21 JULY 1997
outside

RHYTHMIC ALEMBIC

The following is my response on the Blast Documenta list to what I took to be a disapproval by the moderator of my using the Versace murder as an example of a kind of rhythm. Easterling is Keller Easterling, an architect whose original post about boring repetition I had responded to. Or rather I'd used her thoughts to form my own using Edmund Burke's "artificial infinity" as my starting point to reflect on how fashion uses repeition to create the illusion of freedom and creativity. Not very profound but I do think I've discovered that the news media create their own kind of TAZ in order to grow memes for future use. The Versace/Cunanan "space" or TAZ is just one in a continuing series that includes spectacularly the OJ trial from which the media memes will be following us for decades.

Note: An "alembic" is an apparatus used for distillation. I should have said "rhythmic alembic" rather than "alembic rhythm" in order for the metaphor to make sense, which it probably doesn't anyway. I mean to say the rhythm the media sets up in order to create memes.



At 6:35 PM +0100 7/21/97, archivist wrote:
> Easterling did not, thankfully, refer to Versace.

I don't think you need to fear letting some of the carnival music drift up and in through the windows to mingle with the more rigorous rhythms being set down up there. Some of us down here on the pony rides have even deactivated our Lacan filters and found our ears didn't hurt as much as we thought they would.

Up until the time of his murder I thought I was living a normal Versace-free life. When the news reports started flowing in through my TV -- and on the Internet -- I was surprised at how familiar I was with him and the particulars of his business and life. That is, I suppose, the reason he spent millions of dollars on advertising and promotion. Though I never bought his products, never thought about buying them, and don't think I know anyone who does, I was still in the room as very minor member of the rhythm section. There is a sort of "Versace Space" where I wander around the edges by knowing his name (and how to pronounce it) and noticing his ads. Most of the world's population (my mother, for instance and most of China) I would guess doesn't.

It was if I'd entered a mosque and instinctively knew how to pray to Allah while still considering myself Catholic.

Maybe it was the heat in New York last week but the shattering of that space and the subsequent eruption of a new media-fueled "Cunanan Space" brought to mind N. Katherine Hayles' earlier discussion of Paul Connerton's linkage of embodiment with memory. My knowledge of Versace was a habit I wasn't aware of until the media rhythm (with a disco beat) used to perpetuate that habit in me (like smoking) was radically altered. That rhythm of fashion creates the illusion of endless creativity and innovation through repetition. The same could be said for art.

The new rhythm will probably be short-lived and the old one will either start up again, disappear or, most likely, mutate. However, new memes seem to be developing in the "Cunanan Space" that may live on independently -- such as the personification of AIDS as a seriel killer that attacks gay men. The news media has wanted that particular meme for a long, long time and they now have an alembic rhythm to grow it in like a Tamagotchi.