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An Interview with Eric Lunde – Part Three: The Aesthetics of the Crash

Eric Lunde: 33 Years of Assault & Chaos –
A four part serial conversation with TQ’s Aram Yardumian and Wisconsinite Eric Lunde.  We talk about nonlinear dynamics, noise systems, auto racing, and the roots of the Industrial scene in America. We do not talk about Ed Gein.

Serial Three-Part Interview
Prolegomenon, Part One: Assaults on Culture, Part Two: The 80’s

Aram Yardumian: There is an interest in the concept of the collision, which I think of as akin to JG Ballard’s but without the cloying sexual dimension. This is probably every old-time race fan’s interest in the sport whether or not he admits it. How do you see—or how would you like to see—racing, performance, and sound art all coming together?

Eric Lunde: Yeah, the sexual aspect. Uggh. Cronenberg’s version wasn’t up to snuff, really. I think Vaughn should have been played by Spader. I think Ballard should have been played by Bob Hoskins. Would have been far more challenging. There was an ugliness to the book that didn’t transfer to the movie. Hoskins would have been perfect.

Oh, okay, then even better. Hoskins as Vaughn. That would have worked.

Okay I’m about to get a little longwinded here but I think we have to make some distinctions! I mean on one level you have the more prurient standard of the “good explosion”, the “good crash” which really has nothing to do with a criteria derived from aesthetic principles but one that, well, comes from the gut, that direct, visceral experience of an event of momentous, but transitory, catastrophe. It’s not that sublime, but it is a reaction that cuts across all mental states. It’s almost animal, I guess. Rooted in our neural system.

On the other hand, there are those appraisals that are derived from aesthetic principles, that of the aesthete I guess, maybe the crash aesthete, the violence aesthete. It forms its own aesthetic criteria, and I suppose that a criterion is built on what the instinctual criteria suggests. Comparative. Do I believe it vital anymore? Not necessarily. I think its exhausted itself as a aesthetic “movement”. It’s accomplished by rote and routine. And because Crash aesthetics are compatible with violence aesthetics, well, I think exhaustion is implied in both.

Crash aesthetics I think by the very nature of collisions themselves there’s a latent repulsion/compulsion dynamic, a frisson of competing forces and I suppose that is how it all comes together, an ephemeral and transitory relation of parts reconfigured for that brief moment. And I guess one hopes to capture that, that moment of shuffled relations, chaos, that jumble of suddenly interrelated entities that have no relationship to each other. For that one moment the two entities occupy the same space, and occupy it in the only manner they can, in pieces, in fragments.

Crash aesthetics only work when there is an event. Documentation is merely a souvenir of the event. You could introduce it, initiate it yes, but it would only last as long as the event itself. It’s participatory and subjective. But you had to have been there.

As it is, I think how I evolved now is away from the simply visceral to the theoretical, and I’m referring now to the tremendous concentration of technology employed to track atom particles in staged collisions. The Large Hadron Collider, and similar “test tracks” are more appealing to me now. Does this inform my work? Well, yes, because I continue to be interested in the results from initial conditions, how small events trigger larger ones, the end result of impacts.

I suppose there are levels of appreciation, all within the realm of aesthetic appreciation; the prurient, the shocked, the technical. But as for an aesthetic, in the normal world, it rarely applies. At racetracks, the stage is set for collisions but are generally avoided or frowned upon. So, as an aesthete you pretty much steal the dynamic of the moment, you smuggle it out. There is no given, universal criteria for such an aesthetic. And quite often such appraisals have little relevance. It’s moment by moment.

I remain very interested and intrigued by racecar design, unconventional design. I’m a fan of 60’s front engine dragsters, Bonneville speedsters, rat cars and sprint cars. Are they prime for collision events? No, just speed with RISK. There’s an uncalculated but anticipated risk for collision. But there’s also an uncertainty about it. Art oriented collision has very little risk. So, as in BDC, I’m more inclined to enjoy a good staged auto test crash, of which none of it is intentionally aesthetic and is inadvertently aesthetic in that it must satisfy certain conditions, a criterion for crash testing. And these are more successful when the subject of the test involves more conventional auto design.

