Terre Thaemlitz, aka DJ Sprinkles, is a DJ, musician, public speaker and the owner of Comatonse Records. But she is also far more than those simple labels suggest. Her work seeks to explore and critique the themes of identity politics and the socio-economics of commercial media production, using not just music, but photography, video, graphic design, text and illustration to do so. In our interview, DJ Sprinkles covers a range of subjects, including social alienation, how the delivery of content is prioritised over the content itself, counter-culture amnesia and a whole load more besides. Due to the nature of the interview, we have decided to release it in its entirety, unedited, over four separate parts.
In Part Two of our interview, DJ Sprinkles talks about how all cultures are driven by shame, forced optimism within a capitalist culture, counter-culture amnesia and more.
In regards to atheism, you’ve said, “I really do believe atheism’s current bad rep is just more of the same old shit, making people feel shame about not believing.” Do you think that this is always the main tactic used by those who are fearful of the power of something, and don’t actually wish to engage in any meaningful debate, on whatever the issue may be?
For sure, all cultures are driven by shame, not pride. Pride is a smoke screen. It is a symptom of our alienation from social processes that are actually rooted in shame. In relation to LGBT Pride[TM], I’ve said before that I really feel “Queer Pride” is a lesson unlearned. We’ve been the victims of someone else’s pride for generations. I am not interested in sharing in pride or respect of any kind. I was not “born this way.” I was beat this way.
On this topic of shame vs. pride, Salmon Rushdie’s book, Shame, is a great read.
You’ve said, “How can non-believers speak of religious oppression, and a desire to live without religious interference, without being heard as intolerant? We can’t.” Do you think that’s because to do so means framing your argument within the established religious framework, and in doing so, people will get side-tracked by that and miss the actual point of what you’re saying?
Yes. Actually, the text to Canto V from Soulnessless, “Meditation on Wage Labor and the Death of the Album,” focuses quite a bit on this theme of how materialist discourses and “The Left” are handicapped by this inheritance of language cultivated over centuries in the service of “The Right.”
You’ve said that you “believe contemporary capitalism and globalization force us to adapt exclusively optimistic outlooks, and negativity is ardently rejected.” Do you think this forced positivity and fear of negativity can only end up being self-defeating; in that to move forward you must accept and address the negative aspects of things and that by only focusing on the positive, or by portraying only a positive outlook, you are in fact, at best, accepting the status quo, and at worst engendering your own continued enslavement within it?
It certainly is self-defeating, and the historic cause of much suffering. I mean, it is the default religious formula of “paradise deferred,” where that dangling carrot of heaven after death, or reincarnation, or one’s own Mormon planet to rule over, or whatever bullshit, becomes the ruse through which we accept our social plights here and now.
You’ve said that, “Society is set against class mobility, despite preaching it as a possibility.” I’d say here in the UK, this has never been made as blatant as it has now, particularly through what has been labelled the “Age of Austerity”. Yet whilst these barriers have never been so exposed, and the myth of hard work leading to reward looked like such a lie, the majority of people seem quite content to do nothing about tearing them down. Why do you think this is?
We are indoctrinated with “hope” and “self-determination” from day one. The entirety of education (and the lack thereof) is structured around this mythology. It’s brutal.
You’ve said that “we have ongoing amnesia around counter-cultural struggles and discourses.” In this so-called information age, do you hold out any hope that the mainstream media’s strangle hold on the dissemination of information will be broken and that we may, therefore, eventually also break that cycle of amnesia which you talk about? Or are people too attached to popular causes, so to speak, for that to ever happen?
