Improvisation and Social Aesthetics
This chapter asks whether there is there such a thing as “uncreative” improvisation, and if there is, how it would operate. The work of the writer and artist Kenneth Goldsmith, particularly in his capacity as a disc jockey for the free-form New Jersey radio station WFMU, is interrogated. It has become common for critics and theorists to invoke the DJ as the paradigmatic authorial figure in contemporary culture, as Lev Manovich does in The Language of New Media. For Manovich, the logic of selection and combination of preexisting elements from the archive is the wellspring of new cultural forms. What remains uninterrogated in Manovich’s writing, though, are a number of deeply modernist formulations: he sees novelty, creativity, and even “true art” as the inherently valuable results of the DJ’s inspired manipulations. The author argues that since the 1950s, when business culture began to claim creativity for itself, art has made a corresponding movement into the deliberately boring and the uncreative. Novelty and creativity no longer signify in the manner that Manovich suggests.