So what I think I’ve always practiced, from BDC on, was a sort of Test Aesthetic, the Aesthetics of the Laboratory, the Aesthetics of the Experiment. This and not so much the Crash Aesthetic itself. The best example wasn’t XChDX, or Tape Death Cut or anything else. It was the World’s Fastest Tape Player, of which only audio and photos exist. It didn’t last that long but it was intriguing. Sensitivity to initial conditions. I introduce an event and see what results from it. And whether it was that or the Colorado Terrain investigations, which was always my objective. To investigate, interrogate.

How would I like to see them come together? I kind of don’t, I think they should remain distinct. I think, in relation to the world, art of this sort works best as a surveillance operation, as a surreptitious undertaking. As report, as investigation. But it, these aesthetic vectors, cannot effectively pull off an “actual” staging. The racing dynamic and its effluvia inform performance and sound art, but racing is indifferent, it’s a business, theatrical, yes, but a business. The favor isn’t returned. Racing doesn’t care about art. And that’s how it should be.

Auto racing is its own aesthetic and that no other aesthetic criteria really applies to it. And in that aesthetic is a sliding scale of criteria that quite often contradicts itself. Yet, I suppose, there is an aesthetic criteria of Collisions that applies to it but is not directly attributable to the Auto Race Aesthetic. Pretty good crash though…


AY: In spite of the importance of the re-encoding process, is there a concern for realism on some level in your work?

EL: It’s entirely realistic. Or, more so, it is entirely materialistic. My work, especially in the reduplication process, is primarily concerned with the material properties of sound, of spoken language, of the audio and video recording units themselves. If you are referring to the re-encoding processes of the old recordings, of re-encoding environments and situations, then I would admit that that intention was influenced by Mr. Burroughs, that old voodoo of subliminal suggestion and such. Tio Pepe’s play of newspaper headlines comes to mind. I wasn’t entirely blind to its impotence though, back then. I’m not a spiritual person, I don’t believe in mystical thought but will, as most humans do, engage in magical thinking. I don’t for a moment believe that there is any relation between my magical thought and events and such, but I don’t deny I engage in it. It is itself insufficient and unsubstantiated but it is “nice to think about it.” A fundamental flaw in human cognition is to believe you can cause things to happen merely by thinking about it or suggesting it, which is supported only by coincidence and conjecture. Some would argue that there are no coincidences and I would argue that there are ONLY coincidences. Re-encoding only worked for me, I guess. It satisfied a relation that I wanted to see, but it never really arrived at those results, a heuristic effort, really.

They were spatially-temporally specific, only relevant to the time and place of the event and had no lingering consequences external to it.

 AY: Your thinking reminds me at times of Jacques Ellul’s. One passage that is always with me is this one: ‘Our civilization is first and foremost a civilization of means; in the reality of modern life, the means, it would seem, are more important than the ends.’


EL: Well, yes. And number 15 would apply to this. Hell, I’d say there is only means, never an end. I’m paraphrasing, but I think Nietzsche wrote something to the effect of “there are no causes only effects”. Or, we can only know effects and not causes. I don’t think the two are directly related, means not being causes, but they do address certain (mis)conceptions. I don’t think that is a recent development, no. I think it’s always been that way we just hadn’t paid much attention to the fact and assumed that the classical framework of cause/effect and means/ends where valid models based on empirical evidence. But it’s not entirely true of the whole. It might be true in minute, local increments of time. We can see how one action seemingly arrives at an end and by conjecture assume that this causal relation is true for all. But that isn’t always the case. And even then there isn’t any reason to believe that any end is truly conclusive, any effect is itself conclusive and final. Nor is there any reason that the end or effect we currently appraise is itself either means or cause of an as yet unknown effect or end.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a great deal of what occurs in the world, what we experience, is entirely coincidental and accidental. Pierce had proposed Tychism, the notion that only chance and indeterminism are the functional operatives in the universe, and as I am inclined to agree with it I veer from its reliance on chance. Which I suppose is paradoxical, but I think Tychism assumes a sort of infinite variety of components whose interaction is predicated on chance and I’m more inclined to think that there is a finitude of such variety, which results in accidents. Its because the universe is so limited in its elements and components that coincidence and accidents flourish. Yes the limit is relatively vast but it is still a limit and limiting. So events can only result as they do because there isn’t that much play, that much variability. The accidental is the play of finitude, the accident of the same components.

We might place more emphasis now on means, yes, but that might only be because we can’t ever arrive at an end. The end recedes with every step. And I think it has always been that way, it just took Modernism et al to realize it.

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