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The devious-cruising Rachel Withers, and assorted orphans

An Approach to the Core


Before you, the Reader, begin to digest this — this text, here — certain
observations about operating principles must be articulated and warnings
issued.

Most importantly, you will need to be advised and forewarned on the subject
of the Core. You will probably have some knowledge of the Core already,
since your curiosity regarding the artist Elizabeth Price's video work USER
GROUP DISCO (The Hall of Sculptures) (2009) has prompted you to broach
this text. You may already have viewed the work — more than once, it is
hoped! — or maybe are planning your visit to see it. You may also have seen
Price's preceding, four-minute-long video WELCOME (The Atrium) (2008), the
'lobby' through which a form of entry may be gained to USER GROUP DISCO
and the starting point of Price's current, definitively unfinished, project
dedicated to the exploration and analysis of the New Ruined Institute.

Therefore you anticipate certain flows of information, concerning (for instance)


Price's work material, her technical methods and structures, her decision
process and strategy; even, potentially, some discussion of ideology. You
may be wondering if advice on these issues will allow you some form of
access to the Core, some insight into its true positioning and its complex
bundle of values. You may positively feel a wish to explore its depths;
however, we must caution you regarding the sickening sweep of the descent,
and the possibility of instant destruction that attends the slide into the abyss
itself, the plunge down into the inmost recesses.

For the Core is not a strategic apex, a hidden formula, or some secret that
may be unmasked in the work's closing moments. You will probably
experience it, initially at least, as a delay, in the most general way possible —
not so much in the different meanings which delay can take, but rather in their
indecisive reunion. For the Core is not something that may directly be seen or
shown. Despite the apparent authority of Price's image-world: its sleekly
seductive monochromatic effects, its mesmerising graphic orchestration, in
which streams of text and tantalising glimpses of moving objects execute a
complex, enigmatic counterpoint; despite the felicity with which the video's
soundtrack converges with and diverges from the forms, textures, materials
and rhythms showing on the screen — despite this lustrous, steely grey
richness, this seemingly lavish excess of visuality, this combination of the
mechanical with the erotic, the Core is not, finally, made manifest on screen.

No! USER GROUP DISCO’s visual space is only deceptively uniform,


continuous and connected. We might go so far as to say that here,
approaching the Core, we do not live in a primarily visual world any more. We
understand it to be plural, heterogenous and contradictory. We feel it more
than we see it, like a low rumbling or a subterraneous hum, as it streams
through to us via auditory, proprioceptive and narrative as well as visual
channels. We imagine it to be vast in circumference and prodigious in depth;
but this is simply a symptomatic response to its real character: enveloping,
amorphous and nonmetric, it is a world of simultaneous relationships. Its
multi-dimensional space orientation simultaneously inspires awe, horror and
admiration. And we know it contains monsters: Price herself warns as much.

Come closer to the edge. Raise yourself up a little higher — hold on to the
grass if you feel giddy. Absorb the messages as they stream past, flaring
brightly then vanishing, clicking into view letter by letter, or springing onto the
screen, capitalised, like a shout, a red alert! Listen to the pulsing, vibrant,
threatening music; three themes, each one more uplifting, insistent and
coercive than the last. The support staff, not least Jem Noble, has done its
job.

These communications are not univocal but a chorus: the subject of the Core
is divided, decentred and process-oriented. It speaks in a multitude of
tongues. It is fluent in politics, philosophy and economics, in poetry, literature
and ironical coincidings. It mimics the voices of the celebrated, the respected,
the infamous and the insignificant: Poe, Borges, Melville and Adorno; 1980s
Norwegian popsters a-ha, or the distinguished Cleghorn Professor of
Management Studies, Henry Mintzberg. Nothing is held sacred. In the
embrace of the whirl comes an array of objects not limited to, and possibly
resembling, but not identical with:

a fibre-optic lamp
Aleksandr Rodchenko, Shukhov Tower (b/w photograph, 1929)
the Petsafe electronic pet feeder for your small dog or cat
László Moholy-Nagy's Light-Space Modulator of 1930
a manually-powered spherical drying device
Auguste Rodin's Danaide, 1885, and sundry other studies of the female nude
a plug-in facial spa — a great way to take care of your skin
a Barbara Kruger photo-text work, 1989
Man Ray: a rayogram made using an electric whisk, 1918
a plastic hubcap
a ceramic vase manufactured in the German Democratic Republic, circa 1979
a chromed executive desk toy, a fun stress reliever! (Rocking motion)
an object of African origin found by a Surrealist in a flea market in 1937
an artificial leg
high-quality satin-nickel finish goosenecks
a Batchelor, or Desiring, Machine and various Malic Moulds
a chocolate fountain
the Masters Golf Putting Machine Putt Returner (£8.47 exc. VAT)
Has Price chosen these artefacts or have they chosen Price? We cannot say.
You must talk to the media, not to the programmer. Simply observe them as
they swoop and slide past, both the texts and the objects. Watch how the
texts become objects, the objects texts. We are advised that all of this hails
from the past, from the terrible Twentieth Century, yet in USER GROUP
DISCO it seems that future things swim before us, as in outlines and
skeletons; all the past is somehow grown dim. The pile of debris grows
skyward. This storm is what we call progress. An indecipherable, urgent
message in some variant of Morse Code circles the rim of a ceramic teacup;
another orphan, adrift, spinning fleetingly before our eyes:dit-dit-dit, da-da-da,
dit-dit-dit… dit-dit-dit, da-da-da, dit-dit-dit…

However, we digress. You will now note how the technostructure activates the
decision processes; the work material is drawn into the vortex. Some
elements are preserved; they resurface relatively intact. Others sink
irretrievably. Price's own production is no exception. No! Over fifty hours of
video footage (the result of hundreds of hours of mostly solitary work,
positioning, lighting, locating, suspending, reversing, rotating, inverting,
examining and re-examining, shooting and re-shooting) has been cut,
processed and machined into place, absorbed and then thrown forth, to
produce User Group Disco's final fourteen-minute timespan.

Some have hinted that the Core is an apocalypse. Caught in its centrifuge,
what everything is for, changes. Might we state, instead, that the Core is a
repository of both distillation and ruin? That in it we may determine the
presence of both essence and debris, but that — if allegories are, in the realm
of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things — both may be reclassified
as one and the same? This may be a liberation: what once was indispensable
is rendered worthless junk, no longer demanding preservation, curatorship,
polishing or taxonomic display. Or it may be a curse: what once was
disposable is rendered sovereign and transcendent — it is re-categorised,
glossed, appreciated, cherished, enshrined, exalted — it enslaves!

But it will be clear by now that the Core goes beyond all such attempts at
description; it absorbs these primitive lightning bolts of logic. Encompassing
the flow of drives, material discontinuity, political struggle and pulverisation of
language, it demands participation and involvement in depth of the whole
being. It is permeated by unformed, unstable matter, by flows in all directions,
by free intensities. It practices live observability from the lowest level of
the kernel to high-level application constructs. It will not work as a
background. An
active being (although a non-human one) it neither builds nor creates
anything translatable into our language that can be "explained in translation".
Its images are projected at you. You are the screen. The images wrap around
you. You are its vanishing point.
And so, having established a provisional middle line in respect of the Core's
operating principles and having issued the necessary warnings, we may
permit you to read on.

Introduction