HP’s Hot Soak
by Heather Phillipson
An HP composition has a rain-head shower action. Adjust the pressure and go under. Feel your nervous system melt without breaking a sweat.
HP’s compositions offer up a model of making-for-fatigue, of incorporating languor in the spectatorial act – for those of us who are weary and for those of us who aren’t allowed to be weary, which, frequently, is every one of us. Society is very into regulating rest, and too bad if weariness deranges you longer than the regulations dictate. Like Blanchot said, "I don't ask that weariness be done away with, I ask to be led back to a region where it might be possible to beweary.” Weariness is the exhausting claim of a body demanding the right to social repose. How to convey or condense the HP’an vibe? How intense is weariness? Very intense. Very un-intense.Call it the hot soak sublime.
I admit it, I’m wary of exorcising my stupor around HP’s compositions by writing atthem, especially when their whole purpose seems to be to one side, underneath, way out, or working away behind your back to leave vital matters unconfirmed.
Consider how each HP composition is a blueprint for spending time lusciously by growing distracted, blurry, overcast, bubbly, melancholy, contradictory. Inside an HP composition, these are no longer states of exception. They’re the round-the-clock poly-vocalities inside us as we’re inside them. If only we had time to deflate and just hear.
Wearily, I listened to HP’s ‘somnabulate’ on a Sunday afternoon – the day-after-a big-night-out-before. Its easy presentness was a bullseye tranquilizer dart, soliciting my surrender. It was like uncovering my ears in a cave bigger than the earth’s core. At its conclusion, as I drifted from inner space back to my sofa, up faded the washing machine, on rotation, knocking out an old beat – looping, syncopated, as if HP’s narcotic duration had tinted even the air.
When I used to DJ it was like this – hearing, in one track, the ghost of another – the real gut-feeling of a beat that echoes before it begins, intermixing and summoning musics-to-come. Tracks held in magnetic equilibrium. When it drops you’re already one foot in the future. All music is a premonition.
Listening is a very direct way to become alien because the abundant fullness of sonic space changes the pressure in your head. HP shows, in flash-flashes of apprehension (one QuickTime video popping up over another), how art can = enchantment. Every moment penetrates another – goes so far – breaks down – resumes in a different tone – looks away – fogs up – rewinds – decides to leave the room – lies back on the ground – plays a different tune – gets stuck in a scratch – has a coyness convulsion – sways – swoons – vertigo – rolls over in ecstasy at your feet – You gotta leave the world in order to find it again. Returning from an HP hole into which you’ve poured your selves is to enter a fugue state. As with Catherine Clément’s rendering of the syncope – the faint, the drop-out, the sudden gap of anaesthesia, orgasm ( la petite mort ), getting inside the gaps where rapture awaits us – “When she comes to, her first words will be, "Where am I?" And because she has come to, "come back," no one thinks to ask where she has been. The real question would be, rather, "Where was I?"”
The HP drug, like all good drugs, carries with it significant threats to the fixedness of things. Counter to logocentric philosophies that want to conquer any cleft of uncertainty, her wavelengths obey another orientation. They yo-yo, off-centre. They are built of the ‘minor’ – forever in states of incompletion. Logical thinking isn’t appropriate for dynamic systems like, say, life – you can’t truly explain something living through cause-&-effect reasoning.
Have I emphasised sufficiently that HP is a composer? The recurring blackness of her screens is not only that, it’s also mainly time and how much of it you can sink your teeth into or chuck out the window. What may seem like a precise control of temporality in HP’s compositions is really a taking flight, into slackness and suspension, like breathing in an airlock, close to all kinds of bodies.
It strikes me that this is a very direct and magnanimous tactic for letting us go lightly. Under the guise of moving in circles, her bits and pieces carry you forward with a tidal lift. There’s a mopping motion going on – a big, containing force you can bathe inside, like a tender day of sea, made for you, oblivious to you. Every dreg and creature is contingent and mutually charged, yourself included. Masses of shifting particles bumping together. HP entitles the viewer, who is really her fellow traveller, to become buoyant. With each loop, fresh details approach, others slope off.
Usually, the sad part is that all the bits must end, but, the thing is, in here, HP gets to decide which clips should live and which clips should die and I get the feeling that she’s excited about things because they’re too beguiling to let them drop, but she’s also holding those things lightly because they’re beguiling and will fall apart so all the things remain in suspended astonishment.
Which reminds me. In the more raw 90s, high on a mushroom brew, I heard boundlessness in a musical fade-out. Just beyond my limited senses, that refrain continued turning over, I was sure of it, tantalizing, and would stay there until I could find a way across to it.
What washes up from an HP composition is you who are listening, and will be. Her screens are omni-scapes, made of precise subtleties and big emotional sweeps. Mellow and robust. They jet pleasures. An artwork is not a code, but it can guide. Give me more latency, attention, awaiting. And let’s not forget that total repose is, of all things, a state woven of trust. Might as well lie back and let what happens happen.
“To float is to live in a space without tying oneself to a place = the most relaxing position of the body: bath, boat…I’m a shattered boat of a person.”
HP makes the world reappear – shuffled and reshuffled into patterns that act like charms, spells for realigning. To give us new inklings of the world is the nucleus of magic. It’s a very alluring form of public service, welcoming anyone who listens. Feel free to let yourself in.
Heather Phillipson, November 2019
“Weariness: the demand for a position. The present-day world is full of it (statements, manifestos, petitions,
etc.), and it's why it is so wearisome: hard to float, to shift places.”
Barthes, Roland: The Neutral [‘ weariness’/ ‘sleep’ ]
“Music brings the impossible that is not yet known to reality.”
Sun Ra, quoted in Burrows, David & O’Sullivan, Simon: Fictioning: The Myth-Functions of Contemporary
Art & Philosophy
“The human organism is flying apart. The song is in ruins. Sampling has cracked the language into
phonemes. It breaks the morpheme into rhythmolecules. Only science can ride the shockwaves it has
Eshun, Kodwo: More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction
“‘Syncope’ is a strange word. It pivots from the clinic to the art of dance, tilts towards poetry, finally ends up
in music…At first there is a shock, a suppression: something gets lost, but no one says what is won.
Suddenly, time falters.”
“I leave the world, and then I return to it. I die, but I do not die. I am placed between the two, between life
and death, exactly in the between-the-two, refusing one and the other.”
“The world in which I have lived until now idolizes power and force, muscle and health, vigor and lucidity.
Syncope opens onto a universe of weakness and tricks; it leads to new rebellions.”
Clément, Catherine – Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture
“Atopia…is a space elsewhere and nowhere, free from binary, dialectical functions and ideological critique.”
Burrows, David & O’Sullivan, Simon, ibid.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply
wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it
will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Kafka, Franz: The Zürau Aphorisms