Brazil 2002

dj Spooky (aka Paul D. Miller)

From: "Paul D. Miller" (
Date: January 2002 11:43:45 -0500
Subject: Dj Spooky travel notes: São Paolo, Brazil: Future Megalopolis

Travel Journal - New Year's (Rio/Iquassu/São Paolo 3 weeks travel condensation: re - Brazil - accepted eclectic)

São Paolo, Morumbi section Jan3, 2002:
Marc Chagall Tower, 18th Floor: viewpoint: CD:DIR>phase transition:>>goto>open

"History - at best a conspiracy, not always among gentlemen, to defraud..."

-Thomas Pynchon

"A Community will evolve only when a people control their own communications"

-Franz Fanon

The towers of the city stretch away in every direction, and the basic metaphor is unending omnidirectional urban compression. Endless favela, endless humanity... it takes a couple of hours to drive across the city, but it's worth it. The sights are almost too much: there's the odd parrot that says the word "mother" ad infinitum on one corner... on another corner in Iguassu, a homeless child comes up to the car to ask not for money, but where I'm from... he asks where my face belongs... another corner has kids listening to "baile" music from the "funk balls" that are choreographed gang fights between rival favela gangs (the young men these days all are dying their hair like Goldie - bleached blonde super close cropped, platinum blonde skin-head look, the girls rock low cut skirts that are made of plastic and synthetic materials)... all of this on the corner... an update of Miles Davis's 70's album cover artwork... the kids have boom boxes, and that's about it.... its summer and the rainy season has kicked in... you can count on rain pretty much every afternoon after about 3pm... The Jardins section in the center of the city - red carpet, plush hotels, expensive restaurants... no kids on the corner... this is a city that never had a Baron Haussman like Paris or a Robert Moses like New York - architects of urban planning are a remote species here, almost as if from another world. The city sprang from the trade winds and found itself at the crossroads of north and south - a place where worlds collide and the sounds come from outside - dubbed versions of NYC hip hop and electro, reggae infused with afro beat for the Axe sound systems, live MC's who do not understand the words they speak - over rhythms like Dr. Dre's "Guess Who's Back?" glossalalia - many tongues, the language of hip-hop reduced for a moment to pure enunciation... all of this flows through the streets like water, or even better, like information - a "knowledge game" of the unconscious... the music... its eddies and currents reconfiguring the notion of ethnicity and identity in a stew of "anything goes...." >From the rooftop where I'm writing in Morumbi, the city stretches out, and it's a riddle of many dimensions: the circuit board patterns that dominate the Northern American urban landscape are confronted with the idea of the city as a generative syntax: each block regenerates another pattern, and alters the proportions of the buildings that surround it... the roads are almost labyrinthine - not in the Old European sense of places like Lisbon or Porto in Portugal (places that gave Brazil its early identity - it has moved far far far beyond them now....), but more like Lagos: urban planning at the whim of the IMF and World Bank, streets that have meaning as long as the current moment supports the currency of the project... after that, the money vanishes, the project stops, the road ends... the favela begins....

After the New Year, which Europe began as "E-Day" - the largest consolidation of currencies in history, the favela becomes another kind of temporary autonomous zone... Oscar Niermeyer on one hand, Greg Lynn's Deluezian "hyper-surface" on the other.... the Utopian dreams of the south translate into compression and sustained unplanned growth: that's the architecture of hyper-modern involution - think of it as a world "upside down" architecture is the reflection held up to the world... a comedy of values, a carnival of all souls where identity is like a poker deck... pick a card any card, it's the dealer's game... you can't win... here in South America the economics of consolidation bare a different face - one that is completely hybrid, and in a sense, because of the dominance of the U.S., one that will face the extremes of 21st century economic upheaval - Argentina as the reflection of E-Day - three currencies, all useless... the rich do not care, their money is in the U.S., the poor, well... they don't belong to the system anyway... the middle class, however, is crushed... new favelas perhaps.... the reflection of E-Day is one of seamless-ness - the surface finally absorbing the nation states that gave birth to "modernity" - we face the world after the fall of the twin towers - the West's "Crystal Palace" that gave the existentialists of the 20th century so many things to reflect off of... Dostoievsky's Crime and Punishment becomes a world where guilt and human dignity face the prism of the architecture of the Id and Ego... Aldous Huxley wasn't so far off point, and Jules Verne's ideas around genetic engineering and the compression of time, all seem like a faint echo of the crisis in Argentina, the global crisis of meaning after 9/11.... the crystal palace has myriad reflections, and this, perhaps is one:

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now. It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it's all theater. There are no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. Above him lift girders old as an iron queen, and glass somewhere far above that would let the light of day through. But its night. He's afraid of the way the glass will fall - soon - it will be a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace. But coming down in total blackout, without one glint of light, only great invisible crashing...."

-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

The question for art is how to build new narratives with the material at hand... the shards of modernity cut deeply, and they leave wounds that will have to heal in new ways.... if Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was the archetypal parable of early Modernity, then we need new forms - the old has combined with the new, "E-Day" as the currency made from the shards of the old nations, like a recombinant entity out of the Romantics... recombinant form is the basic way we look at the world. Combine, split, reform... the dj method of synthesis has taken hold of almost all aspects of the creative act: "E Pluribus Unum" - out of many, one.... the operating system of hypermodernity asks for more.... As I sit and type, I can see the distant favelas.... the children dance to baile music... how can I tell? Its a style that has a certain cadence, its a theater of gesture where everyone knows the moves.... baile music is considered controversial - people gather to dance and to fight... its a modern update on how capoeira evolved out of the culture of slavery in Brazil... but its far less coherent... people die, and are hurt by the dance moves because that's what they go to clubs for: the social rituals of identity formation they go through are from the dance "funk balls" - the ball in Europe was a place where social values were reflected in the precision of dance moves... the same thing is going on here... costumes, preparation, and intensity of performance are what make it all happen, and violence is pretty much part of the basic syntax... its a style where people carry razors and use them to stab and carve their dance opponents... a misplaced glance, a "wrong" gesture can set off a battle... all for social dominance in a realm of theater, and the soundtrack is made from fragments of dj mixes from around the world. The sounds are the new networks for these kids, and their body language telegraphs a theater that is all too close... The Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal came up with a term to describe the impact of carnival on Brazilian culture - he called it "legislative theater" - for him, the way people interact is through texts that are both distant and intimate... I think that the baile music, for him, is a paradox that only carnival can resolve.... so to for the rest of the world... one can only hope that Brazil's lesson in multiplicity can be shared... the loops close in, and become the groundwork for 21st culture and aesthetics... as above, so below... the crystal palace has myriad reflections, and this, perhaps is one:

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."

-H.G. Wells

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free...."

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid