In the current catastrophies and global events the far-reaching overall changes of the past 25 years become more and more acute. Depending on the perspective they are being interpreted as a crisis or a chance for a new beginning. We experience a boom in apocalyptic discourse on almost all levels of political, philosophical and artistic discourse.
Conventionally pop culture is seen as escapist and far from reality. Even prior to its birth in the 1950ies it was particularly close to the end. This could have a simple reason that its protagonists often forget about. Was the invention of rock’n’roll and of the teenager itself not an (unconscious) reflex on the manifold fissures in civilization during World War II and the collapse of a world order?
It seems to be worth mentioning that consequently pop has always had its strongest moments when a world fell apart. This was the case when the havoc of the Vietnam War fuelled the counter-culture of the Sixties. The apocalyptic attitude of punk was linked to a dawning end of industrialism, the decay of urban spaces and the downfall of an ideology of unlimited growth.
Godzilla | Japanese trailer from 1954
In the domain of Afro-diasporic music the “Armageddon” is ubiquitous in such diverse genres such as gospel and blues, in the jazz of Sun Ra or in the hip hop of Public Enemy and the Wu-Tang Clan. It reacts to the obvious fact that for the Black part of the population human trafficking and slavery were the entrance ticket to the Northern American society.
At the other end of the cultural and political range an array of songwriters with Jewish background can be found. They relate to the tradition of negative prophecy from the Old Testament. In his song “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” (early Sixties) Bob Dylan describes the nuclear fallout as Biblical rain. Three decades later Leonard Cohen laconically commented on the fall of the Berlin Wall with: “I’ve seen the future, and it’s murder”.
Not just since the nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki has culture in Japan been in the grasp of traumatic experiences. The Japanese language may not know a word that signifies “catastrophe”, but whether it is the folklore-art of mangas, Kurosawa’s samurai battles, the storm of noise by extreme musician Merzbow or the Godzilla-films: Japan has outsourced its knowledge of apocalypse into its culture.
With a three-day theme weekend Christoph Gurk and Tobias Rapp explore how pop narrates the end of the world. Against the background of current scenarios of crises cultural theoreticians and artists like Simon Reynolds (Los Angeles), Christina Striewski (Frankfurt am Main), Greg Tate (New York), Jens Balzer (Berlin), Dietmar Dath (Freiburg im Breisgau), Atsushi Sasaki (Tokyo), Tracey Rose (Johannesburg) or Diedrich Diederichsen (Vienna and Berlin) will take a closer look at the traces of apocalyptic discourse in the history of this cultural formation which is now comprising 50 or more years.
Whoever approaches the codes of the catastrophic will learn a lot about the way in which pop culture refers to the world, even if it is only in a gesture of its rejection. Perhaps these visions of a fall want to tell us that the end is not near, but has always been happening. And that behind the recurring discourse about a dawning end it is fear that the past could repeat itself. In such a case the apocalypse would be, according to the cultural theoretician Hartmut Böhme, “the plague that it is talking about itself”.
The discussion programme will be accompanied by concerts and DJ-sets by Kode 9 (London), Aethenor (London, Manchester, Paris, Oslo), New Zion Trio (New York), Bohren & Der Club Of Gore (Mülheim an der Ruhr), TU Fawning (Portland), The Caretaker (Berlin) and Rushmo (Johannesburg).
The complete programme:
THE ENDLESS END: POP AND THE APOCALYPTIC
22.30 h Her Ghost: a tribute to Chris Marker’s La Jetee by Kode9, MFO and Ms.Haptic (with live-soundtrack by Kode 9 “Her Ghost”)
23.00 h Discussion with Steve Goodman, Kodwo Eshun, MFO and Ms.Haptic
24.00 Uhr Æthenor – Concert
afterwards party with DJ Tobias Rapp. WAU
AFTER THE CATASTROPHY IS BEFORE THE CATASTROPHY – GERMANY, THE USA AND THE MIDDLE EAST AFTER 1945
18.00 h Lectures and discussion with Christina Striewski, Diedrich Diederichsen and Christoph Gurk
20.15 h Lectures and discussion with Tobias Nagl, Steven Beeber and Jamie Saft
23.00 h New Zion Trio (feat. Jamie Saft, Craig Santiago, Greg Cohen)
24.00 h Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Concert
RADIATING MESSAGES – NOISE MUSIC, PLASTIC POP AND MANGA CULTURE IN JAPAN
16.00 Uhr Lectures and discussion with Dietmar Dath, Atsushi Sasaki, Mareike Maage and Jens Balzer
OF ALIENS, PROPHETS AND HERETICS – THE AFROAMERICAN DIASPORA
18.30 h Lectures and discussion with Greg Tate, Florian Werner, Tracey Rose and Kodwo Eshun
22.00 h The Caretaker – Concert
23.00 h TU Fawning – Concert
afterwards party with Rushmo
Apocalypse now (and then): with Kode9, Aethenor, New Zion Trio, Bohren & der Club of Gore, TZ Fawning, The Caretaker & Rushmo
Thursday, 03 May 2012, 22:30 CET – Saturday, 05 May 2012, 23:30
HAU 2 | Hallesches Ufer 32 | 10963 Berlin/Kreuzberg