terre thaemlitz writings

Synthetic Pleasures 2
- Terre Thaemlitz

The following text was published as the liner notes to the compilation Synthetic Pleasures 2 (US: Caipirinha Productions, 1997). Although I consider this a rather inocuous text - my attempt to be accessible and bubbly as it were - it has been the target of an unusual amount of criticism by such major publications as The Wire and Option. I see this as indicative of music journalism's aversion to anyone - particularly a producer or label - who calls into question bougeoise liberal musicology. I also thought it was interesting that nobody picked up on the fact that the text is in many ways a critique on the Synthetic Pleasures project as a whole.


When Caipirinha Productions began contacting producers for inclusion in this second volume of the Synthetic Pleasures series they quickly realized they were dealing with a gang of audio thugs hell-bent on representing the bleeding edge of nerd audio experimentation. It was Caipirinha's job to reconcile the disjunctive visions of the producers with a concept of audience, involving much discussion and emergency listening sessions. If Vol.1 was about an omniscient view of humans "rediscovering the sacred as we become the gods of our new, synthetic realities," it soon became evident that Vol.2 is about questioning the accessibility of these realities.

Whereas partaking in even the most commonplace synthetic experience of slipping into $25 jeans (as an expression of a sublimated desire to slip into an identity promised by advertising) involves a cost tantamount to two weeks pay for the manual laborers who stitched them together, then down in the "global village" marketplace just how accessible is that personal V.R. body suit and matching temperature controlled weightless anecoic IMAX chamber contained within a free-falling NASA training jet everyone is talking about? Because, quite frankly, 3-DO does not do, and all the bits Sega and Nintendo cram into their game systems still do not engage reality any more than Pong.

Perhaps behind all the talk of our engagement of a cyber-lifestyle, what is at issue is not the accessibility of the technologies themselves, but the accessibility of a concept of participation in material processes of technological development which remain unquestionably alien to the majority of people. But what necessitates this need for conceptual identification with the alien? Global post-industrial capitalism is not a monolithic conspiracy (is it?), but it does require our repeated participation in rather abstract exchanges which constitute our senses of personal identity (commodity fetishism) - exchanges which must maintain momentum or result in socio-economic collapse. Perhaps as a survival tactic, we perpetuate our circumstance by learning to desire immersion in constructed environments. We learn to believe in the promise of personal transformation. We are encouraged to lose ourselves in socially constructed technologies which speak so directly to our personal experiences that, in a rather ironically Marxist promise of resolution, we finally overcome the transference of human essence (labor) into material possessions and reunite with ourselves on the other side of the screen in a harmonious communion of human experience.

The im(media)te result is an incredible desire to declare our presence at the eve of this communion. A declaration which perhaps does not elucidate circumstance as much as reference a sense of lack.