Aaron David Ross - Deceptionista
Decentralization has been a leading talking point in new media circles, enough so that it functions as a topical pseudo/crypto escape-pod designed to eject discourse out of potentially oppressive contexts. The conversation is auto-fertile in that it consistently seems to reinvent itself around new technology platforms — from Bitcoin to the cloud. Still, its application as a critical node for art is mired in the fetishization of its speculative potential, lost in prolonged, celebratory visions of the future as democratic, utopic, and centered in the haunting neoliberal flux of technological “streamlining.” But, given a distributed ledger of sound and vision, what occurs to the often singular/particular experience of affect? Does the particular “moment” of affect lose its context and shape when distributed across an even plane, across a magnetic assembly line?
The distribution of affective production culminates in the work of Aaron David Ross, whose keen and honest understanding of music’s affective potentiality hasn’t fooled itself into thinking culture’s linguistic relationship to spectacle and power isn’t manipulatable as an essential aspect of human language and feeling — a feeling always oscillating between central and peripheral spatial domains of the visceral, the emotive, the psychedelic, the HD levels of cultural desire that music regularly resonates within. He’s rendered these spaces fluidly through sign-dance — through exploring horror, Imax, fantasy, or 90s drum & bass. Throughout, his loyalty has consistently been aligned to affect, to the communication of these spaces as an infrastructure of moments and scenes that are infinitely adaptable into the flighty consumption patterns of fashionable humans. ADR’s ability to compositionally teleport between musical spaces has deftly demonstrated an inherent voyeurism. He can nimbly maneuver between jazz flute and scatt be-bobbing (scaled in between the partitions of a white-walled gallery space), to expensive bass vibrations (shaking the knobby, black obsidian hilt of a sorcerer’s emblazoned sword). In the past, this exploration has existed between monikers; with Deceptionista, it’s between seconds of time.
That voyeurism is also shown in Deceptionista’s employment of free online app Vpeeker, software “which provides a feed of the most recently uploaded Vine clip at any given moment.” As PAN has expressed, there is decentralized value in discovering “an untapped world of internet detritus… [where] …the internet voyeur is no longer carefully curating their content consumption from safely behind a screen.” The theme of decentralization runs strong in this statement, as if to suggest a latent need for ADR to distance himself from his own distinctive authorship to reveal the value of the cultural detritus that Deceptionista consistently evokes. Although ADR’s efforts to disperse his “content curation” are admirable, it’s the synthesis between his structural and well-trained sound-sensitivity with the gesture of horizontal sound placement that makes the work so marvelous.
Rooted in this tactical vocabulary of displacement, Deceptionsita demonstrates the profound processes of production becoming synonymous with a linguistic machine used by the affect-driven artist to “embrace cognitive derangement.” ADR’s celebration of sonic excess elaborates itself into a beautiful matrix of collected data, a work distinct from the flighty value produced by an art-historical continuum (where fantasy or robots can suddenly gain opportune cultural import). His lateral manipulation of sound on Deceptionista is a free-play with detritus, a demonstration of the possible plurality of rational and irrational sonic behavior. It’s a distinct step away from the centralized genre narratives he’s explored in previous works, evoking a fresh orientation of musical value creation and exploitation whose “decentralized” tactic isn’t invested in the serialization of sound, process, or genre, but in the effort to arrange sound fragments without presenting them as culturally logical or inevitable on any given continuum (except one responsive to free-communication).
ADR’s use of cultural sound-fragments is rooted in the “relentless unknowability” of digital experience, one that’s relatively indifferent and unconcerned with where the internet, new technology, or new discourses are “taking us.” Rather, his attention lies exclusively on the material orientation of these fragments as atoms axiomatically rearranged in celebration of the communicative process — the study of language as material, pliable unto infinity. Deceptionista’s bio-luminescence as a living, morphing, resilient container of sound-bytes allows it to express itself as a complex, elegant dance of personal and cultural reinvention — not tied to or resting on a particular form or genre theme, but unstuck in its ability to rearrange limitless affective potential. As such, “Favicon” begins as gentle exploration of assembled Vpeeker sample bytes among D’eon-style hammered strings — it crumbles over rolling subs and drifts into floating ambience/sex sounds — as liquids freeze and evaporate into bells and buzzes. Quickly, standout track “DesireProfile™” triumphantly inhales the buzz into drama-fueled sci-fi synths, their serenity punctuated by corporate dings and whirls; the piece culminates in an absolutely gorgeous slow-dance groove, as laughs and uplifters bring it to an ecstatic climax. Shit is literally miles away.
The machine “looks back” on segments of “Tank Drainers” (a piece that reorients the work’s initial stuttering virtuosity into the trip-hop/drum & bass zone of 2013 release Chunky Monkey) or when the bounce swiftly spins out in an enormous, howling Gatekeeper-like surge. Sound clusters burst and congregate in abstract studies like “Neural Net Worth,” where flute runs dart around over distorted grime sequences. Bongos, snare rolls, scat, sword clanks, acid blips, etc. all make appearances over frosty patches of ambience and a consistent futurist whirl that regularly disrupts any of the more recognizable sound-tangents. The pieces dance between synthesis and sampling, locking in for epic moments, like on the deep-dub “bass drop” on “Sizzle Reel.” The use of Vpeeker as an unconcerned sound library adds dots of obscure color in the array, often barely noticeable, but especially interesting through repeated listens.
Deceptionista’s music is a specified representation of a larger environment constructed in collaboration with artist and programmer Harm van den Dorpel, who helped construct “a playable video game-like environment where users can explore various geometries and particle systems, all skinned entirely in video texture maps sourced from Vpeeker.” The effort comes quickly after PAN’s recent panel discussion at MoMa PS1, where Bill Kouligas discussed plans to release software- and net-based works as a part of the label’s future release stream. It’s fitting, then, that Deceptionista’s SD card format and horizontal compositions ushered in the decentralization of PAN’s own heavily archival and physical object-oriented approach. As such, the ephemeral visuality of both the cloud-sourced Vines and Dorpel’s visual particle systems themselves echo ADR’s molecular and richly arranged culture-fragments: incongruous, dramatic, and complexly poetic. The 1-to-1 relationship of reference-to-moment is skewed and driven into a relentless continuum of micro-differentiated sounds, a “responsive” matrix of culture that is, as political theorist Christian Marazzi would describe it, a series of “just-in-time” productions. The value of these productions is consistently and responsively changing according to the nature of its linguistic machine: symbolic, abstract, but logical in the sense that its grammar can move “on a magnetic ‘assembly line,’ moving back and forth between one position and another.” The result is a breathtaking example of how affect can be distributed regularly when given regular voicing through a linguistic machine, a machine flexible to unstable tastes, a machine outputting the inherent, deceptive wilderness of communication.