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What is Eclecticism?
How mixing and collaging can create better art
“Eclecticism” can be defined as the practice and approach of producing art, music, creative writing, philosophy, or culture based upon diverse ideas, styles, and tastes, thus creating an assemblage of different forms that transform itself into a new whole. In a cultural setting, it’s also known as “syncretism,” which assimilates traditions, politics, and religious rules for the new whole to become inclusive. What was once “conflation” becomes harmony through the praxis of postmodern rhizomes. What was once impossible becomes possible through technology, influence, and environment.
Eclecticism does not contradict itself when the new form relies on rules that produce a new ecstasy, vision, reality, and ideal that wasn’t acknowledged before. However, many eclectic attempts go nowhere and turn into straight conflation, such as self-hating politics and confused aesthetics. There is a difference between the smart person who knows the origins of the source versus the stupid who likes the ideas superficially. The outcome of eclecticism should be virtuous. Conflation produces decadence.
Intellects of a high caliber rely on the writing technique of “intellectual Jujutsu,” where creative eclecticism sounds like conflation, but is instead written, proven, and persuaded without errors. Intellectual Jujutsu relies on untangling the confusion and loopholes of modern and pretentious liberal arguments in favor of an advanced and unique alternative. It’s about blocking out all rebuttals and defends with pride, and a new vision, where the argument should lean back towards. Eclecticism created the intellectual Jujutsu that is required for anti-liberal praxis and the critical theory avant-garde.
A perfect example of intellectual Jujutsi is the work of Alain de Benoist. While his critics call him racist or antisemitic, De Benoist manages to advocate an “ethnopluralist” society where there is mutual respect and true “diversity” for every type of person. This intellectual Jujutsu manages to use liberal concepts, semantics, and syntax to construct a new ideology that gets to the root of the issue without giving in to being “wrong.” It acts within liberalism and skews its language to fight for a different cause. This is the genius of De Benoist, and he is the forerunner of using the intellectual Jujutsi method to advocate anti-liberalism, deep ecology, and green politics.
In syncretic politics, systems like “National Bolshevism” served an important purpose to hybridize nationalist activism and communist ideology. While the two may seem at odds with one another, syncretism strips away the conflations and addresses the goals both parties desire. Eclecticism can create unique political systems and give insight into new ways of understanding the world. This requires the skill of intellectual Jujutsi and it’s a strong defense against any offense in conversation combat. An intellectual Jujutsu intellect shall throw down the orthodox opposition first!
Liberalism is open-ended to the point that it cannot comprehend it’s own diversity of opposition it creates. Queer activist Quentin Crisp once said that “I don't think you can really be proud of being gay because it isn't something you've done. You can only be proud of not being ashamed.” This entails that a syncretic difference always relies on its host to justify its hybridization. The Prager University Foundation relies on these twisted diversity models to push a Republican agenda under the guise of liberalism. They rely on Candace Owens, a black woman who advocates white values, and Blaire White, a trans person who hates trans-liberalism. These two syncretisms would naturally cause conflation yet exist as agents that celebrate liberalism and limited eclecticism. It further dresses up language and semantics to serve the regime and its goals for Malthusian control. One may be proud to be gay at the expense they don’t have kids, or it advocates a political group that could care less about syncretism.
Rhizome theory established the possibility that technology can, and will, transform cultures into new subcultures and can create the unexpected. It is unique there are “black gay Japanese rappers” and “Mexican goth girls that collect bottle caps” that serve two different types of virtual “communities.” There is a realization that these new subcultures follow a “queer” narrative outside a normative one, and are celebrated through “queer culture” within the liberal state. What was once queer, like being a homosexual, is now considered normative. Queer culture and queerness demand “authentic” levels of eclecticism happening beyond the constant standards of acceptance and expect originality from the cultural anthropology frameworks. This rapid subculture creation is directly related to the ideology of democratic liberalism and its motivation for free market profit. There is a limit to queer culture in that the anti-liberal becomes accepted as queer. What is the purpose the eclecticism if the result could only lead to chaos and the destruction of meaning?
Eclecticism can either benefit the arts, as it presents a prowess of intellectual understanding of many subjects, or face total decadence as an excuse to randomly cite esoteric objects that are shallow or pretentious, crafted for status quo seeking. How can eclecticism create better art if it’s prone to malaise?
Many creative devices are rooted in eclecticism. Mixing and collaging requires the artist to use many sources to create a new whole out of it. Mixing is the act of combining or putting together parts to create a form that is harmonious with the results. A sound engineer can get the right levels in a track, fade in and out the instruments through recorded performance, and trigger specific scenes. Collaging is the act of co-existence, where many forms exist side by side, as one or isolated as something to reflect on in juxtaposition. In a visual, musical, or written collage, many subjects and concepts exist together in opposition or as one to create the whole. Sampling is the act of recording a sound and playing it back at any time, as an instrument, sound effect, or even as a percussive hit. Sampling can even sample itself and playback in an infinite loop. It’s how sampling is executed and how much of it is lifted from other sources and perfected in the collage.
