Syntax: Kodwo Eshun in New York
Rhythm Science: Paul D. Miller aka Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid


England has never really understood Dj Spooky's project. Admittedly, Washington D.C. born, New York based Paul D. Miller aka Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid doesn't make it easy. He does so much and moves so fast that it's difficult to keep up with him. And there's always the suspicion that someone doing so much can't be all they're made out to be.

But what if he really is great? And what if you and I have just taken him for granted all these years? Just assumed that he'll always be there, moving between the dancefloor and the gallery, the concert hall and the kunsthalle.

The fact is Paul D. Miller is sui generis. There has never been anyone like him and there never will be. In the future, people will rave about him; for now, the medium of the book offers newcomers a pathway into Spooky's world.

Rhythm Science, his long awaited first book, brings together essays and statements from the last decade into one neat little 128 page manifesto. Berlin design tema COMA have translated Spooky's ideas into vector graphics that outline the Audio Companion mix CD which blends audio from post-war writers like Artaud with laptopians like Oval. Each page is printed on rough and smooth paper and each chapter is introduced and interrupted by pale green pages of vector graphics and pithy slogans.

At the heart of Rhythm Science are three related ideas. The first is the notion of the deejay as cultural filter. As Miller sees it, the dj is a figure that recombines and re-presents culture. The role of the deejay is therefore generalized beyond music to encompass all digital media. This idea makes sense because the hierarchies between art, culture, media and entertainment are turning into a digital flow, a stream, a continuum.

It's a confusing time. What is important to Miller is the connections made between fields, between times, between ideas, between people. This will to connect, collaborate and translate is what makes Miller so celebrated and so disliked in U.S. and Europe.

Related to this is the idea of the mix. In all its forms, from the mixtape to the multimedia installation, Spooky has consistently explored the idea of the mix as a utopian thought process capable of bringing together all kinds of cultural ideas within its own time-space. The mix is everything. It is humanity at its best. The mix is what gives Miller his sense of entitlement. It's the source of his intellectual fearlessness. Armed with this idea, Miller travels through a culture of samples, bytes and pixels reconfiguring it as he sees fit.

These two ideas make sense within the third idea of the network. Digital technology is turning culture into networks and Spooky takes the implications of networked society more seriously than most. Miller has been navigating our society of nodes and hubs for nigh ona decade now; now we can reap the maps he drew along the way.

Kodwo Eshun's favorite film is William Greaves' Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1969) which he still hasn't seen.

Rhythm Science is published by MIT/Mediaworks

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