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HEX: THE BLOB IS GETTING BIGGER.

Pepperell imageImage 1
Context
Other members of HEX are Matt Black (who also fronts Future Sounds of London) Karel Dander and Miles Visman.

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by Robert Pepperell

everything approaches the technological campfire for a pow-wow with Robert Pepperel (RP), a quarter of the multi-media band HEX. They create a mix of techno/ambient music with computer generated visuals at raves. But the people who populate the titles of their videos, CDs and computer games (Global Chaos, eSCAPE, Digital Love) are not of this world.

RP: We're doing an interesting thing for a gallery in Glasgow where we've been commissioned to design an interactive computer piece. I dropped out of the whole desire to be involved in the art world and having gone into a totally different area I now find that things are changing so that our work is becoming relevant. I wouldn't describe the things we do as art but it is now being perceived as art.

e: Why isn't it art?

RP: Because we're not really making things for the art market and my definition of a work of art is that it is given relevance by it's context. The institutions of the art world create it. That gets you out of arguments about the content or quality of any art work because you can then see the institutions of the art world as mechanisms for turning art works into commodities. That isn't to say that I disagree with that - it's a market just like any other - but its good to be clear about it. I find the whole debate about whether things are or are not art ultimately irrelevant.
In some senses what we do contains lots of the things artists do: The experimentation, the synthesis of ideas &c. One of the benefits of having had an art background and training is that I can apply some of those ideas and approaches to working in other areas.

e: So the way your working now accords you a greater fluidity ?

RP: It's a release. Art colleges are supposed to be liberal institutions but having spent five years there I found that the one Taboo subject was how to make a living as an artist - it's almost as if people are split. Its a very creative environment, there is lots of input from different artists but no indication as to how students might do that for themselves.

e: Underlying the things that you do is this idea of Posthumanism. An idea of how our relationship with technology is changing the way we operate and ultimately the way we see ourselves.

RP: There are a lot of separate trends that you can identify which all have a similarity to each other. There are ideas emerging now which challenge the old accepted models of how things work. In crude terms you could contrast the humanist, scientific, materialist way of looking at the world as a top down view which presupposes that there are controllers, taps, laws which filter down to smaller laws. There was an idea that by gradually taking apart the whole thing you could get a view of the whole structure. That way of looking at the world which infused business, science, art, social structures has started to be replaced by another way of looking at things. This new posthumanist model sees things as made up of an infinite number of locally connected events which all have a relation to each other. It is impossible to gauge in advance or get a complete picture of things. Everything can be seen to relate to everything else. The "bottom up" approach means that you accept that you lose some of the responsibility for how things might turn out - you might be able to influence these things but ultimately your influence is limited.You can't determine the outcome of a set of events. It's a realisation that there are limits to the human power to influence and an acceptance that evolution and adaptation are opporating to form the general whole. If you accept that situation it means that when you model something you can build into it uncertainty, unpredictable parts - which is totally different to the traditional way of designing things.

e: So we take on these new ideas because they're applicable to the current situation?

RP: It's workable now because the technology at our fingertips makes it easier to have much more information. On the other hand it makes life more complex because it's harder to co-ordinate, filter and assimilate that information. We're making a much more complicated world for ourselves because information is growing at an explosive rate. The financial markets now work on automatic pilot and most of the trading is done automatically. That is something that used to be run by clerks and traders which is now handled by machines - people only intervene to influence a system which is essentially self perpetuating.

e: One interpretation of this trend might be the way the record industry is organising itself. Rather than have one megga company there is a tendency to set up subsidiaries or to finance projects which stand and fall on their own merits. So the structure isn't dependent on a few big name artists anymore. Now, you're doing this and you're being successful at it but you're not really very visible in the same way someone like David Bowie would have been in the past.

RP: It's another example of the fragmentation of markets. Bowie was the last big British rock star and the possible contenders for that crown were people like George Michael who's career lasted five years rather than Bowies fifteen.

e: It's planned obsolescence perhaps?

RP: People are able to get access to so much more and the rate of turn over is so much more rapid that for any one person to stay pre-eminent would be difficult. I'd be surprised to see any of the Tecno or Ambient acts sticking around for anything like the length of time bands used to.

e: I suppose that if you have a degree of anonymity its possible to nip into another studio and do something else.

RP: I think what's happened is that the technology has become the act. With the Future Sounds of London and HEX, the technology is what people are coming to see. There have been a number of attempts to promote technology stars but they haven't really worked because people are more interested in the interface between them and the technology.
You now have this new space - this blob of technology: the artists are feeding into it to make it happen, the audience are interacting with it and the blob is getting bigger. It makes a connection between the two sets of people but at the same time gains an autonomy. At that stage the audience is anonymous, the producers are anonymous and all you have is what's happening within the technological space. A rave is the unison of the technological and the human.
You could start to see the beginnings of a situation where the human parts become more and more peripheral which is another aspect of the Posthuman idea - it's not getting rid of humans but the emphasis is shifting where humans become less the central focus and the technology becomes more central. That's a perceptible shift which is happening increasingly in different areas of our lives.

e: I was talking to someone the other day and we were saying that if you get a book, an ordinary novel, it looks today more or less as it would have looked forty or fifty years ago. Even though these days they are produced on computers and have a potential to look radically different they look the same as they've always done.

RP: That's to do with established tradition. People who speculate about the future generally underestimate the stability of things - how much things will stay the same and they end up describing a utopia or a dystopia.
In the fifties and sixties we imagined that by the year 1995 we'd be flying around in anti gravity bubble cars or something....

e: I always wanted one of those scooters, like on Fireball XL 5, where you just sit on it and it sort of hovers......

© Steve Rushton 1995elogo

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