a una raccolta, pubblicata dall'editore tedesco Supposé, di "voci" riferite a una tradizione occultistico-spiritistica che da oltre un secolo pretende di poter stabilire un contatto con l'al di là, vuoi con l'uso di "intermediari" umani, vuoi, più recentemente, sfruttando come interfaccia proprio la tecnologia della radio. Si tratta della cosiddetta psicofonia, la presunta capacità di catturare la voce degli spiriti dei defunti direttamente sul nastro dei registratori o con l'aiuto di ricevitori sintonizzati su frequenze appartentemente libere. La coincidenza di cui parlavo è legata a una storia e un documento sonoro davvero eccezionali che ho recuperato proprio in questi giorni da uno dei miei cassetti e si riferiscono alle attività di uno "studioso" di parapsicologia italiano che una quindicina d'anni fa ha avuto modo di incrociare il nostro piccolo gruppo di appassionati di radioascolto evoluto. Ma non mi sembra il caso di sottoporre adesso la storia all'attenzione dei pochi lettori che mi seguono. Restate, è il caso di dire, sintonizzati.