Day 21/22: The Footage

nine_inch_nails_cover_col_tif_big.jpg

Ok, this I will definitely count as the post for day 21. This is mostly for those of you who have read Pattern Recognition. I have recently been following the strange occurences surrounding the release of the new Nine Inch Nails album. It will be a conceptual album set in a post-apocalyptic US in the future–the title will be Year Zero.

Now, it is true, I have been known to enjoy the Trent quite a bit. This post, however, concerns more the marketing strategy surrounding the release, which seems to be singularly geared toward viral and guerilla marketing in ways that bear striking resemblances to the distribution of the “footage” in Pattern Recognition. Nine Inch Nails are presently on world tour for their last album (With Teeth–very nice use of a brilliant and long “instrumental” track from that album in the 300 trailers, by the way!). While on tour they seem to strategically “lose” things in various countries all over the world, such as a flash drive in a bathroom in Portugal, which “leaked” the first song from the new album. This song has now been globally “pirated” and is playing on rock stations all over the world. In other countries they have lost other items such as pictures, artwork, special internet addresses that lead to strange info, as well as other flash drives that include partially recorded songs as well as messages. The item that surfaced today (after a show in Manchester, apparently) is a flash drive with a partial song as well as an encrypted phone number that, when called, leads to a very strange (and frankly disturbing) wiretap recording/message.

 ***EDIT: the ways in which secret messages within this form of marketing are usually hidden is by means of the now relatively well-known process of steganography (also alluded to in Gibson’s novel), which hides messages, or any other content in .bmp, .wav and .au files.–nice, more sophisticated and actually effective cyberpunk version of the old “playing the Black Sabbath album backwards” trick***

***EDIT II: Just to give you an idea of what is going one, this is one of the found images that were also hidden files:

nin-marketing.jpg

Apparently this image was hidden together with the song “Wretched,” which includes the lyrics:

The clouds will part and the sky cracks open and god himself will reach his fucking arm through, just to push you down, just to hold you down

 ***

***EDIT III: here a still from another version of things that have been leaked, namely spectral analyses of songs, in this case the song “My Violent Heart,” which, within the context of the leaks above, shows within the spectral analysis of the song a hand that slowly reaches down. Here a still taken from the moment this happens (had to post a thumb–sorry, the larger picture did not show the hand on the right side, as it did not fit into the blog window–haven’t found out how to crop pictures correctly yet–the thing on the right is the hand that appears in the analysis):

 myviolentheart1.jpg

*** 

I am quite interested in this kind of marketing that is so truly global and involves the consumer so deeply in the mission of the product that it is simply fascinating. The product is practically only secondary, as the primary transaction is in knowledge that is traded even without specific connection to the actual object, i.e. a transaction built upon affective/immaterial labor. The transaction has on the surface an appearance of democratic participation from which it leads us down into the abyss of totalitarianism and constructed desires within consumerism, as well as an economy that inreasingly operates based upon knowledge that is entirely exteriorized with respect to the knower (as Lyotard would have it–i.e. knowledge only used for exchange without even needing an object to attach it to, or implicating the knower no more deeply in the process than the degree to which a carrier is affected by a virus).  Sometimes Baudrillard’s writings on the hyperreal are really quite fitting. This is precisely what Gibson means when he writes that contemporary capitalism’s primary goal is not to get people to buy something. Much more important is the dissemination and the recycling of information about the product.

So now you can write me and ask if this post is a functional part of this mission of capitalism, or if it is indeed an attempt to launch a critical analysis of the process. Then you can ask if there is even a difference between the two things, or if the latter automatically becomes the former. Then you can ask whether or not the fact that I am adding precisely these sentences (yes, the ones you are reading right now) make this post an exercise in irony, which then might beg the question whether or not there is such as thing as irony, or political satire within an immaterial economy of the hyperreal. Then you can ask yourself if even asking yourself, or me, these questions is part of this economy, as it trains your brain to be receptive to these issues, making resistance and critical awareness of it only one further motor within the logical and ideological workings of this productive machine turning out other subject-machines (yes, us). Then you will most likely turn on your white-noise machine, bite a hole into your own skull and attempt to disappear by crawling into it.

