Without isolation there could have been no 1520 Sedgwick, no Wu-Tang, no Project Blowed

Aka, Isolation Will Save Us




One of the things that really fascinates me about art in the contemporary era is that it is being recast in every regard. Institutional aspects that once seemed forever-determined are now coming loose and falling by the wayside. But the less obvious result of this recasting is the dissolution of the productive limits of art as well. In previous eras the limits of space and time had many productive effects, but in the contemporary era those limits have disappeared. Perhaps chiefly, the constraints of space and time facilitated the creation of communities replete with immediacy, whereas the limitless internet has not by default done the same. We may not realize it, but isolation is a chief force at play in the creation of communities of immediacy. Isolation is what allows you to have neighbors, it was a necessary element in the socio-cultural milieu of the Bronx in the late ’70s. Without isolation there could have been no 1520 Sedgwick, no Wu-Tang, no Project Blowed, and so on. So then where do we find the isolation necessary for the incubation of great creative fruits in the contemporary era? If isolation doesn’t happen as a natural product of the environment how are artists synthesizing it, and what does it mean when being an artist is predicated on being ale to synthesize bygone but necessary aspects of previous eras? What does it mean to develop an insular process in a time when we are ceaselessly inundated with countless creative processes? How do you create art that is unique unto yourself in an era where you can’t help but be exposed to the art of every other person creating in your field? In this era how do artists find a way to duck the milieu, as opposed to the previous era when they got tapped into the avant garde?


None of these questions have answers. That’s because the answers are being determined, as we speak, by artists around the world who are trying to balance being part of a network that spans the globe with being a sovereign node within that network. How can you be tapped into everything and still be you? Isolation used to be a byproduct of existence, and even the most dedicated music collectors who sought to combat their isolation didn’t have the kind of perspective that anyone with an internet connection can get these days. The result was unique-sounding music that was indicative of many places and many times—even if you can’t hear it every genre and style of music are marked by the places where they came about, and affected by the people who developed them. In the mid 90s the sound of Southern rap was produced by the social and cultural milieu of the South. In the early 90s the sound of No Wave was produced by a specific niche within the social and cultural Milieu of Downtown New York. Without the constraints of time and space, no genres or subgenres could have come into existence. So, what should we expect in an era defined by cultures devoid of space and time?

THREE SIX YOTSUBA&! by Dior Sentai & Friends

As we approach the village-ized globe that McLuhan predicted isolation becomes part of the craft of great art. Because isolation is required to create immediacy, and immediacy is a facet of all great art, an unspoken onus has been cast upon artists of the contemporary era: learn to craft a mode of isolation sufficient enough to generate immediacy, or fall by the wayside as you create music for the people of no time and nowhere. Artists might isolate themselves at an individual level and avoid all other people, at a local level and avoid other scenes, at a regional level and avoid other regions, at a national level and avoid other countries, or so on. There is not a singular mode of isolation that must be achieved, rather artists must develop a unique mode of isolation to serve themselves as individuals. The act of isolation can take place on explicit terms like geography, or it can be more abstract and follow the lines of an artist’s taste. It is essentially the productive use of tuning out. Today’s great artists do it either consciously or unconsciously, but they do it. They find ways to separate themselves from the expanding miasma of cultural output, and the result is a more immediate experience for their audience.

Infamous by Supa Sortahuman x Dizzy D

Making great music is about balancing your artistic inclinations with some kind of popular sensibility. There are all kinds of great artists, but the ones that people dance to and talk about know how to strike a balance that holds every measure in accordance with the immediacy that is central to great art. The artist’s personal inclinations are preserved by isolation, as opposed to being whitewashed away by conforming to the trends of the internet. The pull of popular culture gains influence when the artist seeks to conform to popular and relevant conventions, stylizations, cues, and so on. Lots of people sound like Lil B right now, but only Lil B has the immediacy of Lil B. And that’s because what Lil B experiences in isolation from populous conventions is what the masses experience when they tap into the trend of emulating Lil B. Being an oddly eccentric “goofball” autere of cultural practice (not too unlike Kool Keith), lead Brandon McCartney to create music with a staggering degree of immediacy for citizens of the United States of America, and many countries around the world. While we identify him for being a rapper, his music is moreso transcendent than emblematic of music.


When we look at artists like Pepperboy, Supa, Dizzy D, Ruben Slikk, Purekut, Tree, Sole and Pain 1, Western Tink, Mona Lisa, Dior Sentai, Swagtoof, and countless others from the internet scene the theme of isolation is over and over again a crucial element. Whether it be the geographic and spiritual isolation produced by Transcendental Dade Countyism in Lofty, Naggy, and Slikk; the temporal, emotional, geographic, and spiritual transcendence in Pepperboy’s Arkansas Post Gangster Meditations; the undeniably immediate grooves carved out from the unknown geographies of Huntsville’s Supa and Dizzy; no matter which of these artists you choose to engage they will all offer an incredibly potent take on how isolation from the popular can lead to unique fruits of potent immediacy. And as well move forward into the never-ending future in the age of the global village, it is artists who have mastered the imperceptible craft of isolation who will show us the way.


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  1. Interesting ideas here.

    – Dick B

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