Critical Music series: Interview with Sheng Jie (part 2)

This is the second and final part of the interview with Sheng Jie (aka gogoj), discussing her activities as a visual artist and experimental musician in China. Link to the first part of the interview.

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Critical Music series: Interview with Sheng Jie (part 1)

This is a new series of posts for this blog focusing on individuals, groups, or organisations that have played notable roles in the history of critical music practices in China. These practices appear in many different guises, often described as “experimental music” or “sound art”, neither of which is entirely satisfactory in describing the practices which often exist in many hybrid forms. My adoption of the term “critical music” (following the writings of G Douglas Barrett) attempts to avoid the limitations of these terms, while highlighting the active nature of the sound component of the practices. These posts will primarily take the form of interviews, each one aiming to place the subject within the general history of critical music practices in China, and contextualise their current practice within their overall development.

Sheng Jie (aka gogoj) is a visual artist and musician based in Beijing. Much of her current experimental music and sound work reflects her study of the violin and cello, as well as of video and performance art. Since returning to Beijing from college in France in 2005, she has been developing various forms of audio/visual performance using these elements. Recently she has begun incorporating a gesture-based computer interface that allows her to “manually” manipulate her video and audio signals on stage. In this interview she talks about her practice and how it has developed, her relationship with the music and art worlds in Beijing, and why she adopted this gesture interface. The interview covers a lot of ground, and so has been split over two days for convenience. Part two will be published on this blog tomorrow.

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Agamben: undergone not experienced

As Agamben indicates in the 1989 preface to the English translation of Infancy and History, the key question that unites his disparate explorations is that of what it means for language to exist, what it means that “I speak.” In taking up this question throughout his work, and most explicitly in texts such as Infancy and History, Language and Death, and most recently, The Open, Agamben reinvigorates consideration of philosophical anthropology through a critical questioning of the metaphysical presuppositions that inform it, and in particular, the claim that the defining essence of man is that of having language. In taking up this question, Agamben proposes the necessity of an “experimentum linguae” in which what is experienced is language itself, and the limits of language become apparent not in the relation of language to a referent outside of it, but in the experience of language as pure self-reference.Infancy and History … attempts to grasp and articulate the implications of such an experience of language as such. Consisting of a series on interconnected essays on concepts such as history, temporality, play, and gesture, Infancy and History provides an importance entrance to Agamben’s later work on politics and ethics, particularly in the eponymous essay of the edition on the concept of infancy understood as an experiment of language as such. In this, Agamben argues that the contemporary age is marked by the destruction or loss of experience, in which the banality of everyday life cannot be experienced per se but only undergone, a condition which is in part brought about by the rise of modern science and the split between the subject of experience and of knowledge that it entails. Against this destruction of experience, which is also extended in modern philosophies of the subject such as Kant and Husserl, Agamben argues that the recuperation of experience entails a radical rethinking of experience as a question of language rather than of consciousness, since it is only in language that the subject has its site and origin. Infancy, then, conceptualizes an experience of being without language, not in a temporal or developmental sense of preceding the acquisition of language in childhood, but rather, as a condition of experience that precedes and continues to reside in any appropriation of language. (Mills; emphasis mine)

  • Mills, Catherine (2005) Agamben, Giorgio [The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 27 March 2010].

quick notes about: time not things

I’m (still) thinking about this whole issue of putting things into the world:

  1. Technology has meant that we are creating more, apparently ephemeral things, which take up less physical space, but more of our time (by their quantity).
  2. Things always take up time – but it was time with a particular purpose. For example, we would make time to go to galleries, which would then be dedicated to experiencing art, art-time for art.
  3. (Maybe we got frustrated if the art makes demands from outside of art. Somehow cheating us of our time).1
  4. These thoughts arose from time spent browsing through my blog reader, and not having enough time in general, but this general tendency towards less physical things and experiences is a good thing, maybe one day we will end up with no trace outside of some digital signature, and THAT reminds me of Flusser:

… to write is structurally the gesture of a historical and scientific being-in-the-world. Should this gesture fall into disuse, (and there are many symptoms at present which would seem to suggest this), the universe of history and science will fall into oblivion, or at least it will cease to be the universe we live in. Because that universe is a “fiction”, (the result of the technique of writing), and materializes only in the form of surfaces covered by letters. Thus if the art of writing is lost, it will not be missed by future generations. But for us, who are programmed by it and for it, not to be able to write means that life is not worth living.2

  1. [I ended up with too many “quoted” words which I converted to italics for a change. I always think words need further clarification, and putting them in quotes suffices to indicate this, and I somehow think this is then enough explanation.]
  2. Flusser, Vilém, The Gesture of Writing. Retrieved 16 June, 2009, from