ESR 5 Blog February 2022: Claude Nassar

Noise Diving

I would like to share with you a practice that I have been recently introduced to, and which I find to be a useful exercise in disrupting established cycles of thought, to be able to look at and think about things differently. What I find useful is not necessarily the practice of active listening to noise—on which I will elaborate later—but a type of movement of thought, a shift in perspective, a differential relation between two moments, a ritualistic practice that trains one’s ability to meta-reflect on the subject through which we are producing significance in a particular moment. Training in associating a certain set of circumstances with ‘shifting’ as a movement of thought, in such a way that when these circumstances arise, what is reproduced is the movement of shifting, not a particular logic or set of concepts but the movement from one logic to another and from one set of concepts to another.

Having been smoking while being constantly aware of the future repercussions of such an action, I find myself often reflecting on the act of smoking in relation to my daily life and the reasons why I keep repeating a cycle of actions that lead to the same cycle of conflicting emotions. What I noticed is that my habit of smoking is mostly related to work; having started my professional life as a graphic designer, I found that actions that I used to do for myself with no external value had to be monetised. Smoking became a much needed occasional reminder that what I’m doing is work and I deserve to be paid. During my Masters studies smoking acquired a different significance that took shape due to being in class with other people for most of the day, and having shared experiences along a long and continuous amount of time. The difference between a smoking break conversation and other recurring encounters is that smoking breaks happen at almost constant intervals, which allows for a ritualistic stability that favours the recurrent emergence of the same reflections, same movements, in multiple situations. Now, finding myself writing and reading on my own most of the time, smoking a cigarette is a reminder to stand up and walk away for a few minutes.

I found that what I value is the moment after I walk away and before I come back to what I’m doing while still very much aware, in the back of my mind, of the task at hand. Smoking as a moment in between moments, a space in between: after a moment has ended, but before another starts. A moment of exteriority that sets up an embodied shift based on the emergent relation of the thing at hand, and other things in memory. Accordingly, due to the individuality of research work during a global pandemic while travelling between countries, I got excited to find a reason to walk away that does not involve smoking, especially since smoking has lost its social aspects. For this reason, a small box made by a synthesiser manufacturer (Quantum Ocean by SOMA Laboratory) that produces a complex noise signal that can be subtly affected by touch presented to me a substitute to smoking, that allows a similar meditative state but with more subtle effects on my body. Like a cigarette, the noise signal replaces the illusory silence of meditative practice that is often easily overwhelmed by a wave of thought when my mind is already concerned with the issues I’m writing about. Instead, listening to noise allows an opportunity to meditate on chaos, not as a representation of the world, but as an amplification of a section of chaos that includes an infinity in itself, that intersects with the world through various analog circuitry, censors, and feedback loops. An infinite patch of chaos contained within the materiality of a physical object. The volume knob becomes a scale knob that amplifies the always ongoing micro-relations that fall outside my conscious awareness to submerge the sounds around me, the space in which I exist, and the subject that perceives those sounds and occupies that space leaving the body floating in chaos for a moment until I decide to come back to my writing.

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