samedi, novembre 01, 2008

Affect and UnIntimacy at LeRex

When I got home last night, around 6h00, I found myself unable to get to sleep right away (maybe thanks to the all the vodka+redbulls), so I watched a bit of TV, read a bit, and then finally fell asleep at when the sun was already shining through the clouds.

So it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that I got up at around 13h00 today. I spent most of the afternoon re-preparing my Internal Review Boards protocol. As it turns out, you’re supposed to mash all of your work into one protocol, whereas I had submitted one for my nightclub fieldwork and one for my daytime interviews. Anyway, it took longer than I had expected to put it all together, so I spent a good part of the afternoon working on that.

After making dinner and watching a bit of TV, I wrapped up a bit of email replies, some reading, prepared the assignment for my English students, and then headed off to Le Rex for an event featuring DJs from the Kompakt label. I had been really uncertain about whether I really had the energy to go out, but finally I was glad that I did.

Kompakt Label Night @ Le Rex

I got to the club at about 1h00 after heading over on a Vélib bike. Already, there was a massive, massive lineup. In fact, there was a massive cash lineup, and a massive guest-list lineup. Well, hell.

I got into the guest-list lineup. I was on the “reduced rate” list, which I got through the Com2Daddy website (well worth checking out if you party in Paris). The deadline to get in was 2h00, so I was pretty confident I would get in under the wire. However, the guest-line line was still pretty long, and latecomers were doing the typically French/Italian/Spanish thing of cutting in line and clustering near the front of the line in a confused mess.

As I was packed in the throng, waiting to get in, I overheard a guy and a girl behind me chatting about their taste in music and recounting their most memorable nights out. I was struck by how detailed their knowledge was of DJs in the minimal techno/house scene; back in Chicago or Toronto, you would only have the depth of knowledge among a small group of aficionados, rather than two random persons meeting by chance in a lineup of easily 100 people.

I was also struck by the way in which they talked about the emotional character of their attachments to the music they liked. The woman, especially, went on and on about Ricardo Villalobos, claiming that his music “gets into my head” and overwhelms her. “The last time I saw him, I didn’t know whether to dance or cry or scream or whatever. I was thinking, what do you want from me?”

This is all really interesting for me because all of her accounts of the effect of his music on her were narratives that started with intense levels of excitement that where polyvalent or ambivalent. It wasn’t clear to her—even in hindsight—whether that excitement was euphoric, distressing, shattering, or enraging. Of course, if she loves Villalobos’s music as much as she does, the excitement his music incites in her must turn into some sort of pleasure more often than not. But it’s nonetheless possible that just the experience of coming undone (or being made to come undone) is a kind of pleasure.

Yes, this notion of the pleasure of coming undone has long been theorized in psychoanalytic streams of thought (especially that of Lacan), where there is a distinction made between plaisir (pleasure) and jouissance (bliss). Plaisir is the obvious kind of pleasure that is narcissistic and reinforces the ego, while jouissance is the sort of self-shattering experience that destroys the ego and makes you dissolve into “bliss.” But what I’m talking about here is more like Jouissance-Lite™. That is, having an experience that pulls you apart a little bit, just enough to be energized with the possibility of coming back together differently, and just enough to feel some relief from the pressure to repeat yourself (to be yourself and not someone else).

Anyway, I still need to develop this out more theoretically, but there’s something to be said for the pleasure of coming undone just a little, and what it does for the daily life you resume the next morning.

Another interesting moment I had in line was with a tallish guy standing next to me. Earlier on in the line, he had actually been speaking to the same woman behind me that I had been listening to. He asked, in a heavy English accent, whether he was in the right line. They had a short, friendly conversation about how long the line was, how excited everybody was to get in for the Kompakt label night, and how annoying the line-cutters were. As it turns out, he was Russian, but had grown up in London, England.

A few minutes later, the jostling of the line brought him in line with me, to my left. At the front of the line, the bouncers started calling out for people with presale tickets to come to the front of the line. The guy next to me looked confused, and then turned to me and asked for a clarification.

Clearly, I was still in Berlin clubbing mode, which means “avoid speaking English in line, and avoid being seen talking with anybody that doesn’t look/sound ‘native’.” This was apparently so because I answered the guy in French, despite the fact that he was clearly Anglophone and had trouble understanding French. I was polite and I took care to explain the situation clearly in French, but I was also doing my best to prevent any sort of connection in the lineup that might create some uncomfortable obligation at the door. This was certainly operating at some reflexive/instinctual level, since I had already heard that he was on the guestlist of the sound guy for the club. He wasn’t going to get turned away and neither would I.

I realized this once I got in the club and felt really bad about it. Later that night, I passed him by in the crowd. I made eye contact, put my hand on his arm, smiled and asked him how he was doing. We didn’t really talk that much, since he had drinks in his hand and I had to pee really bad, but at least there was a moment of contact to make up for my long moment of coldness in line.

Oh, and one more thing. As I was slowly inching forward in line and realizing that this was taking longer than I had expected, I gave some thought to calling my friend Molly, who works as a PR / booking person at the club. If she was still upstairs in her office, she might be willing to come down and bring me up to the front of the line, like she did last week. It took a while to punch the SMS message into my phone, and by the time I was getting ready to hit “send,” the people in front of me were let into the club and I looked up to see Molly heading into the club with two friends of mine and one of the DJs for the evening.

I called out her name and she looked over to me, recognized me, smiled and gave me this look that said, “There you are! What are you doing waiting in line when I was right here?” Next time, I’ll just call ahead, methinks. Anyway, we exchanged kisses and then she headed into the club.

When I got to the doorman, he was all smiles and friendliness. He looked me up on the Com2Daddy list, but then smiled again at me and down the stairway, “1 person!” Notably, he didn’t say “1 person, reduced rate,” which is what he should’ve said. So instead the woman at the ticket booth gave me a free pass and I got in without paying anything. I’m not sure what happened there, but I think Molly said something to the doorman before she went in.

Oh right, the DJs? Here’s the rundown:

Jennifer Cardini:
thankfully did a minimal set (rather than her less lovely electro sets), which was occasionally marred by some technical glitches (or bad mixing)
Reinhard Voigt:
very good live set. I hesitate to say “excellent” because he was really fond of high-pitched tones and Roland-303-style “acid” lines, which got old really fast. A proper minimal set, though.
Tobias Becker:
Great set, especially at the beginning. His first few tracks completely re-created the sound and ambience of my Berlin summer. The same sort of driving basslines, swinging house rhythms, sparse textures and clicky-glitchy sound samples. The set went south after a while, and my friends left, scandalized, when he dropped Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” I didn’t mind, but I left shortly afterward as well, around 5h30.

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