It is a skill to balance out the eclectic art form with the use of mixing and collaging while finding the right expression between the two devices. James Joyce’s Finnigans Wake is an excellent prose of 220,000 plus words, both mixing and collage sources, either through original words or lifted entirely from the source without citation. A companion text is often needed to translate the text. Another similar work, Gene Wolfe’s The Book of The New Sun shares many similarities of deep prose, allusions, mixing, and collaging. A companion text is also needed the translate the text, called “Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle.” The techniques of mixing and collaging are also in the grand work of Marcel Proust’s In Seach of Lost Time, which guarantees the reader will be rereading the text over and over again, citing no other joy but this book itself, exactly how a Christian fanatic enjoys committing himself to the Holy Bible. What mixing and collaging offer us is the pleasure of rereading the work over again with no practical end. As Wolfe wrote before, “My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.”
Paronomasia, or the “pun,” is also related to mixing and collaging. It layers itself on top of one another till something new is realized. Could the “sun” mean an actual star? Or could it mean the “son” of someone? Or is it a religious title? The triple pun can be one together, and separate all at once. What we think is a duck could very well be one, even if it shares the same name. This playful paradox of the pun makes us investigate the hidden secrets behind the artistic technique and of expression.
Mixing and collaging is design-centric. It values the design process of the act of writing pretty words or aesthetic descriptions. English does not matter, because the author can only learn how to write the novel they are creating. Language can only be a directional code of communication and direction, or instructions a game that is being executed by the reader. Think of it as engineering, as a computer program, or a logical execution of the text. Sometimes, the text is just there and it’s nothing else. The text can be akin to an abstract painting with subjective readings. Nonsense “font” words that don’t make sense in language, and rather it’s visual poetry. But the value of amazing art increases when science and logic apply to the text, that meaning takes on an entirely different form when the text is read than spoken. Mixing and collaging can be used in this way to increase the pleasure of rereading and the function of the novel-machine.
In the art of electronic music, sampling is a principle in the genre of musique concrète, which later became widely important in hip-hop and house music. The E-mu SP-1200 and the Akai MPC are the most significant sampler instruments to grace the mainstream markets, revolutionizing the way the public made music. Gilbert O'Sullivan sued Biz Markie in 1991 over a sample used in “Alone Again (Naturally)” and won the case. In the American law system, the music industry has to first get consent over the sample used before they can make money off of the sampled song. But this changed further with the “vaporwave” genre in the 2010s period, sampling 1980s commercial and pop music, where sampling became so frequent to a point that the court or the music industry could no longer handle the power of the sampler sampling itself. A new expression was made by taking previous expressions and calling it’s one own as an avatar. New forms are created out of old forms. A single individual can compose an artificial orchestra using a single computer. The past can be a part of the present through mixing and collage.
Eclecticism is an axiom to certain schools of thought. Jacques Derrida’s concept of “hauntology” refers to the notion that ideas or elements return from the social or cultural past, and manifesto in art, culture, or politics. This incredibly loose and paradoxical term was used as a placeholder to defend against Francis Fukuyama’s criticism in “The End of History and the Last Man,” where Derrida envisioned that the values of communism already existed in an ontological natural state and that its human values will “haunt” future society like a ghost, hence “a [literal] spectre is haunting Europe.” This idea of innate syntax was later elaborated in the work of Alain Badiou’s “metapolitics,” and François Laruelle’s “non-philosophy,” where both concepts require a prerequisite of understanding language and reality before a critical analysis can be made.
Meanwhile, a trio of close English friends, Mark Fisher, Simon Reynolds, and James Leyland Kirby, sought to use Derrida’s concept of hauntology and apply it to the creation of music. In a 1994 Mojo review of Bark Psychosis’s “Hex” album, Reynolds coined the term “post-rock” to refer to the album’s obvious Talk Talk influence of textures to create environments (and that the original Talk Talk drummer, Lee Harris, also contributed to Hex). Fisher noted Reynolds influenced, and incorporated a quote of his under his 1994 electronic release, “Entropy In The UK,” under the name “D-Generation” with two other friends.
Reynolds was quoted on the record’s liner notes,1
“Psychedelic futurism, techno haunted by the ghost of punk'... like Ultramarine gone noir: ambient drones, lonesome dub reggae melodica, stealthy junglist breakbeats...spies in the house of luv'd up, making a grim dance of our national decay.
SIMON REYNOLDS, MELODY MAKER 26.3.94”
This eclectic wordplay foreshadows both Reynolds’ and Fisher’s future collaboration a decade later into their own manifested genre of “hauntology.”2 3 “Hauntology,” the electronic music genre, is defined as a style of music that is supposed to invoke “cultural memory” and aesthetics of the past. Unfortunately, the term is very vague, but the principles are specific to the British cultural interest of the 1970s. Ghost Box Records of 2004 retained this interest in Fisher and Reynolds’ hauntology, akin to what Alec Empire’s 1994 Digital Hardcore Recordings was to “digital hardcore” music and its interest in projecting a futuristic anime-realist punk subculture. Two very different labels with two very unique cultural manifestos.
James Leyland Kirby, known as “The Caretaker,” produced music specifically for Fisher and Reynolds’ hauntology manifesto. Kirby’s interest in exploring memory and nostalgia. When Fisher committed suicide in 2017, Kirby released a tribute album, “Take Care. It's a Desert Out There…” The Caretaker helped push Fisher and Reynolds’ fixation and ideology of samples having a textual meaning of feeling and aesthetic response.
Much of this hauntology ideology is constantly projected upon any work that samples or tries to resemble something of nostalgia. If the video game soundtrack to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is ironic or an Asian stereotype and caricature of Japanese city pop or in-house Capcom music, it saves its guilt with “hauntology.” If Boards of Canada’s 1998 album Music Has the Right to Children or 2002’s Geogaddi is a soundtrack full of traumatic and scary trip-hop beats and references to obsolete mediums, then it’s also “hauntology” and inciting goodwill “nostalgia.” The same could be said about the dreaded “vaporwave” scene and its obsession with 1980s commercialism and Japanese futurism it wants to escape to. Adam Harper celebrates such mundane hauntology, over-production, wallpaper noise, and the power of technology automating everything in his flawed and outdated 2011 work, “Infinite Music: Imagining the Next Millennium of Human Music-Making.”
The criticism of hauntology is that it is no longer about grand music and intellectual sophistication, but redundantly relies on a single device of “nostalgia,” or what appears to be subjective memory, and assumes this could have “aesthetics,” justifying the noise as intellectual. I believe that Fisher and Reynolds’ hauntology no longer holds value, and destroys itself with its own deconstruction that tries to label mixing and collaging as an act based upon liberal feelings of consumption. It moves far away from Derrida’s attack on Fukuyama, and evolves into hipster bickering and festering around untalented noise musicians who regard noise as either “racist” or not.
While sampling is a clever and creative device, the form that is referenced is not an ideological truth that must mean anything of the past. Mixing and collaging are not pillars for culture invoking. There is a fad that new sounds invoke a “lost future” in a context where a historical narrative was supposed to play out a certain way. This “fallacy of reference” is apparent in this lost future obsession and hauntology, as it tends to fixate on a cringe steampunk (or any “punk”) view of an optimistic future for everyone without care for personal taste. Technology plays an important role in art creation and AI is becoming an emulation of what we think we desire. Without technology, there can’t be a discussion of hauntology. The same could be said about this fallacy of reference because it is a misunderstanding of the text as aesthetics. And this celebration of any “solarpunk,” “silkpunk,” or any “retrofuture” nonsense feels too much like a nerd convention meetup for escapists who could care less about the host of free-market liberal capitalism. “Enjoy the moment, but don’t ask for revolution.”
I believe that mixing and collage can help the artist make connections to greater ideas and themes not realized in a common vision. Some creative writers utilize the Chicago Manual of Style and invert the footnote process as an extra companion piece of text writing or fourth wall breaking. It’s like watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 and applying the process of the peanut gallery’s “heckling,” or reading, old text pieces and compiling them together to poke fun at their compares and contrasts. The author dictates what is signaled and read through his own writing process.
Reading is special because it is a non-linear digestion of art. The reader must pick and choose what is read, negating all rules in comprehension. I believe this non-linear nature is what makes reading and writing special, and how mixing and collaging can be utilized in this textual environment. It’s not about Umberto Eco's “signs” of potential fascist paranoia. Hermeneutics plays an important role in reader-response criticism, even if the subcategory of the psychoanalytic. But the text shall never be exclusive to one popular interpretation, often ideological in its pursuit, while keeping the critic, and artist, ignorant of the artistic expression and limiting the potential for intellectualism.
Wolfgang Iser assumed that the writer constructs a particular reader in mind during composition. The reader is not a real person, but a network of nodes that allow reader criticism and interpretation that the author constructs without realizing. The “aesthetic” is just a realization accomplished by the reader, as it was never invented by the writer, who was constructing the object against all odds. The writers’ text is not only an expression, but an invitation, or convergence of imaginations between two people.
What makes mixing and collaging so appealing is that it opens many interpretations at once all while creating a pleasurable synthesis of many to one eclectic understanding. Eclecticism is popular in the arts because it can envision our own desires of associates and dreams we can to self-actualize. Eclecticism enriches us with a true form of romantic platonism through compare and contrast expression. It’s something we desire because we want to make our lovers real. This is only possible through the effort of eclecticism, and whatever new forms it creates. With eclecticism, we are projecting a personal desire that can only be reconstructed through our connections and criticisms.
Reynolds, Simon. "Hauntology: Ghost Box label profile, Frieze magazine October 2005". Reynoldsretro. (http://reynoldsretro.blogspot.com/2017/10/hauntology-ghost-box-label-frieze-2005.html)