No hope. And the biggest amnesia about “today” is yet to come, via the “digital dark ages.” With everything moving to proprietary digital formats – even if they are “standardized” – what do you really think will be left of today’s information explosion in two or three hundred years? On a personal level, I can’t even keep up with digitizing and updating formats for my audio and media collections, and most of the software I produced my albums with is totally lost forever. So in the long term, what we are doing culturally today by moving everything online is really precarious. We seem to be opening up information to more people than ever, but at the same time I would argue the true power of information has never been more centralized on a global scale. History is in the hands of a very few corporations. Not only today’s history, but broader history, as paper and other physical records are destroyed after digitization. It’s dumbfounding that this is happening. Conspiracy or not, it’s an amazing centralization of power in the hands of the wealthy few who control the development and preservation of the technologies at issue. But very few people are thinking about this broader cultural shift. They are too busy feeling empowered on Facebook…. Yeah, your life has meaning, and we are really glad you posted a pic of the food you ate for lunch yesterday. Why not post a pic of the shit it eventually produced? That’s the end result of that lunch, right? But people in this digital age never think of the end results. One could argue the absence of pics of faeces accompanying pics of food on Facebook is symptomatic of our cultural short-sightedness. That absence mirrors a mass denial of material reality.
You say one of the main reasons people who identify as women would dismiss “feminism” is “because other class relations grant them certain privileges that reduce their sense of urgency around gender issues, making social mobilisation around those issues seem gratuitous.” Do you think this idea can be applied to most things in a broader societal sense, in that we are all too often wrapped up in ourselves, and therefore struggle to see anything from anyone else’s point of view, particularly if it clashes with our own, let alone engage with them on a meaningful level?
That may read a bit strange out of context, but yes, there is a tendency for most women around the globe to consider “feminsim” a negative word, and they will not actively identify as such. This is more a testament to the power of patriarchal indoctrination than being self-absorbed. The larger statement was: “I think the three main reasons people who identify as women would dismiss ‘feminism’ are: a lack of access to information about feminism; or denial as a result of already being pushed to the limit by patriarchy and barely being able to keep their shit together; or else because other class relations grant them certain privileges that reduce their sense of urgency around gender issues, making social mobilization around those issues seem gratuitous.” So I don’t want to only reduce the issue to a kind of selfishness. But yes, as I mentioned earlier, I do think it is difficult for people to detect or conceptualize of forms of suffering that occur beneath one’s own social strata.
You’ve said in regards to having hopes and dreams that you find “they erode one’s sense of urgency, and create numbness to domination.” Are you devoid of any hopes and dreams then?
To say one is devoid of those things would be as unconvincing as declaring oneself free of prejudice. The issue is not about purging oneself of affect, or trying to become some bullshit “zen master,” or “robot,” or whatever. It is about trying to acknowledge and address the social processes through which our emotions are culturally guided (via education, indoctrination, etc.), and to what effect. I believe the contemporary emphasis on optimistic strategies for instilling people (particularly children) with “hopes and dreams” is inextricably linked to the spread of both capitalist expansionism and US Evangelicism. Contrary to popular belief, I find that social systems invested in propagating “hopes and dreams” tend to do more to perpetuate dominations than bring about “liberation.” As a result, I am interested in locating social movement in things other than “hopes and dreams.” They are not tools I wish to use.
In talking about the internet, you’ve said that it represents a misshapen notion of what freedom is, by presenting us an illusion of it, but still forcing us to live via “the ideological and economic swindles of Americanisation and globalisation.” Is this also your view of what people refer to as the Dark Net and things such as Bitcoin, in that they purport a greater freedom whilst enacting that through the very shackles they claim to be casting off?
I’m not an expert on Darknet or Bitcoin, but they do seem to both value computing power (and the sharing thereof), both socially and economically. And computing power is not cheap. Bitcoin in particular strikes me as bearing the problems of Creative Commons and the CopyLeft, in that it gains credibility through recognition by established power systems. In that way, it shares in many of the flawed presumptions underlying currencies to begin with – much as CopyLeft begins with a presumption that there is such a thing as “authorship,” even if it does so reluctantly to position itself against copyright. At this point in time I can’t imagine making transactions or purchases in Bitcoin. But Darknet-like file sharing surely seems useful. I mean, I would much rather transfer files more directly through limited channels, rather than via a major industry cloud-based service, Dropbox, or stuff like that. It’s the same reason I still prefer to pay to run email through my own domain, rather than keeping everything hosted on Google or Yahoo! servers. I can understand the convenience of Gmail and stuff, but I can’t mentally separate it from Big Brother. Of course, paying for one’s own domain does not make one’s data secure either, so there is no “safety” online…