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Elder Ones, "From Untruth," and a Threat Called New York: An Essay

Arian Bagheri Pour Fallah By

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A return to the problem at hand can here be most rewarding. Subaltern. The word is not yet part of consensus lexicon, unlike for instance a word such as ideology which has been in universal use for decades. Spivak's use of the term, and not Gramsci's, is clearly the preoccupation and frame of reference for Amirtha Kidambi, who leads the quartet. This clarity is however not shared by the journalist and the average consumer, leading to the former's rhetorical questioning on both ends, of its use in the first place and its study afterwards. To the same journalist and average consumer the word ideology, saying nothing of its history and meaning, from Tracy to Marx to Althusser, nonetheless conveys an other clarity, a clarity not of meaning but of familiarity, or as Althusser would have concluded, of recognition. Such is that today, subaltern is the obscure word in the objective pipe dream of the senior journalist, and mud in the fast food of the average consumer; tomorrow it will be their treasured playing card, once properly emptied of all content through repetition and reproduction that is. To recapitulate, even the extremest of escapist journalism clings to and builds on the residues of a study, on concepts reduced to words. So indeed once virtue of carrying out ample research earns an ethnographer today his notoriety as an obscurantist, for the original sin of knowing too much has plenty at variance with capitalist virtues of ease and speed.

Insofar as this concerns Elder Ones' use of the term, it renders the decision imperative, regardless of the average consumer and any positive or negative view held by members of the media, as they both contribute to the one and the same vicious circle. Expanded to the example of Marcuse, one may too maintain that his role, while inadvertently overshadowing those of greater substance, from Wilhelm Reich to Alfred N. Whitehead, remains of paramount importance, and that America without Marcuse would have not been better off by any stretch of the imagination. But there is something beside Elder Ones' homage to Spivak, which I will leave for the moment, something more horrifying for the senior journalist; there is an other curiosity in Kidambi's case, one far more immediate and material than concepts and spooks, and that is New York itself.

Ever since Melville, and from then, La Monte Young and mere passers-by, New York has proved an unyielding urban space, necessitating certain intimate response—apostasy or apology. A becoming-city, it has lived past what a Hegelian would espy as requisite contradictions that in this case do not begin or end in ethnic diversities. Kidambi's return to oriental thought, to the looping interplay of truth and untruth, mirrors this overture however to solicit the subject for protest. Elder Ones, in From Untruth, do not recognize particular hegemonies. They say nothing of the city outside the biographical—links to the current Downtown scene, etcetera, and are equally distanced from the open strife of Ceramic Dog. Despite this, they stay locked on the pulse of the American tune, when check-marking "capitalism," further treating it as exposed.

There is an optimism in this stance which is called in question by a music that remains largely expressive even if retaining at times a wavering character. From Untruth is filled with gaps and suspended animation but never gives up on an unbroken whole. In its splendor of metaphors, the music oscillates between modes of grief and cynical playfulness, barely tiring of them in their basic modal premise. Improvisation remains strictly a tool, and electronics a sign—"a metaphor for modernity." It is thereby not New York the people which is present in From Untruth, New York the people which appears only at a symbolic level and in the lyrics and written material accompanying the record. Rather, the New York present in From Untruth is New York the apparatus, not and never the subaltern, which accounts subtly for why grand compositional continuity is insisted on. Like Hudson Yards, From Untruth is environed by an undead space, incomplete and closed to the powers that be. Its modal borders too, in their docile resolve, affirm and assert this, that the dance is defined a dance given the subject's absence, his removal as it were from the space in which he is morally expected. What remains inside the borders is his grief, the unambiguous, consummate grief exposing monstrosity to the monster. Kidambi's pictographic New York is evidently not self-approbatory but that comes at the cost of it not being integrally ambiguous or spiteful. The question arising from this compromise, this exchange, concerns specifically that which precedes it, and can be articulated as follows: Where did, ahead of the exchange of blue collar and blue blood, the reds disappear to?

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