“Noise and The City” was presented by Eran Sachs and David Opp. at NYU/ITP’s “guest speaker” program, October 2007,
Noise and the City / a presentation
In their lecture, artists David Oppenheim (Tel-Aviv) and Eran Sachs (Jerusalem/Jaffa) analyze the effects of war, terror and ideology on urban space in Israel, tracing the origins of the schizophrenic nature of Tel-Aviv while trying to entangle the complex relationships between Israeli design and the Typography of Military Symbols, between suicide bombings, real-estate fever and Noise Music in Israel, and between activist stance against the occupation, critical narratives and the semantics of sound-art
From the surface below Tel-Aviv might seem like Manhattan: it aspires upwards, its horizon is vertical, its gaze is focused towards the top of the corporate pyramid. But while the oh so familiar New-York skyline actually mirrors its essential neurotic spectacular nature, making it equally attractive to fundamentalists-with-wings and brokers-on-the-rise, the typical architecture of Tel-Aviv, as well as the dominant visual embodiments of its urban culture, transmit a categorically different kind of schism.
Tel-Aviv is a hedonistic city, caught in an endless party. Aptly conveyed in the works of media artist Ran Slavin, Tel-Aviv is an Insomniac City – it flows day and night, incessantly, fusing manic nightlife and real-estate frenzy. It exemplifies a Dionysu-centric character that is seemingly ex-placed, detached from the engulfing conflict zone, oblivious to all but its own dynamic.
But the matter of fact is that it is a thriving metropolis located at the heart of an on going war zone, in a society which has experienced the vicious circle of wars, occupation, terror attacks and violent counter-reactions. The experience of terror, of suicide bombers and of fear, is constitutive to the psychodynamics of the Israeli reality, as is the obscure notion of threat, of being chased, of being under-siege. The defense mechanisms are stern, active, powerful – both on the national level and on the individual level. Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, the latest film by Israeli documentarist Avi Mograbi accurately traces just how deep this mentality of “siege” runs. The ongoing effects of facing extreme situations obviously give rise to multiple phenomena expressing states of anxiety and of panic. Israel is not a happy place, and the society is far from joyous. This is the reason for the crude language of public media; it is why Israel lacks a real Pop culture; this why there is a strong link between the Zionist movement and Goa Trance parties.
Still, the driving life-force in Tel-Aviv is immense. But the Party cannot look the War in the eye. Confronting the actual stressful reality is counter-Dionysic (and bad for business) and therefore a non-option. Accordingly, the inherent underlying processes of the city are those of denial: repression, assimilation, sublimation. The prevalent typography in Israel, for example, apparent in deigns for the most successful signs and logos, expresses the hidden effectiveness of the logic of military symbols. The schizoid nature demands that the City turn a blind-eye, in a manner that has by now become a Zionist hallmark: see, but do not see. Tel-Aviv is the first Zionist city, and as such, the original false representation, the romantic dismissal by the Zionists who regarded its neighboring Palestinian city of Jaffa as an “empty, abandoned city”, has by now multiplied itself as a plethora of blind-spots: there is no terror, no war, no occupation. Everything is OK. Let us build further. During the last war, even as missiles were landing on Israel’s Northern and Southern cities, the stock market did not even flinch. In the words of sonic artist Finkelstein, Tel-Aviv typifies The Art of Escapism. In Jaffa, this ignorance-by-choice serves as the breeding ground for crude and merciless gentrification. The most successful industry in Israel is naturally that of security, celebrated by the monumental erection of a questionable wall, an industry which operates to ensure that the party goes on, uninterrupted.
One can, nevertheless, point to subversive and critical positions taken by individuals and political organizations. Active stand can interrupt the automatic workings of the dominant code. In so far as “noise is a weapon” (Attali), one can recognize different tactics of reaction taking by artists who are engaged in Noise music. Culturally, Noise is often referred to as a genre of “ultimate hedonism”; conversely, in a hedonistic society characterized by schizophrenic escapism, Noise offers a form of involvement, both emotional and political. In our lecture, we shall survey different tactics of Noise and the utilizatin of sound within subversive works in Israel, presented within their specific social context.
David Oppenheim & Eran Sachs