By the way, here the found phone number (call again if it is busy–message is about 2 minutes long): 216.333.1810

Enjoy your life if you can figure out which part of it is still yours.

sleep well

P.S.: just for further illustrations of the new rhizomatic, immaterial system of accumulation, see some of the ways various found objects are linked to weird-ass websites (much like the songs above are being linked to relatively lame images of hands–these, however, show up again here: http://iamtryingtobelieve.com/).  Interestingly this includes discussions of terrorism, which also should lead you here (also part of the NIN campaign): http://anotherversionofthetruth.com/  Look at the picture that opens for a minute and enjoy it. Then press the left button of your mouse, hold down and move the cursor–took me a while to find this out. ***EDIT IV: when you have cleared away the surface picture you can click on the bottom slogan, which will lead you to a forum. Once you get to that forum, go to the section “violent resistance.” Well, terrorism doesn’t just make money for Halliburton.***

Aaah, I love the smell of the cooling ashes of democratic potential built upon the new technologies of communication and knowledge exchange in the morning.

***EDIT V: Ok, instead of a new post I will just continue to add to this one in order to amplify the Pattern Recognition effect. It would be quite mean to write about all this and not give you the mp3 track that was initially leaked. Here the link: http://0at.org/media/nine_inch_nails_my_violent_heart.mp3

If you go to the forum as explained above there are also a few mp3s to be found. Apparently, at exactly 2:42 into the “opalo” track there is morsecode embedded into the mp3, which is what people are looking into now. Apparently there is also more static at the end of the track, the spectral analysis of which reveals this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benmattingly/390376128/

Just FYI: seems as though Trent has hired a marketing company called “42 Entertainment” to do some of this stuff. The same company also did some similar marketing for Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker album. This ups the strategy a little, however. Even the new NIN website includes “finding hidden stuff” functions, such as pictures of Trent during recording sessions. ***

***EDIT VI: the anotherversionofthetruth.com website to which you can find the link above seems to be the entry into the network of websites involved in this. If you peel away the surface image you get to the links that lead you to other websites. The initial info about this website was apparently “publicized” via Tour T-Shirts that on which certain letters were highlighted. People put this together to get the web address–et voila!

Here are some other websites that are connected to the whole thing (in regards to revolutionary chic, note slogans on these websites that oppose capitalist/media/government repression [while selling records] such as “passive resistance is suicide” and “I kill people…so should you”):

www.bethehammer.net

www.105thairbornecrusaders.com

www.churchofplano.com

***

***EDIT VII: here some more website that are part of this all:

www.hollywoodinmemoriam.org

www.artisresistance.com

www.securebroadcastinformatics.com

Note the topics used for marketing here: terrorism, anti-capitalism, patriotism, religion and the random use of words such as “Iran,” “muslim,” etc. Quite troubling, really.

BTW: one way all these sites are linked to gether is via numbers that refer to bible verses. If you, for example, go to anotherversionofthetruth.com, peel away the surface image and then click around in the lower right part of the screen for a while a small, blue highlighted number will appear in the bottom middle of the screen: 24.10.8. This is a verse from he Bible and reads: “They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction given by idols is no better than wood!” This is actually an interesting verse to embed in that particular site.

***

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9 Comments

  1. Sleep well? This is exactly the type of shite that keeps me awake at night…you’re just mean man.
    Got 15 minutes left on the Drive’s “thursday Artist Portrait” of Pink Flyod, so having finished my own plug for the sake of irony/complicity, i’ll attempt to address the footage.

    Though not a huge fan of NIN nails or calling creppy phone messages myself, i’m still down with your analysis until you claim:
    The transaction has on the surface an appearance of democratic participation from which it leads us down into the abyss of totalitarianism and constructed desires within consumerism, as well as an economy that inreasingly [sic] operates based upon knowledge that is entirely exteriorized with respect to the knower (Day 21: The Footage).

    I’m wondering if we oughtn’t look beyond the object and its relation to the knower, or even the knowledge itself. Instead, it is about the performance of consumption. Borrowing a ton from Francis Ferguson’s _Pornography: The Theory_ I suggest that it all seems less bleak, if perhaps infinitley creepier, if instead of lamenting the “abyss” that opens underneath the countless, contentless shit that we buy, we attempt to hold to the solace, dare i say it, the jouissance of consumption. The act of gaining knowledge such as you’re simultaneously engaged in analyzing/disseminating here about NIN nails is best seen as participating, performing. A whole other intensely complicated issue arrises here about the “revolutionary chic” employed by NIN that serves to make this particular performance–NIN, and your/our/my pariticipation–into a rarified fetishized type of consumption, but that’s the point. Such exclusivity, rarification, and subdued threat is rather exciting, provides a ton of affect, and is far more satifying than a CD i listen to by myself. That my desires are constructed by such a tautological performance of knowledge and knowledge of performance may very well be absolutely true, but it doesn’t mean that the libidinal release of performing consumption is necessarily empty, does it? God i hope not, I just bought two Pink Floyd albums on Amazon!

  2. On turning the my back to your blog briefly because I started teaching again, you made three posts – nice:-)

    I quess it’s a new form of paganism that is to blame that people are so susceptible to messages that pretend that there was actually something to be found out yet. Quite intrigueing.

    Just a brief comment, I am following the trail now myself.

  3. Wasn’t Pink Floy also famous for (allegedly) including such things on their albums?

    I do see the point that there may indeed be a way to think of the knowledge exchange involved in consumption/marketing even as a means of stimulating at least a basic level of critical thought, meaning independent analysis and the craving for knowledge. In a way this kind of marketing even encourages the consumer to replicate the analyticial mode of critical theory, as one tries to follow the rhizomatic connections (as in the NIN case) but knows that their end is always capitalist accumulation. Now therein, however, lies the crux: is this really the same operation as critical analysis, even though it might logically resemble it? How do we account for the shift in interest in democratic participation that seems to follow Debord’s description of the spectacle. If you have had super-sparkly, energizing-sweet soda for a while water tastes bland. The same goes for the relationship between getting involved in super-sparkly pop-knowledge as opposed to political knowledge (e.g. remember us talking about American Idol being the world’s third largest democracy if one looks at the number of votes cast, whereas political voter turnout still drops?). So this is the reason for me to see a link between democratic participation and a kind of move toward totalitarianism: it is the deadening of one kind of democratic participation that becomes buried in another, more spectacular one that is also easier to understand (i.e. the complexity suggested by NIN rhizomatic marketing is not really complexity–they are easy links we can follow and still be excited to find new stuff, acting as though it is a complex mystery–global politics, on the other hand, is truly complex and trying to find out the links of that rhizome seems to be a lot less appealing to people–so again this seems to suggest that it is more about a simulation of democracy and participation in complexity and complex analysis that is the methadone to the dangerous heroin of critical thought.
    As far as affect goes, I totally agree with you. This kind of marketing includes a LOT more affect than traditional consumption, which is why Gibson’s description holds. The dissemination of information this way involves the subject on an even deeper level of jouissance than consumption. And even when it comes to consumption I believe we come back to our by now (since that independent study) standard discussions about desire and needs–i.e. the simulated nature of needs and desire still has no practical bearing on how we discuss them, as the theory of false needs absolutely makes no sense any more. The pleasure we get is as real as it gets. It is not ‘Real’ real, but if that’s as real as it gets then we might as well enjoy it. Now, this even seems to be extended when it comes to affective accumulation of capital and I am still not sure how exactly to think about this. Is this a way to include the rest of the subject in the production process and make it into a machine as Deleuze would have it, or does that discussion not even matter, as there is no real outside of the affect-machine relation anyway? I am still as confused as during our independent study, but maybe on a higher level? Maybe not.

  4. @ Jana: yeah, or it is some kind of quasi-religious system of determination that stands in the stead of the true complexity of our relation to global capitalism that has become so unmappable in its complexity that we actually prefer a centrally determining conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories actually comfort us these days. Paranoia has become the replacement of a complex system by a simplified system of hermeneutics, as it at least makes sense to the paranoiac as opposed to the decentralized systemic complexity of global capitalism. We like that kind of stuff (see Dan Brown’s success), as it is a lot harder to see through the rhizome of determinations that makes up local and especially global politics, than explaining everything by making reference to, say, a bunch of old dudes protecting the grail. Centralized explanations are also a source of affect these days. Not very postmodern of us! (I make this argument in a somewhat more fancy and longer version in my dissertation =) –I might post more on that at some point.)

  5. Please do! I have been thinking about this quite a bit, but I am lacking the instruments to put my finger on it.

  6. I might begin leaving flash drives with my syllabus and a picture of bert and ernie in bathroom stalls around UIC.

    May leak something in the 1st year writing office.

  7. Ha! That’s good
    Hey, just in case the department has not informed you yet: we just received the teaching assistantship award letters in our mailboxes, which we need to fill out and return in order to accept the offered positions. In case they are not sending you the forms, you might want to contact Tonia and ask her if you can mail/fax it–just so you don’t miss that deadline and end up sans job (as interesting as the idea of not having to teach a section of comp may seem =) ).

  8. Hey, thanks, I appreciate being apprised of developments. Tonia is sending the award letter to my unidsclosed government location.

  9. esto es genial.!!! ora pasense a mi metro kuidence…..nine inch nails es genial!!

    ♀♂


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